Writer: Stan Wenners
Date:Sunday March 8 2015
Boxing in triumphant NBC return to US prime time TV
Boxing came back to the ordinary people here in the US tonight 30 years after the last prime time a televised bout appeared on a non-pay tv network.
Premier Boxing Champions on NBC launched with a barnstorming top of the bill battle between WBA welterweight champion Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman and Robert ‘The Ghost’ Guerrero at the MGM Grand in Vegas.
Guerrero, beaten only once in his career – by Floyd Mayweather no less – was no ghost to the energetic Thurman, 26, who found the older man with full-blooded punches from both wings throughout the fight.
While bossing proceedings from the beginning, Thurman somehow managed to sustain a worrying, bulging bump over his left eye early on.
It didn’t take away an iota of spring from the young champion’s step though as he came bounding in, moving from side to side and pursued the stalwart straight-punching Guerrero.
At the end of the 9th round it seemed as though the sheer relentlessness of primarily Thurman’s hooks and overhands had created the breakthrough. A massive hooking uppercut from the cornrow-coiffed champ originating way down in the basement exploded full on Guerrero’s face, brushing past the older man's guard like a hammer through rice paper.
Dumped on his behind, Guerrero continued falling backwards until flat on his back, arms outstretched, as if declaring enough already.
But no! Bleeding profusely from the corner of the left eyebrow, Guerrero jumped back to his feet and stood up on the count of eight, seemingly ready to go.
Thurman moved in for the kill, landing a number of carefully-aimed bombs… before the bell – and a referee keen to keep the spectacle going - came to the bloodied southpaw’s rescue.
In what everybody felt would be the formality of round 10, Guerrero instead stormed forward and succeeded in cutting down Thurman's ring space for the first time in the fight.
With Thurman against the ropes, Guerrero proceeded to rock the champ sending the MGM Grand crowd into paroxysms of howling support.
Too little too late.
In the end the young man from Clearwater, Florida had done more than enough, a clearer, less punished head on sprightlier legs keeping the young champ out of trouble to collect his unanimous victory.
There must have been all manner of champagne cork popping and high-fiving among the upper echelons of NBC Sports programming at this superb opener to their 11-show line up.
Fronted by their top sportscaster, Al Michaels, play-caller on NBC’s Sunday Night Football – the most popular show in America – Premier Champions of Boxing spares no expense. The ring itself was a lavish golden-hued extravaganza. And the talent ringside wasn’t shabby either: Marv Albert, the voice of the NBA (basketball in case you don't know) called the fight, alongside none other than legend Sugar Ray Leonard.
NBC are to be roundly congratulated for bringing boxing back to America’s blue collar viewership with such style and substance. I for one hope that what is clearly a big bet for them pays the back huge.
By Stan Wenners
Date:Sunday March 8 2015
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