FightHype.com

NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: HANEY DOMINATES, PBC TRIGGERS

By Paul Magno | December 11, 2023
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: HANEY DOMINATES, PBC TRIGGERS

Is it possible to dominate without being dominant? Devin Haney found a way.

The 25-year-old, in his first official bout at 140 lbs., won every round on all three judges’ scorecards and notched a knockdown to take the WBC junior welterweight title from Regis Prograis Saturday night at Chase Center in San Francisco. Haney never lost even a half-minute of any round, holding  Prograis to 38 connects-- a CompuBox record for fewest punches landed in a 12-round world title contest. There could not be a more lopsided outcome to a bout.

Well, that’s not true. The former unified lightweight champion could’ve knocked Prograis out. Some say he should’ve. He dropped the defending champ in the third round and wobbled him on a few occasions. By the fifth round, it was clearly apparent that Prograis offered no challenge and was there just because Haney kept him around. By the ninth round, the fight was so one-sided and Prograis was in such a hole that everyone was looking to stop the fight-- except Haney.

A fresh and sharp Haney, who looked to be significantly larger than Prograis by fight night, poked and scored and fought at the same even-keeled pace throughout the entire twelve rounds. There was no urgency to his attack, even when the 34-year-old “Rougarou” was stunned, walking on rubbery legs, and ripe to be put away by a right hand that seemed to hurt him every time it landed.

Critics have pointed out this lack of urgency and practical, but cynical “do just enough to win” mindset as Haney’s main obstacle to true greatness (and bankability) in the sport. The young fighter is so well-trained and disciplined that he appears to be unable to shift out of the gear at which he’s been trained to fight. It makes one wonder what might happen when he meets an opponent who can truly push him and who isn’t hampered by being smaller, dead-legged, and/or significantly less talented. 

This was a very good showing from Haney, but not a “virtuoso” performance as some would rush to call it in their post-fight recaps. A virtuoso hits more than the same three notes throughout a performance. A boxing virtuoso would’ve stopped an overmatched foe who was offering no resistance or, at the very least, he would’ve stepped things up to do so.

Yeah, this criticism seems like splitting hairs to an extent. It’s a harsh epilogue to a one-sided victory over a reigning world champ who was ranked no worse than no. 3 in the division at the time of the fight . But if Haney is going for “greatness,” the grading curve is exceedingly steep.

*         *         *         *         *         *

This past Thursday, after being rumored, talked about, and in some quarters, dreaded, Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) finally made it official-- they had struck a multi-year rights agreement with Amazon Prime.

Per PBC press release:

“Prime Video will distribute PBC’s industry-leading pay-per-view (PPV) events in the U.S, with the first event anticipated for March 2024. PBC PPV fights will be available for all viewers to purchase, regardless of Prime membership. Additionally, in the U.S. and select countries, Prime Video will exclusively stream a PBC Championship Boxing series of events, showcasing top matchups among boxing’s current and rising stars. Details on specific cards, dates, and locations will be announced at a later date. In addition to the live PBC events, Prime Video will continue to grow its Original sports content offerings, with behind-the-scenes PBC docuseries, live weigh-ins, as well as on-demand access to previous events, highlights, archival footage, and more.”

And, with that announcement, a certain segment of the Universo Pugilistico lost their shit.

There’s been a weird, but sadly not all that surprising, culture war going on in boxing when it comes to PBC. As I wrote in a previous Notes from the Boxing Underground column:

“The animosity PBC encountered seemed odd to me back then. They came into existence, working to bring to life everything media types had been saying the sport needed. It was a boxing company built on a real world corporate model, focused on getting fights on free network TV and, thereby, into the line of sight of the mainstream consumer. The roster was jam-packed with top American talent to appeal to the American fan. Unlike the old-guard boxing promoters, who ran everything on a shortsighted plan where, as Dana White famously said, ‘every event is a going out of business sale,’ PBC seemed to have a long-term plan with growth in mind.”

The plan to get boxing closer to the mainstream stalled towards the end of their run on the soon-to-be defunct Showtime Boxing, but they’re circling back to that end goal with their Amazon Prime deal. This agreement is way beyond “putting fights on an app” as some have categorized it. Prime, at this point in consumer history, is more of a household utility than a service with a streaming app attached.

With over 167 million subscribers in the US, it’s mind-blowing that there’s nearly one paid subscription for every two human beings in the country. Crazy. And much of that subscription base is very active with the service, using it to do everything from purchase household items to access music to watch TV. It’s become a part of our living culture.

And to have boxing attached to that living culture is an incredible opportunity for the sport. Fans should be ecstatic about this. Some are. Some are clearly not.

