Laila Ali, B.J. Flores & Chris Mannix Added as Premier Boxing Champions Analysts on NBC/NBCSN

STAMFORD, Conn. – Feb. 24, 2015 – NBC Sports Group announced today the addition of Laila Ali, B.J. Flores, Kenny Rice and Chris Mannix to its Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) coverage on NBC and NBCSN.

Three-time super middleweight champion Laila Ali and former two-time U.S. amateur heavyweight champion Flores will serve as corner analysts for PBC on NBC telecasts. Mannix and Rice will report ringside, and Rice will conduct interviews. Rice will also serve as the blow-by-blow announcer on select NBCSN shows.

The debut of PBC on NBC live in primetime on Saturday, March 7 at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC features a pair of blockbuster bouts — Keith Thurman vs. Robert Guerrero, and Adrien Broner vs. John Molina Jr. — from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Blow-by-blow announcer Marv Albert and analyst “Sugar” Ray Leonard call the action. Al Michaels will host.

“We are excited to add punching power to our PBC on NBC team,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “With Laila’s and B.J.’s experience in the ring, and the boxing commentary Kenny and Chris have done on NBCSN, we will have every corner covered.”

LAILA ALI – CORNER ANALYST:  The daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Laila Ali was an undefeated four-time world champion in her eight-year professional boxing career, winning 24 bouts, 21 by knockout. Ali has held various broadcasting, acting and reality television roles. At the 2012 London Olympics, she served as an analyst on NBC’s coverage of the first-ever women’s Olympic boxing competition. She has also appeared on NBC’s The Biggest Loser and E! Network’sFashion Police, competed and twice won Food Network’s Chopped Champions, and advanced to the final round as a competitor on Dancing with the Stars. She currently hosts FYI Network’s Late Nite Chef Fight  food truck cook-off show, serves as a regular contributor on CBS Sports Network’s all-female sports program We Need To Talk, and hosts All In With Laila Ali airing in weekend syndication on CBS.

B.J. FLORES – CORNER ANALYST: Flores served as an analyst for NBC Sports Group’s Fight Nightboxing series from 2012-14, while continuing to pursue a professional boxing title in the ring.  He has been ranked among the top 15 cruiserweight in the world since July 2007. Previously, Flores was an analyst on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. After posting a 112-10 amateur record, he fought his first two professional bouts on NBC broadcasts in May 2003. Flores was the 2001 and 2002 U.S. men’s national champion, and was the only American to win gold in the Four Nations Championship in 2002. He has a career record of 31 wins (20 knockouts), and 1 loss, and is a five-time North American champion.

KENNY RICE – REPORTER, INTERVIEWER, BLOW-BY-BLOW ANNOUNCER: Rice will serve as a ringside reporter and interviewer for PBC on NBC. Rice, who has served as NBC’s Olympic boxing reporter, called NBC Sports Group’s Fight Night boxing series. In addition, Rice has contributed to NBC Sports Group’s thoroughbred racing coverage since 1999, including the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Rice will also handle blow-by-blow on select PBC shows on NBCSN.

CHRIS MANNIX – REPORTER: Mannix joined NBC Sports Group in 2012, and hosts The Chris Mannix Show on NBC Sports Radio. Mannix worked with Flores and Rice on NBC Sports Group’sFight Night boxing series as a ringside reporter, and is Sports Illustrated’s senior boxing writer.

NBC and NBCSN will present 20 live PBC on NBC boxing events in 2015. Within the 20 live shows, NBC Sports Group will present more than 50 hours of PBC coverage, including NBCSN pre- and post-fight programming for NBC telecasts. The Premier Boxing Champions series is created for television by Haymon Boxing.  The PBC on NBC will feature many of today’s brightest stars, in their most compelling matches.

All PBC on NBC shows will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value for their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms. NBC Sports Live Extra is available for desktops at NBCSports.com/liveextra. The NBC Sports Live Extra app is available at the App Store for iPad and iPod touch, on select devices within Google Play, and on windows phones and tablets.

Forgotten Legends: Lucia Rijker

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By: Steve Gallegos

Women’s boxing has been out of the mainstream for some time; however during the mid to late 90’s, women’s boxing was stronger than ever. Women’s bouts were featured regularly on top boxing cards as well as all female fight cards being televised on national TV. Mia St. John, Christy Martin and Laila Ali were the faces of womens boxing; however there was another great female fighter the world never got to truly know. Her name was Lucia Rijker, also known as “The Dutch Destroyer”.

A come forward aggressive puncher with KO power in either hand, Rijker was possibly the best female fighter of her era. Growing up in the Netherlands, Rjiker trained in martial arts at the age of six, specializing in Judo and fencing before turning to kickboxing and later boxing. She made her professional boxing debut on 03/21/96 at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles and she scored a 1st round KO over Melinda Robinson.

Trained by the legendary Freddie Roach, Rjiker went on a whirlwind from 1996-1998, destroying opponents, mostly scoring knockouts within 5 rounds. She got a taste of national exposure on 03/23/98 when she met Mary Ann Almager at Foxwooks in Mashantucket, Connecticut. The bout was part of a huge fight card televised nationally on Fox.

She didn’t disappoint as she scored a 1st round KO. Oscar De La Hoya was a guest commentator for Fox Sports that night and complimented Rijker by saying, “Wow, I’m glad she’s not in my weight class”.

It was around this time that a feud developed between her and women’s boxing champion Christy Martin. She publicly called out Martin on several occassions and it appeared that Martin was avoiding Rjiker; therefore the fight didn’t materialize. Rijker would fight 4 more times in 1998 and 1999 before taking a break from boxing. She did claim the IBO female light welterweight championship in the process.

She would to turn to acting in which she would appear in 2002’s “Rollerball” as well as 2004’s Oscar Winning “Million Dollar Baby” starring Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank. She returned to boxing in 2002 and went 3-0 from 2002-2004 and she finally landed the fight she always wanted, a showdown with Christy Martin.

It was the main event of a Top Rank promoted card called “Million Dollar Lady”. The bout was scheduled for 07/30/2005 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas; however 10 days prior to the bout, Rijker suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during training, causing possibly the biggest bout in women’s boxing history to be scrapped. Rjiker did consider fighting one more time in 2006 against Lalia Ali; however the fight never materialized.

She retired with a record of 17-0 with 14 KO’s. Today, Rjiker travels giving lectures and seminars encouraging others to give it their all in everything they do. She continues to stay in top shape and even helps train other fighters. She was the best female fighter of her era that didn’t get a chance to measure herself against the other great female boxers of her time. It’s unfortunate that the world never got to truly know this great female star of the “Sweet Science”.
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