By Jake Donovan
Upon the conclusion of the April 16 edition of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on NBC, the upcoming schedule simply teased a next working series date of June 18, but with the fights and venue all to be determined.
That card has now taken shape, with all but the main event virtually locked up. The pre-Father’s Day edition of PBC on NBC will head to the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois. Light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara will headline the show, which BoxingScene.com has learned will be a televised tripleheader.
Opponent choices are being narrowed down for Fonfara (28-3, 16KOs), a perennial Top 5 contender from Chicago by way of Poland. He comes in riding a three-fight win streak, including a one-sided knockout win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. last April and a hard-fought points win over Nathan Cleverly in their 12-round punchathon last October, also at the UIC Pavilion, where he will make his 16th career appearance with his upcoming fight.
Confirmed for the undercard is a glimpse into the future as well as unfinished business from the past.
As first reported by Ring TV’s Mitch Abramson, unbeaten super welterweight prospect Erickson Lubin has been added to the card. The red-hot boxing prodigy from Orlando, Florida – who doesn’t turn 21 until October - will face Romania’s Victor Lupo (20-2-2, 9KOs). His appearance on the show means he will no longer appear on the June 4 edition of PBC on ESPN, which is due to take place in Montreal, Canada.
Lubin (14-0, 10KOs) enjoyed a five-fight campaign in 2015, appearing on ESPN2 (twice), Showtime, Bounce TV and in a Saturday-afternoon edition of PBC on NBC. He’s fought once so far in 2016, making his debut as a televised headliner in his 10-round Bounce TV-aired win over Jose Macias this past January in Immokalee, Florida.
Joining Lubin on the PBC on NBC card in Chicago is his training and managerial stablemate, Juan Carlos Payano (17-0, 8KOs). The unbeaten bantamweight titlist from Dominican Republic – who literally lives at Herman Caicedo’s gym in Miami where he trains seven days a week – will face Cincinnati’s Rau’Shee Warren (13-1, 4KOs) in a long awaited rematch.
The pair of bantamweights met in a 12-round thriller last August in Winter Park, Florida. Payano overcame a late knockdown to scratch out a split decision win atop the debuting installment of PBC on Bounce TV: The Next Round (Disclosure: Jake Donovan is a researcher and unofficial scorer for the PBC on Bounce series).
Plans for a rematch have been in place from the moment the final decision was announced, as there remains a strong contingent of fans and boxing luminaries who believe Warren – the only boxer in U.S. amateur history to compete on three Olympic teams (2004, 2008, 2012) – deserved the nod, which would have made him the first from the Class of 2012 to capture a major title.
The diminutive southpaw from Cincinnati still has a shot at that claim, although he’s been essentially in training for nearly a year in waiting on revenge. There were talks of staging the sequel last November, only for Payano to be placed on the injured list to heal a wrist that was broken in several places.
Talks once again surfaced for a potential placement in February, only for a major portion of the 2016 PBC schedule to be shifted around. As the pieces now fall in place to fill up what should be a loaded summer of boxing, there now exists the opportunity for the pair of little big men to finally settle up on past business.
A sticking point in the rematch, however, was that it took place in a neutral location. Earlier talks had the fight destined for Miami, but Warren was hesitant to return to any location in Florida, where he’s not convinced he’d get a fair shake in light of officiating and final scoring from their first fight. Warren – who owns a win over Payano in the amateurs – was docked two points in the 9th round on a strangely-ruled intentional foul after pushing the defending champ to the canvas.
The deduction along with the scoring in general – both fighters receiving winning tallies of 113-111, with Carlos Sucre’s far-too-wide 115-109 card giving Payano the win – left him reluctant to believe it’d be any different a second time around. With that came the executive decision to bring the fight to Chicago.
Payano – who won the title with a technical decision win over the excellent Anselmo Moreno in Sept. ’14 – fights for the first time in the Windy City. Warren has fought here just once, in this very venue but in a brief affair that didn’t produce a winner. A Dec. ’14 bout with Javier Gallo ended on an accidental headbutt after just 66 seconds of ring time. Warren won the rematch three months later in Las Vegas.
The winner of Payano-Warren II will then be mandated to next face Jamie McDonnell, as part of the continued title consolidation efforts of the World Boxing Association (WBA). Payano is the recognized WBA super champ, while McDonnell is the “regular” champ.
An opponent for Fonfara is expected to be settled in the very near future, at which point the event will be formally announced.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow him on his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2