Al Haymon’s plans for world domination appear close to fruition, with NBC is set to confirm a multi-year, prime-time deal with the controversial “advisor.” According to The New York Times, the deal will feature five prime time shows a year on the main network, along with six on Saturday afternoons. There will be an additional nine shows on the affiliated NBCSN network, also in prime-time.
The first prime-time show will be held March 7 and will be headlined by junior welterweight Adrien Broner, who fights John Molina, and welterweight Keith Thurman, who fights Robert Guerrero. Haymon will pay NBC at least $20 million a year, but the shows will be produced by the network and feature Al Michaels and Sugar Ray Leonard. A press conference will be held on Wednesday to discuss further details of the deal.
At this point we’re almost tempted to apologize for every mean thing we’ve ever said about Haymon. Boxing fans have for years pointed to the sport’s disappearance from network TV as the reason for its decline from the cultural mainstream. And even if Haymon is an evil genius and managed to ruin boxing in 2014, these are some damn good fights. People have been complaining that Thurman needs to step up, and a tough veteran like Guerrero is just the ticket. Broner is due for another test too, and Molina has hands of stone. It’s enough to make a man cautiously optimistic.
Only cautiously, though, because there are still some issues to be ironed out. Is Haymon trying to create some kind of centralized UFC-of-boxing? Does network TV even matter in the age of content-on-demand? Could this move see the end of boxing on premium networks HBO and Showtime?
These fights might be good, but long-term will the concentration of power in the hands of Haymon lead to poor match-ups? Will Haymon get over his traditional dislike for matching his fighters against one another? Will he be willing to work with other promoters, and will this deal further marginalize fighters signed with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions, with whom Haymon does not do business? What does it mean for Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports, which is throwing money into boxing, but with whom Haymon also refuses to work? Though Haymon seems to have signed every fighter in the sport, there are still a few non-Haymon advised fighters out there (hard to believe, I know); will he be willing to work with them?
There should be more answers at the press conference tomorrow, but some of those question will take years to answer. This deal is huge for the sport, though, and is exciting and worrying in equal measure.