PBC setting resembles Olympics ceremony, Super Bowl production

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather refers to Al Haymon as "The Ghost," because the powerful manager and the creator of the Premier Boxing Champions series is so rarely seen.

But Haymon's vision of what professional boxing ought to be will be on display for the first time on Saturday, when the PBC debuts on NBC at the MGM Grand Garden. Robert Guerrero will face Keith Thurman in the main event.

Courtesy Premier Boxing Champions
Courtesy Premier Boxing Champions
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The show will be a symphony of light, sound and visuals never before seen during a live boxing match. It's more akin to an Olympics Opening Ceremony or a Super Bowl production.

The Grand Garden has hosted fights for more than 21 years, but none has ever looked, or will feel, quite like this, both for the paying customer as well as the fan watching on television.

Haymon's team has created an elaborate in-arena experience that, quite literally, needs to be seen to be believed.

"As you might consider a [Bruce] Springsteen or U2 concert an epic live viewing experience, I think it is fair to say that for a sport in an indoor arena like this, that is the level we're hoping to achieve," said Michael Marto, the executive producer for the PBC and the President and CEO of Executive Visions. "We're trying to create something here that will have that kind of emotional imprint for our fans."

Marto said that Haymon's idea was to make the experience of being at the venue be as good or better than watching on television.

The problem with that is often poor arena sightlines and much downtime with no entertainment. Marto said the array of technology the PBC is using to produce the event will fix those issues.

"Previously, production values in an arena have left the audiences who have paid for their ticket secondary for the sake of television," Marto said. "We believe if we're going to turn this sport back into something that becomes mainstream that the live audience should be treated to something worthy of the ticket. To do that, of course you have to start with great fights. But we have created a venue experience which is completely immersive. This is the new modern Gladiator Dome and it is wrapped with modern technology 12 ways from Sunday.

"Your senses will be engaged the minute you come in. You will hear like you've never heard before. You will hear announcers; you will hear coverage; you will hear a phenomenal music score created by an Academy Award-winning composer."

Marto said that when there are what he calls "epic moments," such as when the fighter makes the walk to the ring, "it will be like you're at a U2 concert. It feels like something worthy of coming to. And we've scored the PBC brand no differently than we would for a major motion picture.

"We got the world's preeminent film sound scorer-composer today, Hans Zimmer, to create an entire body of work, which is almost 80 minutes now with all the derivatives and almost 21 minutes of original music. He scored the whole PBC series, and so it's no different than Last Samurai, Gladiator, Inception, Batman, Pearl Harbor, whatever it may be. This music is now worthy of what we're trying to do."

The PBC has brought in equipment that will make the Grand Garden almost unrecognizable to those who are frequent guests.

At the heart is a massive stage where the fighters will first appear as well as a stunning scoreboard that hangs above the ring. The scoreboard is a massive structure brought in by PBC that is a 3.9 millimeter ultra high resolution LED screen.

It is made up on each side of 120 panels that are roughly two feet by two feet apiece, each of which have a resolution of 128 by 128 pixels per inch.

Courtesy Premier Boxing Champions
Courtesy Premier Boxing Champions

The scoreboard sits between two circular rings. The lower one is roughly 100 feet in diameter and includes 55 high definition cameras that will track the fight from every angle and which NBC will incorporate into its broadcast. So if a camera from behind shows a punch being thrown, one of the cameras from the side will be able to catch it landing.

The higher of the two rings is roughly 80 feet in diameter and is a massive message board that will display information about the fight and the fighters. It will show replays during the event and will include highlights, pre-produced feature packages, animation, graphics and more.

At the East end of the arena, two sections of seats have been removed and in their place will be a stage with state-of-the art LED screens. It measures 84 feet wide by 18 feet tall, though it peaks at 32 feet high in the center at the point where the fighters will enter the arena.

For decades, boxing was held in dimly lit rooms with bright white lighting illuminating the ring, the so-called smoke-filled room.

This will be quite the opposite and could be almost considered sensory overload.

"This is going to create an epic feeling and this sense of grandeur of a major event," Marto said.

Bruce Rodgers is the PBC's production designer and the owner of Tribe Design. His company designed the Super Bowl XLIX halftime set for Katy Perry, the live Grammy's event by Imagine Dragons and concert sets for Beyoncé, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen and U2, among many others.

His job was to design the arena technologically to be able to deliver the experience Haymon wants to provide.

It will be an escape of sorts, where Haymon hopes the fan becomes immersed in not only what is going on in the ring itself but in the entire experience of being in the building. It will be like combining the best of a concert or live Las Vegas show with a sporting event.

The set will travel with the PBC, though there are three iterations of it depending on the arena and the capabilities and capacities of a given arena.

Courtesy Premier Boxing Champions
Courtesy Premier Boxing Champions

"The whole idea with the scale of what we're doing here is to take over the venue and create our own vibe inside the arena," Rodgers said. "If you go to the Colosseum in Rome, you know right away you're in a place you're not going to find anywhere else and you're going to see and feel things you don't see and feel anywhere else in the world.

"We wanted to do that same thing and create that same kind of feeling. We want to convey that this is big, it's significant, it's memorable, and we wanted to do so in a way so that we could take it with us. So if a fan is watching on television and they see it, when they go to one of our events in their hometown, they'll know it is PBC. They'll feel the venue has come to them, so to speak."

Ultimately, the success of the night will be determined by the fighters and how they perform. But for the things that UFC president Dana White likes to refer to as "all the bells and whistles," nothing has ever come close to it in boxing history.

You almost have to see it to believe it.

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