Spike TV is bolstering its combat sports menu with high-level boxing. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
SANTA MONICA, CALIF. -- After months of rumors, boxing is officially coming to Spike TV on March 13. The Viacom-owned channel has announced a multi-year partnership with Premier Boxing Champions to produce a monthly series.
On Thursday it was confirmed that Andre Berto against Josesito Lopez and Shawn Porter versus Roberto Garcia would headline the first card at a yet-to-be-announced venue. Also unrevealed was the broadcast team.
The news comes on the heels of Premier Boxing Champions joining forces with NBC to produce big fights. Gone are the days when boxing on free television provided a look at fighters of the future; NBC and Spike are entering the boxing business to put on must-see cards, that have been only featured on pay-per-view for far too long.
“We share the vision of the Premier Boxing Champions series to put the fighters first,” Kevin Kay, President of Spike TV told Sherdog.com. “The fighters are the stars, and we will give them a platform to demonstrate why they are among greatest and most exciting athletes in the world.”
Spike is broadcast in 98.7 million homes daily and already has the reputation as a channel that places emphasis on combat sports. Spike has previously provided a home for the Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Wrestling Entertainment, while currently housing Bellator MMA and Glory World Series.
In addition to the events, Spike will also provide shoulder programming in an effort to add some depth to the fighters in the ring and create a buzz around upcoming matchups.
For the boxers featured in the inaugural event, all are aware what this opportunity means for their careers and brands as a professional fighter.
“We are definitely are excited and happy to be here. To be put in a fight like this against a good opponent is exactly what I want,” Robert Garcia (33-3, 22 KO’s) told Sherdog.com. “This is the type of fight that can change my life and I’m thankful for this opportunity. This is the kind of fight I need.
“This is what I have always lacked in my career with a lot of dry spells here and there,” Garcia continued. “I’ve always needed promotion like this, I’ve always been on the b-side, but I like proving people wrong.”
For Garcia’s opponent Porter, (24-1-1, 15 KO’s) an Akron, Ohio, native who already owns victories over the likes of Devon Alexander and Paulie Malignaggi, boxing on television has always meant tuning into ESPN, HBO or Showtime. Now viewers who watch Spike with the intention of watching mixed martial arts or kickboxing, will have an opportunity to dabble with boxing.
“I never would have thought I would fight on Spike. For me, boxing was always ESPN, Showtime and HBO. So it’s a dream for me, it’s exciting and I’m gracious to be a part of it,” Porter said. “The Shawn Porter brand is going to get even stronger than it is now. I’m going to have my name out there in ways that it never has been before.
“There’s no lack of star power anymore,” Porter continued. “Now that this announcement has been made, the general public is going to learn a ton more about all of us. There’s no limit anymore. The thing that I get the most fulfillment from is making people scream and holler. Being on Spike TV I’m going to make people see that even more.”
Andre Berto (29-3, 22 KO’s) feels as if his fighting style will transition well to network television, especially against a young and exciting fighter the likes of Josesito Lopez (33-6, 19 KO’s).
“This is a great situation, we get an opportunity to be in 90 million homes, this is a great way to build your brand and I look to take full advantage of it,” Berto said. “I believe the fight fans are drawn more to Spike than NBC. Spike has already built a nice platform when it comes to a viewing public being drawn to watching boxing.
“For me right now it’s about building my brand, just trying to grab the attention of all these new viewers and taking who I am to a whole other level,” Berto said. “Everyone knows that no matter happens I’m going to lay it all out on the line. With me, you have a guy that is willing to be carried out on a stretcher.”
Lopez mentioned boxing fans in particular who have fallen out of love with the sport. Citing exorbitantly priced pay-per-views that just don’t deliver when it comes to the high expectations.
“This is huge for boxing and make every fighter’s stock rise,” Lopez said. “I’m excited as a boxing fan. I’m happy for average boxing fans to be able to see fights on network television. I think the casual fan will definitely be hooked, same with the boxing fans from 20-30 years ago.”
“I think this is a perfect matchup for me. We have to set off the fireworks for those that tune,” Lopez told Sherdog.com. “Stylistically Berto is a perfect match for me. You don’t have to dislike the person you’re fighting, we are aware of what type of business this is. I want huge fights, a world title, but at this point I want exciting fights.”
If there was one thing everyone involved agrees upon, it’s the man behind the scenes -- Al Haymon – is deserving of a lot of credit for what he not only is doing for the sport of boxing but for the fighters involved. Gone are the days when promoters were more concerned with lining their pockets than those of the men entering the ring; Haymon is giving these fighters a sense of importance in the grand scheme of things.
“Haymon is pumping life back into boxing and creating huge opportunities for the fighters,” Lopez said. “He has a long term plan and is a very smart man. He’s the type of man the fighters need, he’s for the fighter and wants to do everything for all of us. There’s a reason why all the fighters love him so much.”
Berto, who has been with Haymon since the promoter decided to enter the boxing world, echoed his future opponent’s sentiments.
“I’m one of Haymon’s first guys that he was in business with. Of course he is a businessman, he hasn’t gotten to this point without that,” Berto said. “But he is also showing these fighters a different side of the boxing business. He gives everyone a chance to make some money and show the world a side that no one was seeing before.”
For Porter, 27, being a member of Haymon’s stable of fighters means the sky's the limit for what he can achieve. “Showtime” looks forward to what comes next.
“We all have a love for Al Haymon -- not only what he is doing for the sport but what he is doing for us individually,” Porter said. “He seems to be really fair and he is putting all of us in really great positions. Having him in my corner is nothing short of a blessing.”
It’s clear that Spike TV has gone all-in on making sure boxing is as important to the channel as MMA, Bar Rescue, kickboxing, or Ink Master. With Al Haymon providing the talent, Spike producing the shows and 97 million eyeballs ready to watch boxing on Friday nights in 2015, it’s hard to imagine this won’t be a success for the fight trade and its fans.
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