Al Haymon’s fighters to undergo random drug testing, brain study
NEW YORK — Participants in NBC’s new boxing series called “Premier Boxing Champions” (“PBC on NBC”) will be will be subjected to “rigorous, Olympic-style random drug testing” by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), according to Lamont Jones, vice president of operations for the series.
In addition, fighters will be evaluated by staff physicians from the Cleveland Clinic as part of a brain health study of professional fighters, Jones said.
“The series…will feature protocol that reflects heightened standards of excellence with respect to fighter safety, the integrity of competition and the quality of the viewing experience ,” said Jones during a Wednesday press conference at the NBC Studios announcing the multi-year deal between the network and adviser Al Haymon. “With support of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, each boxer who competes in a PBC series bout will be subjected to rigorous Olympic-style random drug testing.”
The Cleveland Clinic has engaged in the most comprehensive brain imaging of professional boxers to date.
“With the involvement of the Cleveland Clinic, each boxer who competes in a PBC series bout will benefit from evaluations by staff physicians at the clinic,” said Jones. “And the PBC series will support the clinic’s important professional fighters brain health studies.”
The initial event will air at 9:00 p.m. ET on March 7 as a doubleheader, matching THE RING’s No. 7-rated welterweight Keith Thurman against No. 8-rated Robert Guerrero and the magazine’s No. 6-rated junior welterweight Adrien Broner opposite John Molina from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
On April 11 in New York, likely at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, IBF 140-pound beltholder Lamont Peterson will competed in a 143-pound catchweight bout opposite Danny Garcia, the current RING champion. Garcia also holds the WBA and WBC titles.
JOHN MCAIN ENDORSES PBC SERIES
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, an avid boxing supporter and reform advocate, endorsed the introduction of boxing on NBC.
“Boxing fans everywhere should welcome efforts such as the initiative announced today, that are aimed at restoring the popularity and dignity of this great sport. As a longtime fan and one-time competitor of the ‘Sweet Science,'” stated McCain in a release, “it has always been important to me that boxing reflects the principal of integrity and adhere to the standards that are expected of professional sports. I am hopeful that the efforts announced today will improve the quality of the sport, the safety of its great athletes and the outlook for the future of boxing for fans across the country.”
SAM WATSON ON GOLDEN BOY, PROMOTERS, SHOWTIME, HBO AND HAYMON
Sam Watson is the right-hand man to Haymon, who manages “150 fighters” according to Jones. Watson addressed several topics, among them how the series will affect cable networks HBO and Showtime, as well as Haymon’s relationship moving forward with Golden Boy Promotions, Top Rank Promotions and other promoters.
Sam Watson on working with Golden Boy, other promoters:
“We’ve been doing it with Golden Boy forever. Golden Boy is a personal friend of ours. Oscar [De La Hoya] is my personal friend. Al Haymon has nothing against none of them. This is business. I know him like a book; he just wants to look out for the fighters.
“If it was your son, you would want to make sure that he would be getting the best opportunities and the biggest fights they can get at the time that they’re in. You never know if they’re going to fight for three years or 10 years, so he wants them to get paid.
“Al has no problem working with different promoters. He’s just managing boxers and taking care of the boxers and making sure that the boxers are getting paid right and that they’re well taken care of. All of these guys are taking their chances.
“Everybody who is working together with Al has to believe in what Al’s dream is and that dream is to make it so that the regular person can watch the fights on television. Back to network TV. Back where the fighters are making more money, more money than they’ve ever seen. That’s the main thing.”
On their relationship with Showtime and HBO:
“Showtime and HBO are great but now it’s time to open things up a little more. The pay-per-view fights will be on Showtime. We’ve got nothing against Showtime. We love them. That’s how fighters are made with those stations.
“Now, it’s going to be fun for everybody to go home and watch the fights on NBC TV. I would say that our pay-per-views will be Showtime. We’ve done everything lately with Showtime.
“We took everybody from over there who was watching HBO and they came over to Showtime. Everybody saw it with their own eyes. Now it’s time for the little old lady and the little old man who can’t afford cable TV to go home and turn on NBC and it’s everywhere.”
On Haymon’s avoiding media intention, such as interviews and on-camera appearances:
“The closest you’re going to get to Al Haymon is Sam Watson. He ain’t going nowhere. He don’t do it for the attention; he does it for the love of the fighters. He just loves the fighters and he loves seeing things work.”
On the criticism of Haymon:
“Al don’t know nothing about it. He don’t even read it. All of this press stuff. He don’t hear nothing. He don’t even care. He cares about all of the fighters…All kinds of fighters from all different races.”
SUGAR RAY LEONARD: ‘I’VE NEVER HEARD ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT [HAYMON] FROM THE FIGHTERS’
Sugar Ray Leonard, a former five-division champion and Hall of Famer, will serve as boxing analyst alongside blow-by-blow announcer Al Michaels during the series’ pre- and post-fight coverage of the boxing events.
“I’m pinching myself. It’s like deja vu,” said Leonard. “How great is is to be able to do something that you’ve done for so long and which comes so natural to you and get paid for it?”
Leonard also weighed in on Haymon’s detractors.
“I don’t always read the negative and I don’t always read the controversy. He’s a person who speaks for himself. I’ve known Al for many, many years and you know what? This is all about the boxers,” said Leonard.
“This about these guys who will be performing this year and I don’t want to take away from that. I’ve never heard anything negative about him from the fighters. All that I’ve heard is from the other side.”