By Jake Donovan
As his team continues to firm up and filter out details, adviser Al Haymon and staff have formally announced the venue and televised portion of the premiere episode for his upcoming series on Spike TV.
The series will run on Friday evenings at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT, overlapping ESPN2 Friday Night Fights on its East Coast feed.
The first card will air March 13 live from the famed StubHub Center in Carson, California, a venue that has played host to a number of Fight of the Year-level wars over the years.
Both legs of the inaugural episode pit former welterweight titlists against divisional spoilers.
Andre Berto faces Josesito Lopez in the evening’s main event, while the co-feature pits once-beaten Shawn Porter against Roberto Garcia.
The worst stretch of Berto’s career—from a wins-and-losses perspective, anyway—was finally put behind him last September, returning to the ring following a 14-month break. The sculpted Haitian-American gutted out a 10-round points win over Steve Upsher-Chambers for his first win in three years prior to that point.
Berto previously served as a welterweight, enjoying five defenses following his June ’08 vacant title-winning 7 th round knockout of Miguel Angel Rodriguez in Memphis. His run came to a crashing end in April ’11, trading knockdowns with Victor Ortiz before coming up short in one of that year’s best fights.
The night marked the first loss of his career, but things continued to go south. A tune-up win over Jan Zaveck was to pave the way for a rematch with Ortiz, but their planned Spring ’12 sequel was thwarted when Berto turned up positive for a banned substance during pre-fight random drug testing conducted by Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA).
He would go on to lose his next two starts, a decision loss to Robert Guerrero in their Nov. ’12 thriller and then a shocking 12 th round stoppage loss to Jesus Soto Karass in July ’13, with the major upset aided by Berto suffering a shoulder injury during the bout, a wound which—coupled with his series of wars—prompted the extended ring break before returning last year.
Lopez (33-6, 19KOs) was the benefactor of the fallout from the Ortiz-Berto rematch, as his number was called to step in and save the show. The June ’12 night turned out to be the best of his up-and-down career, breaking Ortiz’ jaw in forcing a stoppage after nine rounds in a bout in which he was down on all three scorecards.
The biggest win of his career was parlayed into his career-best payday, though paying a heavy price for cashing in. Lopez was pummeled in five rounds by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in an ill-fated trip to super welterweight in their high-profile Sept. ’12 Showtime headliner.
Nine months later came Lopez’ lone trip to the StubHub Center—at the time still know as Home Depot Center. A brave showing versus Marcos Maidana ended in despair, suffering his second straight knockout loss when he was dropped and stopped in the 6 th round of their highly entertaining June ’13 brawl.
Three straight wins have followed as he returns to the doorstep of contention in his upcoming clash with Berto.
Porter (24-1-1, 15KOs) turned heads with a welterweight title winning effort over Devon Alexander in Dec. ’13, and more so in his one-sided 4 th round stoppage of former two-division titlist Paul Malignaggi last April.
The title run came to a bitter end last summer, when his oft-postponed clash with Kell Brook finally came to fruition last August, resulting in a 12-round points loss to the unbeaten Brit in the very same venue as his upcoming return bout in March.
Garcia (36-3, 23KOs) was the last of the group to sign with Haymon, the move coming prior to his 10-round points win over Breidis Prescott last summer in Chicago. The win extended Garcia’s unbeaten streak to eight straight following his last loss, when he was at a much different place in his career at the time he was tabbed as Antonio Margarito’s comeback opponent in their May ’10 clash in Mexico.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox