By Jake Donovan
It's not often that NBC and CBS-affiliated networks will offer cross-promotion for programming on the same night, but could very well become the case on a busy night of boxing on April 16.
As previously announced, Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on NBC makes its return with a loaded bill from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The primetime telecast - beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET - is topped by a welterweight crossroads bout between unbeaten contender Errol Spence (19-0, 16KOs) and Long Island-bred former 140 lb. titlist Chris Algieri (21-2, 8KOs).
BoxingScene.com has been informed that - immediately following the free-to-air telecast - Showtime will present a doubleheader live from the Fox Theatre at Foxwoods Casino on Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation in Ledyard, Connecticut. The twinbill will feature Gary Russell Jr. in a featherweight title defense versus Patrick Hyland, as well as unbeaten 130 lb. titlsit Jose Pedraza versus mandatory challenger Stephen Smith.
Representatives from Showtime and DiBella Entertainment - the latter whom will serve as promoter of record for both shows - declined comment as the latter card has yet to be formally announced.
The Showtime card has been teased for more than a week, but with the location up in the air. The Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Miss. was offered as a back-up plan in the event that a previously scheduled event at Foxwoods could not be moved. That conflict no longer exists, thus allowing all involved parties to breathe a little easier than has been the case in recent weeks.
Both legs of the Showtime card are products of displaced bouts that were picked up by the network for a pair of telecasts that were eventually pulled from its schedule. Russell-Hyland was due to take place this weekend at Mohegan Sun, as part of spill-over coverage from a planned CBS show live in primetime topped by the long-awaited welterweight clash between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter.
The March 12 card was to also include a CBS-televised featherweight clash between former three-division champs Abner Mares and Fernando Montiel, along with a Showtime-televised over-the-limit light heavyweight showdown between Thomas Williams Jr. and Edwin Rodriguez. The entire card was scrapped after Thurman suffered injuries sustained in a car crash in late February, with his title fight with Porter indefinitely postponed.
Upn rescheduling of that bout, Mares-Montiel will also resurface, with both fights to still air on CBS.
The same cannot be said for the proposed Williams Jr.-Rodriguez clash, which became odd man out on April 16, as little room was left on either card.
The NBC telecast could become a tripleheader, already guaranteed to include Krzysztof Glowacki in his first cruiserweight title defense versus Steve Cunningham. A third fight could make the telecast, featuring Staten Island's Marcus Browne - Spence's teammate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team - versus Radivoje Kalajdzic in a matchup of unbeaten light heavyweights. The scheduled 10-round bout is guaranteed to take place at Barclays, but just a matter of finding airtime for a budgeted 2 1/2 hour telecast.
Given the late start time for the Showtime card - slotted for 11:00 p.m. ET, but with the first bout to be held until the last NBC-televised fight ends - there didn't exist any room to add Williams Jr.-Rodriguez to the bill.
Instead, Pedraza-Smith was bumped up in the rotation of fights deseparetely in need of a home. A deal was previously reached between camps, only for the title fight to return to a purse bid as ordered by the International Boxing Federation (IBF) due to a lack of a confirmed date and location placing the bout in default status.
DiBella Entertainment remains the promoter of record for the fight, having submitted the lone bid during a purse bid hearing last week. The session was anti-climactic, as a financial package had already been agreed upon for Smith and Matchroom Boxing.
Smith (23-1, 13KOs) enters his first career title fight, as well as his stateside debut. The 30-year old from Liverpool earned the opportunity with a 6th round knockout of Devis Boschiero last September, just two weeks before younger brother Liam became the first in their fighting family to claim a major title with a 7th round stoppage of John Thompson in their vacant super welterweight title fight.
Their older brother, Paul Smith came up short in a pair of title fights versus Arthur Abraham before mailing it in during his own stateside debut, a one-sided stoppage loss to Andre Ward last June.
Pedraza (21-0, 12KOs) - who represented his native Puerto Rico in the 2008 Beijing Olympics - will make the second defense of the 130 lb. title he claimed in vacant capacity with a 12-round win over Andrey Klimov last June. The feat was followed up by a tightly-contested points win over Edner Cherry last October in Cincinnati. Both bouts aired live on Showtime, with the April 16 appearance serving as his third straight on the network.
Russell Jr. (26-1, 15KOs) has been out of the ring since his title-winning effort over Jhonny Gonzalez last March. The 2008 U.S. Olympian from the greater D.C. area came up short in his previous attempt, a 12-round points loss to Vasyl Lomachenko for his lone career defeat.
His first defense was to come versus Oscar Escandon last November. However, an untimely injury put him on the shelf for the remainder of 2015, with this postponement thus further delaying his ring return.
Hyland (31-1, 15KOs) is based out of Dublin, but fights stateside for the eighth time in his past nine starts. His lone career loss came in a Dec. '12 unanimous decision to Javier Fortuna in their interim title fight. He's since won four straight, including a knockout victory last October in Massachusetts.
Should the NBC telecast end on time, Pedraza-Smith will jump off shortly after the 11:00 p.m. start time on Showtime. Full promotional details have yet to be revealed, other than the guarantee that the broadcasts will not overlap, and the strong possibility of NBC viewers being reminded throughout the evening to flip over to Showtime once the free-to-air broadcast ends.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox