Photo Credit: RBRBoxing
LAS VEGAS, NV — Boxing returned to primetime TV with Keith Thurman laying down his credentials as a star in the making by defeating Robert Guerrero (120-107, 118-109, 118-108) in a brutal, action-packed main event for Premier Boxing Champions.
The card was supported by Adrien Broner, who won his contest in easy and tedious fashion over a listless John Molina. Was the event perfect? No. But there were enough positives to make every boxing fan hopeful about what this series can pull off.
THURMAN’S HUNGER: While all the other boxers seemed tense about the event, Thurman went out from round one to put the entire welterweight division on notice. He attacked Guerrero with massive hooks, giving his southpaw foe plenty of opportunities to fire back. Thurman made sure more often than not that the fight was fought on his terms by keeping the exchanges at ring center and spinning away when his back touched the ropes.
Guerrero’s chin was tested every round and held up until the ninth when a corkscrew uppercut put him flat on the canvas. Instead of that being the end point, Guerrero would have his best work afterward in finally roughing up Thurman on the ropes in rounds 10 and 11, making the former and early Round of the Year candidate.
Since this fight was announced, Thurman has repeatedly told media that he wanted to show he was on Mayweather’s level by disposing of Guerrero in more decisive fashion.
Did he achieve that? Not quite — the young gun known has “One TIme” still has much learning to do in terms of defense and pacing. However, the sheer ferocity, hunger and refusal to coast to an easy victory (even with a bulging hematoma on the left side of his head) puts him levels above the majority of his PBC stablemates.
As of right now, Thurman is the young fighter Premier Boxing Champions should be pushing.
GUERRERO’S TOUGHNESS: What heart on Robert Guerrero. The way he collapsed after that uppercut knockdown, and the punishment he got in the corner before the bell sounded, appeared to signal the end. Guerrero instead dug deep, tapping into the “kill or be killed” base instinct in all of us to drag Thurman into a back and forth mauling battle. The sheer effort completely swung the crowd to Guerrero, creating multiple chants over the championship rounds (and boos for Thurman any time he retreated from engaging).
NEW BUSINESS: Thurman holds a version of the WBA title (Mayweather is the true champion) and can make good fights with next week’s Josesito Lopez-Andre Berto winner, the Roberto Garcia-Shawn Porter winner, Amir Khan or Marcos Maidana. With the possible exception of Maidana and Brook, Thurman would be the clear favorite in all those fights.
As for Guerrero, he still gives hell to any fighter that elects to stand in front of him. The losers of Lopez-Berto and/or Garcia-Porter could be options, along with Devon Alexander. Far as action and brutality, a matchup with another mauler in Shawn Porter would likely be the most TV friendly.
BRONER HANDLES MOLINA: A calmer Adrien Broner had little resistance from John Molina, scoring a wide unanimous decision win (120-108 twice, 118-110). Molina had promised a war but didn’t show the desire to push for one. Molina was content to try to wing telegraphed counter right hands which Broner evaded effortlessly. Outside of a very brief sequence in the third where Molina landed three left hooks inside, Broner thoroughly outboxed Molina behind his jab, left hooks and occasional flashy combinations that included uppercuts.
Broner admitted afterward that he didn’t press more because he felt that played into Molina’s hands and was the main reason why he lost to Marcos Maidana. It didn’t make for entertaining viewing, but most of the fault must be placed on Molina. Broner’s most exciting fights come when he faces fighters that bring the fight to him and aren’t intimidated by his fast hands. There are a few fighters that could fit that bill at 140 (Peterson, Matthysse, Provodnikov), but all of them have other fights on the table. At this rate, Emmanuel Taylor might be able to get a rematch by default.
Broner said he’ll be returning to the ring July 18 in his hometown of Cincinnati. Your guess is as good as mine as to who he’ll face. The timeframe lends itself to another B-level guy — perhaps the man who last beat Molina, Humberto Soto, will get the call.
“SICK” MARES BEATS REYES: Once a upon a time, Abner Mares was viewed as an arguable Top 5 P4P fighter. One Jhonny Gonzalez left hook later and he’s now the walk off bout to close Premier Boxing Champions. Mares won clearly on the cards (99-90, 98-91,96-93), but he looked worn out trying to keep up with Reyes’ pace. He later attributed the performance to waking up sick, but Mares hasn’t looked good for a long time. Fighters below 130 can burn out quickly, and it’s not inconceivable that Mares’ best days might be behind him (even at 29 with just one defeat).
If I’m Leo Santa Cruz, I smell blood and demand Mares get served up ASAP.
GRADING PREMIER BOXING CHAMPIONS: Overall, Premier Boxing Champions put on a good show. The commentary between Al Michaels and Sugar Ray Leonard was flat in a lot of parts, but it’s not surprising the chemistry would be off going on 30 years since the last time NBC aired boxing. Marv Albert being there was good for credibility.
Laila Ali isn’t Harold Lederman, but I expect more of her personality to come out as the shows progress.
By the end of the year, Premier Boxing Champions TV should be a well-oiled machine.