It’s a 180,000-pound shrine to boxing, descending from the rafters like a spaceship about to land.
The mammoth light and sound system that will bring Premier Boxing Champions events to life starting Saturday night on NBC, dubbed the “Ring of Honor,” is akin to a high-tech gladiator dome, a fantastic assemblage of circular LED screens, more than 400 computerized lights and the kind of state-of-the-art sound design normally reserved for high-end concert halls.
“What we wanted to create was a cathedral to boxing, with the ring as the altar,” explained PBC lighting designer John Featherstone. For viewers at home, an array of 32 cameras mounted above the ring will create 360-degree images for the audience.
“When this is on television, you’ll be able to see the boxing action as if you’re in a helicopter flying over their fists as the punches are thrown,” says Michael Marto, PBC live event executive producer.
The inspiration for the outsize production values and eye-popping set design ranged from U2’s massive 360° Tour to the classic grandeur of the Roman Colosseum.
“We wanted to go as big as humanly possible,” says Bruce Rodgers, production designer for PBC as well as the last nine Super Bowl halftime shows, among other events.
The goal was simple, even if getting there was anything but: to make PBC fights an immersive experience for both fans in the venue and those watching on TV.
“You’ve got an action sport where people are moving their hands at 100 miles per hour, how do you bring the experience back to something that’s epic?” Marto asks. “Every aspect of the sport—the live and the television experience—had to be elevated.”
This begins with the way fighters enter the arena, through the “Wall of Thunder,” a massive backdrop flashing with LED screens where fighters walk down adjacent platforms on their way to the ring, doing so to an original score from renowned film composer Hans Zimmer.
“It’s exciting,” says Robert Guerrero, who will fight Keith Thurman in the inaugural PBC card Saturday night on NBC. “It’s exciting for the fans to see something like that, to see the walkout onto the stage, the introduction. It’s not just going to a fight, it’s going to a show.”
This is the whole point: to go beyond the trappings of a traditional sporting event to include some of the more interactive visual flourishes you might see at a rock concert.
“What we wanted to do with the aesthetic of the design was have an event that you’re in as much as you’re watching,” Featherstone says. “In order to do that, we’ve integrated exactly the same kind of technology as is used on arena concert tours.”
And like an arena rocker’s rig, the PBC light-and-sound setup will travel to most PBC cards—if the venue is big enough to house it, that is.
“We feel the fans will embrace this like they just walked into a mega rock show,” Marto says. “This has not been seen in boxing.”
- Beyond the ring