The Roc Is In the Building

Albert Baker twitter: @thealbertbaker

Celebrities, music performances, a sold out event, even a fight breaking out; just what you would expect when Jay Z is in the building. Roc Nation Sports made its much anticipated “throne boxing” promotional debut last night at the theater in Madison Square Garden in New York and the only fights breaking out were where they belonged, in the boxing ring.

The event as a whole has to be deemed a success; the seats were filled, the patrons were dressed like they were going to a Heavyweight Championship, and there were more or as many sponsors than I have ever seen for a PPV level fight.

Opening the telecast host Angie Martinez was center ring to give an overview of the events for the evening, the telecast then transitioned to the always reliable and credible, boxing commentary from boxing’s familiar faces Gus Johnson and Rich Marotta.

The televised opening was something that I took notice to because it had the feel of a professional sporting event that has been missing in cable boxing. The national anthem was televised, while this may seem like a small note to many boxing viewers, it’s one that most athletes or sports viewers have become accustomed to associate as the indicator to the beginning of a professional sporting event. Many hopeful athletes envision themselves one day on the sidelines holding their hands over their hearts while a young famous performer belts out the anthem of their nation as they prepare to do battle and culminate all of their training and sacrifice in sport.

The quality of the production broadcast was visibly apparent as advertisements flashed across the screen demonstrating Roc Nation Sports marketing prowess. The ability to bring money to the table and generate more buzz for a fight is of the upmost importance in boxing, for the die-hard boxing fans this had to be the most promising thing of the entire telecast. Sponsors are an important factor for a myriad of reasons: fighters get larger purses when a promoter knows more money is being invested into the event, more marketing is done to promote the fight and fighters, production costs for video profile pieces on fighters becomes available to introduce the fighters to the fans creating a connection to the fighter and the boxing event, and last more money means more coverage which is something that boxing sorely needs.

During the telecast a sort of halftime to the event occurred in which rapper Fabolous came out and performed center ring. I thought this was a great idea, just poorly executed. To say Jay Z has significant clout in the entertainment industry is an understatement, and the idea of providing musical entertainment to enhance the value of purchasing a ticket or tuning in to a fight is a good idea. Fabolous is a good rapper and I can only assume the use of him to perform is to gain the interest of the young hip hop demographic, if that’s the case then mission accomplished but for the rest of America watching this was when you got up to get an adult beverage or check your email and comment on twitter. The scene of Fabolous walking around the ring by himself just didn’t translate to television well and created a lull in the excitement of the event, which undoubtedly will open the window for criticism. Roc Nation isn’t run by individuals that don’t strive to be the best and if the halftime event continues I’m sure the effort to find acts that translate better to TV and still grab the target demographic will be made.

The telecast opened with an entertaining destruction of Alex Theran 17-2 (9KO’s) at the hands of Tureano Johnson 17-1 (12KO’s). Johnson came out hot and pressed the action bobbing and weaving to get inside a la Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson, a style that’s never boring and when matched appropriately always provides good TV. Johnson never took a step back and dropped Theran in round four with a right hook that took the fight out of the taller fighter. Theran had the look of a fighter that didn’t want to continue because he just didn’t have an answer for the swarming style of Johnson. Round five saw Theran hit the canvas again from a Johnson left hook in which he beat the count but appeared to be limping as he got up with an absolute look of quit in his face. While on the stool before round six the doctor came in to assess Theran (who didn’t appear eager to continue) and stopped the fight for the reason of an ankle injury. Johnson is credited with a TKO victory and looked good on the Roc Nation telecast to ensure his participation in future televised events.

Between fights the credible and distinguished boxing journalist Michael Woods added to the commentary of Rich Marotta and Gus Johnson with a solid interview of Roc Nations newly signed company staple and pound for pound top three fighter Andre Ward. Woods did a good job with the interview and asked the questions the boxing die hards wanted to hear. Having credible boxing journalists that can translate to TV bring the boxing knowledge and questions desired by boxing-heads and adds the type of credibility most “sports reporters” have failed to bring to boxing. Boxing fans are a fickle bunch and satisfying them with “one of their own” so to say keeps the sweet science pure while still adding the entertainment factor needed to target new demographics.

The main event saw Dusty Hernandez-Harrison 25-0 (13KO’s) win a unanimous decision over Tommy “The Razor” Rainone 22-6-1 (4KO’s). Hernandez-Harrison a boxer puncher started a bit slow as Rainone came out moving in and out with a double jab followed by straight rights that landed but to little effect. After the third round Rainone slowed just enough for Hernandez to start leading more and began landing good shots and combinations. It was a fight in which Rainone just didn’t have enough power to keep Hernandez-Harrison honest, with his confidence building Hernandez-Harrison started throwing more combinations and shots to the body that led to a unanimous decision victory for the twenty year old fighter.

Hernandez-Harrison has a lot of promise and looks to be a prospect to keep an eye on for 2015.

Jay Z looks to make a splash in boxing, waves have already been made. Undoubtedly there are criticsm’s to be made of the inaugural Roc Nation Sports first televised boxing event, for the boxing purist the belief of anything that benefits the sport of boxing is good has to be smiling alongside Roc Nation believing this is a good thing. Jay Z will undoubtedly give marching orders to identify what could be done better and make adjustments. I’m going to sit back and watch the show because in boxing the Roc is in the building.