Boxing Hall of Famer and former undisputed welterweight world champion Sugar Ray Leonard will join the broadcast team on Saturday, March 4. The event will be headlined by the welterweight world championship unification bout between undefeated champions Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
The live broadcast will be produced by SHOWTIME Sports® for the CBS Television Network and will air live on CBS from 9-11 p.m. ET / 6-8 p.m. PT. Garcia vs. Thurman will be the first world title unification bout in any weight division on live network television in over two decades and just the second primetime boxing presentation on CBS in nearly 40 years. The first was headlined by a thrilling welterweight world championship fight between Thurman and Shawn Porter, a 2016 Fight of the Year candidate and one of the most watched boxing events of the year.
With SHOWTIME boxing analyst and active prizefighter Paul Malignaggi scheduled to fight in London that evening, the broadcast seat opened up for Leonard. He will join SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING host Brian Custer, play-by-play voice Mauro Ranallo, International Boxing Hall of Fame analyst Al Bernstein and Sports Emmy® Award-winning reporter Jim Gray on Saturday.
Leonard made his professional boxing debut on CBS in 1977, less than one year after he won gold at the ‘76 Olympics in Montreal as part of what is considered the greatest American boxing team in Olympic history. He served as a boxing analyst for the network in the early 1980s during a temporary retirement, calling fights alongside CBS boxing announcer Tim Ryan and Hall of Fame trainer and analyst Gil Clancy, before eventually resuming his professional boxing career. The March 4 event will reunite Leonard with former CBS producer and current SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING Executive Producer David Dinkins Jr., and director Bob Dunphy, the son of legendary boxing broadcaster Don Dunphy.
A five-division titlist and one of the most decorated boxers of all-time, Leonard brings unique perspective to the broadcast booth having been in a similar situation to Thurman and Garcia more than 35 years ago. Garcia, the WBC 147-pound titleholder, and Thurman, his WBA counterpart, will unify the exact same titles that Leonard (WBC) and fellow Hall of Famer Thomas Hearns (WBA) unified in their classic 1981 Fight of the Year.
Heading into the March 4 unification, Garcia and Thurman own similar records to those of Leonard and Hearns prior to their ‘81 showdown. Thurman is 27-0 and Garcia is 33-0, while Leonard was 30-1 and Hearns was 32-0. And like Leonard and Hearns, Thurman and Garcia are in their 20’s and their respective primes as they approach the career-defining fight.
“I’m thrilled to be working with the SHOWTIME team and to be part of the CBS broadcast of this great event,” said Leonard. “I’ve watched Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman develop as young men and mature both inside and outside of the ring. Now they are both champions facing their biggest test to determine the man to beat in the welterweight division. This fight reminds me of my incredible bout against Tommy Hearns. There’s nothing better in boxing than when champions meet to unify a division, and I truly believe this fight could go either way. I’m so excited and I can’t wait to be ringside this Saturday at Barclay’s Center.”
“When Ray and I last spoke in January, we’d reminisced briefly about our work in boxing together and we’d promised to get together soon,” said Dinkins. “Who knew it would be to work on the biggest fight scheduled for 2017? I’m thrilled that Ray is available to join our SHOWTIME broadcast team on March 4. His experience in fighting on the big stage for high-stakes will help put Garcia vs. Thurman into its proper context.
“Garcia vs. Thurman is a battle of undefeated champions,” Dinkins continued. “The winner of this fight will be the No. 1 welterweight in the world. Ray has been there. His classic battles with Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns at welterweight made him a legend. It is only fitting that he will be ringside when a new star is born.”
Leonard was down on the scorecards when he knocked out Hearns in the 14th round of the 1981 fight. It was only the second world championship unification match in welterweight history. Garcia and Thurman will face off in the 10th unification in division history, and only the third between undefeated world champions.
After the Hearns fight, Leonard made one more defense of his welterweight belts before eventually moving up to challenge Marvin Hagler at middleweight. Leonard has served as a TV personality and boxing analyst since retiring from the ring in 1997, including a stint on CBS.