Why boxers Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson are ready for prime time

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

It's going to take time for the impact of boxing's return to network television to be felt in the industry. In one month, though, the Premier Boxing Champions series has already started to make a difference.

Ultimately, it might have the biggest impact upon Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson, who meet Saturday in the non-title main event of an NBC-televised card from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

They fit the profile of exactly what's been missing from network television for years: Talented, charismatic fighters with a back story to attract the casual fan and the skill to appeal to the hardcores.

Now, talent alone doesn't make a fighter a star. Nor does a gaudy record.

Danny Garcia wallops Rod Salka in their August 2014 bout. (Getty Images)
Danny Garcia wallops Rod Salka in their August 2014 bout. (Getty Images)

Garcia is 29-0 with 17 knockouts, but has lost some of the momentum he gained after his victory over Lucas Matthysse on Sept. 14, 2013, on the Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez undercard.

That was a hotly anticipated fight, and Garcia showed his ability by putting on an A-minus effort to clearly defeat the power-punching Argentine.

But 2014 wasn't the greatest year for Garcia, who defeated Mauricio Herrera and Rod Salka. Many fans and media felt Garcia, as the bigger name, got a gift decision over Herrera. Salka wasn't in Garcia's class and the fight was not even remotely competitive.

The fight with Salka was designed, in a way, to set up a super lightweight title bout with Peterson, who stopped Edgar Santana in the 10th round in August 2014.

But when the fight ended, there was radio silence coming from both camps. If it were up to them, they'd have fought each other before the end of the year.

What was happening, though, was their manager, Al Haymon, was in the final stages of creating the PBC, and so they sat and waited for a call that seemed like it might never come.

Lamont Peterson, left, lands a left hook during his win over Edgar Santana. (Getty Images)
Lamont Peterson, left, lands a left hook during his win over Edgar Santana. (Getty Images)

"I'm a fighter and of course I would rather be active and keep fighting," Garcia told Yahoo Sports. "But I understand the business aspect of it, too. There is a lot at stake for us at this stage of our careers and so I know that sometimes I need to be patient and wait for the business side to take care of itself."

The PBC has had a very solid first month. Its debut on NBC last month drew 3.374 million viewers, slightly ahead of what it normally receives for a Saturday night prime-time broadcast. Significantly, NBC's audience in the important 18-to-49 demographic was up more than 50 percent.

NBC drew 960,000 adults from 18-to-49 on that March 7 card, which led the networks in that demographic and was second only to a Duke-North Carolina college basketball game on ESPN that night.

But the overall audience was still mostly over 50 years old, which often has been a problem for boxing.

Things aren't, however, going to change overnight. Spike's debut of the PBC drew more than double the average of ESPN2's Friday Night Fights series, and the Adonis Stevenson-Sakio Bika card last Saturday afternoon on CBS got a very solid 1.3 million audience.

Those numbers need to go up for the PBC to truly make a mark and get advertisers interested, and Garcia believes his fight with Peterson (33-2-1, 17 KOs) will help toward that goal.

"It's going to broaden the sport of boxing and bring in fans who haven't watched in a long time," Garcia said. "It's up to us as fighters to take advantage of that. We have to do that by first being willing to take on the best there is. Fight the fights the people are asking to see. And when you get those fights, go in there and give them what they want. Get in there and fight. And I think that's what me and Lamont are going to do, to be honest with you."

Peterson, 31, agreed with Garcia on that point, but also realizes the limitations for someone who has been fighting professionally for almost 11 years.

Danny Garcia, left, and Lamont Peterson say they are ready to put on a show Saturday night. (AP)
Danny Garcia, left, and Lamont Peterson say they are ready to put on a show Saturday night. (AP)

"Of course this is something that's probably going to benefit [young, up-and-coming fighters] more than an established champion who might already be heading out the door before too long," Peterson said. "But having said that, I think this is going to help my career. I've always said we need to get the best fighting the best, and that's what they're doing with this thing. It's going to excite the fan base and I'm excited to be a part of that."

A win over an unbeaten and highly regarded fighter like Garcia, 27, would be huge for Peterson, just as a victory over Peterson would boost Garcia's status. In boxing, it's not just if you've won but who you've beaten that is most important.

Sugar Ray Robinson, the greatest of them all, beat enough men who would eventually land in the International Boxing Hall of Fame to field a football team.

Victories over Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, Wilfred Benitez and Marvelous Marvin Hagler are what propelled Sugar Ray Leonard to greatness.

So fighting in New York on network television in prime time against an elite opponent is about the best thing to happen to either man.

Neither is much of a trash talker, but Garcia understands the significance of the moment.

"This is a great platform and what we've all hoped for so long would happen," Garcia said. "Now that this opportunity is here, I'm going to be honest with you: I'm going to take advantage. I want to make sure people say, 'I need to see that guy fight again.' "

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