When the news broke on Thursday, there was a subsection of boxing fandom on social media raging and fuming over all things Haymon/PBC. It was a rage that, in some cases, crossed over into not-so-subtle racist territory.

One podcaster in particular, Kenny Keith of The Boxing Rant, was so moved by the news that he forgot to self-censor his real worldview. He’d run through several nasty, stereotypical quips on Twitter, kicking off his racist riff with a comparison of PBC fans’ happiness and the celebration of Juneteenth, a designated African-American holiday. He’d go on to talk about “PBC on Prime Hoes” with “boos” who need minutes added to their Cricket wireless account, intimating that they were too poor to attend events or purchase pay-per-views. He’d also make reference to PBC supporters, who he clearly sees as black, going “nuts” because they won’t be able to shoplift pay-per-view shows from “the local Target or CVS.” 

Keith would later try to walk it all back, saying it was a joke. But these “jokes” have been told many, many times before by some of these people and the punchline always seems to be buried inside of the usual racist bullshit.

But at least the “It was a joke” walkback was en effort to cover shitty behavior he recognized as shitty. Some media people (or semi-quasi-media people) say this kind of shit out loud, without the self-awareness to try and walk it back.

Video podcaster (and former Ring Magazine contributor) Michael Montero, who has a long history of what could be categorized as race antagonizing, implied in an October episode of his The Neutral Corner podcast that Haymon’s ability to broker network deals is a type of affirmative action. 

"Al Haymon has a history of negotiating massive deals and he does very good in the boardroom,” Montero said. “Him and his people are very, very smart and they get in the boardroom with certain network types. And I think there's certain angles they can play, particularly now in our current climate in this country, that helps them in those boardrooms with these network people.”

But guys like Montero and Keith are just running with a narrative already established. As I wrote previously:

“Steve Kim, then of Max Boxing and the failed UCN Live, once giddily declared in a 2011 video clip, since scrubbed from the internet, that ‘Anytime an Al Haymon fighter loses, it’s good for business, tee-hee’ (I added the girly tee-hee). In a 2017 piece posted by BoxingNewsOnline.net, the man who once pushed N.W.A (Not With Al) t-shirts to discourage fighters from signing with Haymon, was quoted as calling PBC a ‘multi-million-dollar welfare system’ that ‘caters to the lowest common denominator of society.’ And that ‘lowest common denominator of society,’ apparently, is the African-American consumer, who Kim frequently (and condescendingly) referred to as ‘the demographic.’

Kim’s buddy, colleague, and facilitator Dougie Fischer, who is African-American and appears to be fully onboard with Kim’s sentiments, had gone nearly as deep as Kim, calling PBC supporters ‘racially biased African-American fans that are uninformed jerks.’ Fischer now serves as Editor in Chief at the Oscar De La Hoya-owned Ring Magazine.” 

So, what’s behind all of this behavior (that, by the way, would be mainstream-shunned in any other sport and sporting enterprise, other than the UFC and Power Slap)? This clearly isn’t just about boxing.

There’s a lot at play. I actually think it’s more about class than race, although the dipshits with these race issues mix it all together for their own purposes. My personal Cliffs Notes take is that Haymon got the target on his back when he came into the business and upset the sport’s power structure by shifting money and influence away from the promoters and directly to the fighters. That made him an enemy of the old school system and, therefore, an enemy of the boxing media, which is funded and controlled by the promoters and other boxing power brokers.

Although the media, in great part, is no longer in attack mode when it comes to all things Haymon, the early media attacks from guys like Kim and Fischer fed an entire population of fandom that is equal parts dumb and hateful-- like the guys we saw last Thursday tinkling their panties in anger over what they, themselves, say is “just a distribution deal.”

Whatever the case, PBC on Prime is happening. More boxing with more accessibility is always a good thing-- unless your personal hangups trump your love for the sport, of course.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

APRIL 21, 2024
APRIL 18, 2024
APRIL 17, 2024
APRIL 16, 2024
APRIL 12, 2024
APRIL 08, 2024
APRIL 04, 2024
APRIL 01, 2024
MARCH 30, 2024
MARCH 28, 2024
MARCH 25, 2024
MARCH 21, 2024
MARCH 18, 2024
MARCH 17, 2024
MARCH 14, 2024
MARCH 12, 2024
MARCH 11, 2024
MARCH 07, 2024
MARCH 04, 2024
FEBRUARY 29, 2024
FEBRUARY 27, 2024
FEBRUARY 22, 2024
FEBRUARY 19, 2024
FEBRUARY 15, 2024
FEBRUARY 12, 2024
FEBRUARY 08, 2024
FEBRUARY 05, 2024