In late July, Showtime Sports president and general manager Stephen Espinoza outlined most of the network’s boxing schedule for the rest of the year, but not all of the televised slots had been filled and other events might still be added.
Now, Espinoza is in the process of filling in those openings and scheduling additional events, as well as beginning to put events together for early 2021. One of those cards in January will be headlined by former four-division world titlist Adrien Broner, Espinoza told BoxingScene.com.
“Broner is coming back in January,” Espinoza said. Then Espinoza jokingly added, “Assuming he is done with his big record release.” Earlier this year, Broner put out a rap record.
As for the boxing ring, Broner, who has also had legal issues, has not fought since Manny Pacquiao cruised past him for a unanimous decision in a secondary welterweight world title defense on Jan. 19, 2019 in the main event of a Showtime PPV card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“We’re in the process of talking about opponents,” Espinoza said of Broner.
The 31-year-old Broner (33-4-1, 24 KOs), of Cincinnati, has won world titles at junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight. However, although he remains a television draw, he is just 0-2-1 in his last three fights – the loss to Pacquiao, a draw with Jessie Vargas in 2018 and a clear decision loss to Mikey Garcia in 2017, the last year in which Broner fought twice.
Espinoza said he is cognizant of his Broner’s lack of activity.
“It’s been two years since he’s fought so we’re in discussions about the opponent, but it will be somebody credible,” he said.
Espinoza added that the fight would take place at junior welterweight, where Broner has not fought since the fight with Garcia. Broner held a junior welterweight title from 2015 to 2016 before he was stripped for failing to make weight for his first defense against Ashley Theophane.
“He’s confident he can be 140 precisely,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza is also ready to put on the mandatory fight between newly crowned junior featherweight world titlist Angelo Leo (20-0, 9 KOs), 26, of Albuquerque, and mandatory challenge Stephen Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs), 26, of Philadelphia. They were due to fight on Aug. 1 in the main event of Showtime’s first card back since the coronavirus pandemic began but Fulton came down with Covid-19 and was forced to pull out of the fight.
Leo went on to outpoint replacement opponent Tramaine Williams to claim a vacant 122-pound world title with Fulton due the first crack at it.
“We heard from Fulton the minute he tested negative and was feeling better. He’s anxious to do the fight,” Espinoza said. “I think it is possible maybe before the end of the year, worst case early next year. I think it’s an intriguing matchup. We’re definitely going to do it. If we can squeeze it in before the end of the year, we’d love to. If not, it’s early next year.”
Espinoza said one landing spot for Leo-Fulton could be on the Dec. 12 card headlined by Nordine Oubaali’s bantamweight title defense against Nonito Donaire. There are two televised undercard slots for that card and neither has been filled yet.
“We’re in those conversations now. We could plug in Fulton and Leo there,” he said.
Espinoza also said there will be at least one “ShoBox: The Next Generation” card added to the Showtime schedule this year. He said it will take place on Oct. 7 at the Mohegan Sun resort in Uncasville, Connecticut – Showtime’s home base for its events until spectators are allowed in arenas.
He said the “ShoBox” quadrupleheader will be headlined by junior middleweight prospect Charles Conwell (12-0, 9 KOs), 22, a 2016 U.S. Olympian from Cleveland, against Wendy Toussaint (12-0, 5 KOs), 28, a Haiti native fighting out of Huntington, New York, in a 10-rounder with three eight-rounders also on the telecast: super middleweight Isaiah Steen (14-0, 11 KOs), Conwell’s half-brother, versus Kalvin Henderson (12-0-1, 8 KOs); welterweight Janelson Bocachica (15-0, 10 KOs) against Nicklaus Flaz (9-1, 7 KOs; and Brandun Lee (19-0, 17 KOs) versus Jimmy Williams (16-3-2, 5 KOs).
“What we’d like to do is sprinkle in some mid-level and ‘ShoBox’ shows, but what is key, especially with ‘ShoBox,’ is being able to do them cost effectively,” Espinoza said. “With the (Covid-19) testing requirements and getting in a little bit early (to the venue there are) additional costs.”
He said they were able to “make the numbers” work for the October ShoBox.
Espinoza said he would also like to find a way to make the numbers work to also schedule a fight for Claressa Shields (10-0, 2 KOs), whose May 9 women’s junior middleweight unification fight for the undisputed title against Marie-Eve Dicaire (17-0, 0 KOs) was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We would love to do it,” he said. “It’s just a matter of the numbers and getting the protocols down to something manageable (in terms of cost).”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.