By Jake Donovan
The second season of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Spike TV has a lot to live up to, considering the number of Fight of the Year contenders produced from the nine-episode season one debut. The network puts its best foot forward in not fooling around despite the April 1 launch date for the 2016 season premiere.
BoxingScene.com has learned that Adrien Broner will headline the April 1 card. A beltholder in four weight divisions, the brash boxer will defend his recently acquired 140 lb. title versus Theophane in a scheduled 12-round bout that has been discussed for months but remained in search of a televised home. An actual home is still being finalized, with locations in Washington D.C. – where Broner regularly trains when not at home in Cincinnati, Ohio - and Southern Florida currently in the mix.
Also on the card is an intriguing non-title (for the moment) crossroads bout between former super featherweight champion Algenis Mendez and rising unbeaten lightweight prospect Robert Easter Jr.
Spike TV was by far the strongest of any of the networks involved in the PBC series during year one, coming out with an endless slew of Fight of the Year contenders. Not straying far from its MMA roots in terms of presentation and tonality, the atmosphere and energy that came with Spike TV telecasts made it must see TV throughout 2015, in which it was named BoxingScene.com Network of the Year.
One change in the series will come in the form of a yet-to-be-named producer. Previously leading the charge was decades-long combat sports guru Rob Beiner, one of the sport’s good guys who suffered a heart attack and suddenly passed away in his Long Island home on February 2 at age 65, shortly after having produced the 2016 premiere of PBC: The Next Round on Bounce TV in Immokalee, Florida.
As for the boxing part of the series, it’s a new network for Broner, who saw high points and low in his 2015 campaign. The outspoken boxer from Cincinnati won the very first televised PBC bout, outpointing John Molina Jr. over 12 rounds in their super lightweight non-title fight, which aired live in primetime on NBC last March.
Broner (31-2, 23KOs) returned three months later, but to far less favorable results. Struggles in training camp (namely, getting the boxer to bite down and commit) led to his second career loss in his NBC-televised clash with Shawn Porter last June. A late rally and a 12th round knockdown wasn’t enough to overcome the early hole which he dug for himself, dropping a unanimous decision in his first loss since being humbled (at least in the ring) by Marcos Maidana in Dec. ’13, conceding his welterweight title – the only belt of his four which he actually lost in the ring.
Despite the setback to Porter, a vacant title opportunity was made available for Broner in his return home to Cincinnati in a Showtime-televised headliner last October. A 12th round stoppage of former champ Khabib Allakhverdiev – who was also coming off of a loss and an 18-month layoff - resulted in his becoming a four-division titlist.
At the time, a rivalry with “big brother” Floyd Mayweather prompted his responding to a challenge from a Mayweather Promotions boxer in Theophane. Speculation lingered as to whether such a matchup was just talk or would actually serve as his first title defense, for better or for worse.
The bout marks his first appearance on Spike, after having previously headlined on HBO, Showtime and NBC in his prime, as well as ESPN2 and Telefutura (now UniMas) earlier in his career.
Theophane (39-6-1, 11KOs) has been a regular on Mayweather Promotions (a/k/a “The Money Team” or “TMT”) events since moving his training headquarters to Las Vegas. He enters his first career title fight having won each of his last six starts, including decision wins over Mahonri Montes in late April and most recently Steven Upsher Chambers last September.
The 10-round win over Montes aired live on ESPN2 from Las Vegas, two days prior to Mayweather’s historic May 2 win over Manny Pacquiao in the richest boxing event of all-time. His win over Upsher was less celebrated though also serving on a notable evening, appearing on the non-televised undercard of Mayweather’s last-ever fight, a 12-round win over Andre Berto – who landed the fight on the heels of a 6th round knockout of Josesito Lopez in the first-ever edition of PBC on Spike last March.
Berto was originally tabbed to headline the Season Two premiere, but his next fight remains in the works as he was swapped out for another “AB” in Broner.
Joining Broner is his training stablemate Easter Jr. The unbeaten lightweight from Toledo, Ohio – who was an alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team – made his PBC debut in June, scoring a 2nd round knockout of Miguel Mendoza in an NBC Sports Network-televised bout that followed Broner’s loss to Porter on the same Las Vegas card.
The upcoming showdown with Mendez will mark the eighth time Easter Jr. and Broner appear on the same show, most recently last October in Cincinnati. Shortly before Broner ended the night with a title-winning knockout over Allakhverdiev, Easter Jr. topped a SHO Extreme telecast in style, scoring a 3rd round knockout of Juan Solis.
The unbeaten 25-year old prospect has scored four straight knockout wins heading into the biggest step up in his young career.
Mendez (23-3-1, 12KOs) eyes one more title run in a career that has endured its share of ups and downs. Having represented his native Dominican Republic in the 2004 Athens Olympics, Mendez – who turns 30 in July – has seen his career stock rise and fail but reach its full potential in a revenge-fueled knockout win over Juan Carlos Salgado in March ’13 to win the super featherweight title.
His title stay lasted 16 months, yet strangely with the knockout over Salgado – against whom he suffered a disputed points loss 18 months prior – representing his only win in a four-fight reign. His Aug. ’13 defense versus Arash Usmanee ended in a 12-round draw, while a Jan. ’14 knockout loss to Rances Barthelemy was converted to a No-Contest when a review upon appeal helped determine that the final blow came after the bell to end round two.
The ruling extended his reign by six months, dropping a decision to Barthelemy in their lethargic July ‘14 rematch, his last-ever fight at super featherweight. He has since won two straight at lightweight, including a 10-round win over Miguel Vasquez in their PBC on Fox Sports 1 headliner last September.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox