It was a mixed bag of outcomes on the inaugural Premier Boxing Champions telecast as Keith Thurman and Adrien Broner posted 12-round victories. With boxing on display on network television, not cable, premium cable or pay-per-view, an unpopular first fight gave way to an intriguing nightcap with both bouts going the distance.
In the closing fight of the night, Keith Thurman (25-0, 21 KO’s) floored Robert Guerrero ( 32-3-1, 18 KO’s) and went on to a unanimous decision victory in their WBA welterweight title match. It was an entertaining fight that ended with the fans on their feet, despite the wide scores of 120-107, 118-109 and 118-108. Both fighters were marked and Guerrero went down hard in the ninth round.
But as one-sided as the scores were, Thurman had to work for this victory through all 12 rounds.
In stark contrast, the fight that opened the telecast and the PBC series featured Adrien Broner doing just about whatever he wanted against John Molina Jr., with very little two-way action. Broner (30-1, 22 KO’s) outclassed Molina Jr. (27-6, 22 KO’s) and cruised home with scores of 120-108, 120-108 and 118-110.
The problem with opening this series with “The Problem” was that the lack of aggression from Molina Jr. made for a night of target practice for the fighter whom the fans were very vocally against. Molina Jr. promised to pressure Broner but it never happened.
With Broner boxing cautiously, the crowd and the television viewing audience looked for Molina to attack. In round three, he landed several right hands to the head of Broner, but they did no damage. It was apparent early on that Broner could take the power. With that settled, it was a question of how impressive Broner could be. Would he get a stoppage?
Not even close.
Broner was a sharpshooter with both hands, used superior movement to avoid most of Molina’s shots and even did some trademark goofing off. But never did he get his opponent in any kind of trouble. With the outcome all but decided in the favor of the unpopular Broner, the showcase for the much-maligned sport of boxing was off to a very rough start. The fight ended with the crowd booing. Nice.
Things went completely the other way in the second fight, however, as Guerrero stood up to Thurman despite being outgunned. Thurman put on a great display of power, accuracy and hand speed while winning round after round.
But Guerrero went nowhere. He answered every solid shot with, at least, an attempt to fire back. The pace was much quicker than the Broner-Molina Jr. contest and both fighters showed damage on their faces. An early head butt put a lump on Thurman’s face while Guerrero emerged from the knockdown with blood streaming from a cut around one of his eyes.
The knockdown came late in round nine and Guerrero had to defend himself vigorously to get to the bell. It looked like the fight could be stopped in between rounds or very early in the next round.
But Guerrero pressed the attack in the 10th and won the round on the InTheCorner.net scorecard. He went on to finish strong, taking advantage of Thurman dancing the 11th round away and forcing toe-to-toe action in the 12th.
Overall, PBC on NBC was a big-time production with one good fight and one bad fight. From the arena setup at the MGM Grand to the high-profile broadcast crew including Al Michaels, Sugar Ray Leonard, Laila Ali and Marv Albert, it was all prepped to paint boxing in a great light for a broader audience than it would normally get on Saturday night television.
Then the Broner-Molina Jr. fight started.
There was a lot of opinion on Twitter (isn’t there always?) that Molina Jr. “didn’t show up” or “wouldn’t fight.” I don’t know that I agree with that. For better or worse, John Molina Jr. was badly outclassed by Broner in the skills category. He did rush in with his big shots early, but when they did no damage whatsoever, Molina Jr.’s fate was sealed.
Meanwhile, Broner got to the business of using his fast hands to throw accurate punches on the defensively-challenged Molina Jr. He made it a rout and sent Molina Jr. to his third straight loss and his fifth “L” in his last eight fights. The outcome was never in doubt, but the prevailing thought should probably be “if Broner’s so good, why couldn’t he get him out of there?”
But timing is everything in show business, and shortly after Broner had his mic turned off for going into his questionable ethnic-background comments, the second fight came along and saved the day. Thurman showed early that he is the real deal and Guerrero did what we want our fighters do. He was willing to go out on his shield. Because of his great effort, he didn’t have to.
Thurman clearly won that fight, but Guerrero conceded nothing and gave the fans their money’s-worth. That’s what NBC, the PBC team and boxing itself needed.