Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Thoughts On Garcia-Guerrero And Boxing’s Return To Fox Primetime

Over the course of last year, the Premier Boxing Champions series has done several things that should be viewed as extremely beneficial not only for the sport of Boxing, but more importantly its fans. Of course, there have been several entertaining cards put on by the series featuring a healthy mix of world championship fights, former world champions looking to get back into title contention, and prospects on the rise. One of the most important things the series has accomplished however, has been bringing the sport back to networks that have largely been absent from carrying Boxing programming for several years along with bringing new networks that have not previously televised the sport into the fold.

Along with networks such as NBC, CBS, Spike TV, ESPN, and Bounce TV, the series has also established a home on Fox Sports 1 as part of the network’s “Toe To Toe Tuesdays.” The success of the series across the board along with its increasing popularity among Boxing fans has seen Fox increase its involvement in the series by bringing the sport back to the national Fox network for the first time in over twenty years.

Some may remember back on December 16, 1995 former Heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson squared off against Heavyweight contender Buster Mathis Jr. at the Philadelphia Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA. Tyson, who had recently returned to the ring following his release from prison, had resumed his position as one of the sport’s top pay-per-view draws.

After stopping Peter McNeely in August 1995, Tyson was scheduled to face Mathis in November of that year. What made the time interesting however, was that it was scheduled to go head-to-head against the third encounter between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield, which was scheduled to be televised via pay-per-view. A concept of two Boxing events going head to head at the same time on television was something that was new at the time. Tyson-Mathis was scheduled to be televised from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas by Fox against the Holyfield-Bowe III, pay-per-view telecast, which took place at nearby Caesar’s Palace on November 4, 1995.

What would have been a unique and historic evening for Boxing was changed when Tyson was forced to postpone his bout with Mathis three days before it was scheduled to take place due to suffering an injured thumb in training. Some speculated that the postponement was done to ensure that Tyson-Mathis would be televised at a later date unopposed on pay-per-view. The bout however, would take place over a month later at the Philadelphia Spectrum with Fox televising the bout in primetime.

Tyson would knock out Mathis in the third round and would go on to regain a portion of the World Heavyweight championship in March 1996 by stopping WBC world champion Frank Bruno in their second encounter. Although Tyson-Mathis was not a historical encounter in terms of what took place in the ring, it did produce massive ratings as over forty-three million people tuned in to see the fight.

Even though Fox’s Boxing coverage would continue under the banner of Fox Saturday Night Fights in February 1996, it was not in a primetime timeslot and Fox’s coverage of the sport on the national Fox network would not last. The sport however, would continue to be a mainstay on Fox’s various sports networks over the years. The absence of Boxing on the national Fox network however, would come to an end on January 23rd as the Premier Boxing Champions Series would make its debut with a card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA headlined by a battle for the vacant WBC Welterweight world championship between former world champions Danny Garcia and Robert Guerrero.

This was a fight that had action written all over and was an ideal choice for the main event of a card that would return Boxing back to the national Fox network. Garcia and Guerrero would not disappoint. The early rounds in this fight were dictated in my eyes by Guerrero’s ability to apply consistent pressure on Garcia who was forced to use more lateral movement than he had in most of his fights. Guerrero was very effective in his aggression and being able to land to the body and head of Garcia in the early rounds. Garcia however, would play the role of counter puncher as he looked to catch Guerrero with offense as he pressed forward.

As the fight progressed into the middle and late rounds Garcia was able to use his lateral movement and hand speed to gradually take control of the fight by getting his punches off first and offsetting the aggressive Guerrero as he came forward. Although Guerrero remained aggressive throughout the entire fight, as the fight went on he became less effective in being able to back Garcia up and land consistently with his offense. Garcia meanwhile was increasingly able to not only land counter punches, but generally get the better of the action and make Guerrero miss with his offense. This allowed the unbeaten Garcia to box his way to a twelve round unanimous decision to win his second world title in as many weight classes.

Even though the fight ended up being a clear unanimous decision by a margin of 116-112 or eight rounds to four in favor of Garcia, it was an entertaining fight from start to finish that lived up to what was expected by Boxing fans and experts alike. A fight that capped off an overall solid evening of Boxing, which included a Heavyweight bout as undefeated contender Dominic Breazeale stopped Amir Mansour in five rounds and a Welterweight bout where undefeated contender Sammy Vasquez stopped Aron Martinez in six rounds.

Although ratings for this card were not comparable to the massive numbers of Tyson-Mathis over twenty years ago, ratings for the debut of the Premier Boxing Champions series on the national Fox network were solid as over 2.2 million viewers tuned in to see the card. As for what is next for Danny Garcia and Robert Guerrero, all eyes will be focused on the upcoming bout between undefeated Keith Thurman and former Welterweight world champion Shawn Porter on March 12th in a bout that will be televised as part of the Premier Boxing Champions series by CBS.

In terms of what this means for the Welterweight division, both the World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA) world championships were vacated by the recent retirement of Floyd Mayweather, who was the unified WBC/WBA world champion in both the Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight divisions. Thurman, who held interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s ratings prior to Mayweather’s retirement is now WBA world champion.

It is logical to assume no matter who emerges victorious in the fight between Thurman and Porter that the winner could face Danny Garcia to determine a unified Welterweight world champion. An interesting option that might be available to Robert Guerrero coming off of a hard-fought decision loss to Garcia just might be an encounter with the unbeaten Sammy Vasquez.

If those fights were to take place on the same card as part of the Premier Boxing Champions series, this observer believes it would be a good attraction for Fox to showcase in primetime on the national Fox network. Whether or not that is indeed in the works remains to be seen, but there is definitely momentum to build off of what was a successful debut for the Premier Boxing Champions series on Fox and the long overdue return of the sport to the national Fox network.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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