By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza was preparing to announce much of the network’s boxing schedule through June during a unique event Wednesday afternoon at a restaurant in Manhattan.
Six events that hadn’t been previously revealed were among those officially announced. Those fights are listed below:
April 7, Venue TBD: Erislandy Lara vs. Jarrett Hurd for Lara’s WBA, IBO and Hurd’s IBF super welterweight titles.
April 21, Barclays Center, Brooklyn: Adrien Broner vs. Omar Figueroa; Gervonta Davis vs. TBA.
May 19, Barclays Center, Brooklyn: Keith Thurman vs. TBA for Thurman’s WBA/WBC welterweight titles.
May 19, Venue TBD, Quebec, Canada: Adonis Stevenson vs. Badou Jack for Stevenson’s WBC light heavyweight title.
June 9, Venue TBD, Los Angeles: Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares for Santa Cruz’s WBA featherweight title; Jermell Charlo vs. TBA for Charlo’s WBC super welterweight title.
June 16, Venue TBD, Dallas: Errol Spence Jr. vs. TBA for Spence’s IBF welterweight title.
Three events that already have been announced were part of Wednesday’s program as well. Those fights included:
February 17, Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas: Danny Garcia vs. Brandon Rios, welterweights; David Benavidez vs. Ronald Gavril for Benavidez’s WBC super middleweight title.
March 3, Barclays Center, Brooklyn: Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz for Wilder’s WBC heavyweight title; Jermall Charlo vs. Huge Centeno Jr. for the WBC interim middleweight title.
March 10, The Alamodome, San Antonio: Sergey Lipinets vs. Mikey Garcia for Lipinets’ IBF junior welterweight title; Rances Barthelemy vs. Kyril Relikh for the WBA super lightweight title.
2018 Event By Event
Feb. 17: Garcia vs. Rios – Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas
Two-division world champion Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) returns to the ring to begin his quest toward another welterweight world championship. Garcia’s long reigns at 140 and 147 pounds ended last March in a close decision loss to unified champion Keith Thurman. Now, Garcia will challenge tough former world champion Brandon Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs), an all-action fighter who has fought the best in the sport. In the co-main event, boxing’s youngest world champion, 21-year-old David Benavidez (19-0, 17 KOs), will make his first title defense in a rematch against top contender Ronald Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs). The super middleweights fought a thrilling fight last September that ended in a controversial decision for Benavidez.
March 3: Wilder vs. Ortiz – From Barclays Center in Brooklyn
The revival of the heavyweight world championship division continues. America’s undefeated, No. 1 heavyweight, WBC World Champion Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs), will face fellow unbeaten challenger Luis Ortiz (28-0, 24 KOs) in an anticipated matchup of consensus top-5 ranked heavyweights. Wilder has held the coveted green belt since January 2015 and made six successful title defenses. Now, Wilder faces a highly skilled Cuban pugilist with big punching power in Ortiz. The co-main event will feature former super welterweight champion and top middleweight contender Jermall Charlo (26-0, 20 KOs) taking on once-beaten contender Hugo Centeno Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs) for the Interim WBC Middleweight World Championship.
March 10: Garcia vs. Lipinets – Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio
One of the top pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs) will attempt to make history by capturing a world title in a fourth weight class. Standing in his way is unbeaten power-puncher and IBF Jr. Welterweight Champion Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs), who is making his first title defense. Two 140-pound titles will be on the line as two-division champion Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KOs) looks to become the first Cuban boxer to ever win world titles in three different weight classes when he faces Kirly Relikh (21-2, 9 KOs) in a rematch of their controversial May bout, this time for the vacant WBA Super Lightweight title.
April 7: Lara vs. Hurd – Location TBD
WBA World Champion Erislandy Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs) and IBF World Champion Jarrett Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs) will meet to unify titles in a defining moment for the 154-pound division. In 2017, SHOWTIME televised eight matchups featuring all of the top-five ranked super welterweight champions and challengers in an unofficial tournament. This unification match will pit the technical wizardry of Cuba’s Lara against the strength and determination of Hurd.
April 21: Broner vs. Figueroa – From Barclays Center in Brooklyn
Four-division world champion Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KOs) has established himself not only as one of the biggest draws in the sport, but as a fighter who is always willing to face the toughest competition. That will continue when he takes on undefeated former world champion Omar Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 KOs), an all-action brawler who never takes a step backward, as the former champions meet in a WBC Super Lightweight Final Eliminator. The co-main event will feature one of boxing’s brightest young stars in Gervonta Davis (19-0, 18 KOs) as the 23-year-old undefeated former champion looks to regain his title.
May 19: Thurman Defends Worlds Titles – From Barclays Center in Brooklyn
Keith Thurman is the only unified 147-pound world champion and the consensus No. 1-ranked fighter in boxing’s preeminent weight division. The undefeated Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) has held the WBA title since 2015. He claimed the WBC belt with a decisive win over previously undefeated Danny Garcia last March in the most watched bout of the year, a presentation of SHOWTIME Boxing on CBS. Following an elbow injury that required surgery, Thurman will return to action against an opponent to be determined.
May 19: Stevenson vs. Jack – From Canada
WBC Light Heavyweight World Champion Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) has scored knockouts in six of his eight title defenses and will face perhaps his toughest challenge when he battles two-division champion Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs). Jack captured a 175-pound world title in his light heavyweight debut in August and relinquished the belt in order to immediately make this matchup of top-five ranked light heavyweights.
June 9: Santa Cruz vs. Mares II – From Los Angeles
After their 2015 title showdown brought the Staples Center crowd to its feet, WBA Featherweight Champion Leo Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 KOs) and three-division world champion Abner Mares (31-2-1, 15 KOs) will meet again in their shared hometown of Los Angeles. Santa Cruz, who also has held titles in three divisions for the past six years, remains one of the most prolific fighters in the sport today. Mares, a former world champion at bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight, aims to exact revenge after the close majority decision loss to Santa Cruz in 2015. This high-stakes matchup between consensus top-five ranked featherweights will give further clarity to a stacked division that includes Gary Russell Jr., Carl Frampton and Lee Selby. The consensus No. 1 fighter at 154 pounds, Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs) will defend his WBC Super Welterweight World Championship in the co-feature against an opponent to be determined.
June 16: Spence Defends Welterweight Title – From Dallas
Fresh off a dominating performance against a top-10 former welterweight champion, pound-for-pound great Errol Spence Jr. (23-0, 20 KOs) returns to his hometown of Dallas for the second defense of the IBF Welterweight World Championship.
[MORE COVERAGE TO COME.]
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.