The drive to bring boxing back to network television just hit another gear. In conjunction with Spike TV, Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions will present a monthly fight card on the popular cable network beginning on March 13 with a welterweight doubleheader.
Former WBC world champion Andre Berto (29-3, 22 KO) will face Josesito Lopez (33-6, 19 KO). In the co-feature, Shawn "Showtime" Porter (24-1-1, 15 KO) takes on Roberto Garcia (36-3, 23 KO).
The event takes place at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, and it will air at 9 p.m. ET on Spike.
Injuries have slowed Berto in recent years, but he got back on the winning track with a unanimous-decision win over Steve Upsher Chambers in September 2014. He'd love to continue the momentum and make a splash on the first PBC event on Spike.
Berto spoke about that and the first PBC event on Spike in the exclusive interview below.
Likewise, Lopez has won three straight bouts since being stopped by Marcos Rene Maidana and Canelo Alvarez in 2013 and 2012, respectively. A win on March 13 would be huge for his career. The Riverside, California, native talked about what it will be like to fight in front of hometown fans again.
In the co-feature, Porter looks to rebound from losing his IBF welterweight title to Kell Brook in August 2014. It was the first loss of Porter's pro career, so it'll be interesting to see how he responds.
Among other things, Porter says he won't alter what he does or overreact to the loss to Brook.
His opponent, Garcia, is a tough and grizzled veteran who is on an eight-fight win streak.
In July 2014, he beat Breidis Prescott by unanimous decision. He told Bleacher Report that a win in this fight would change his life.
All signs point to two competitive bouts for the inaugural Spike-PBC event.
Spike follows NBC, which also agreed to a multi-year deal to broadcast PBC cards on Saturday nights. The Spike series will be seen on Fridays and is in line to compete with ESPN's Friday Night Fights series.At this time, Spike will broadcast at least one card per month.
The NBC series kicks off with former champion Adrien Broner taking John Molina on March 7. There's also an April 11 bout between junior welterweight champions Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson. Instead of being a unification bout, no titles will be on the line because the fight will take place at a 143-pound catchweight, per Dan Rafael of ESPN.com.
The Spike card might not have as much star power, but it is still in position to provide more recognizable names than ESPN's long-standing Friday Night Fights series.
For years, dating back to the 1980s, some of the sport's biggest stars fought on network television. The influx of pay-per-view has taken away much of the exposure fighters used to get from being seen on "free TV."
If this venture goes as planned, it could help bring the sport back to its heyday.
Per a press release provided to Bleacher Report, Spike TV president Kevin Kay said: "We share the vision of the Premier Boxing Champions series to put the fighters first. The fighters are the stars, and we will give them a platform to demonstrate why they are among greatest and most exciting athletes in the world.”
In speaking with all four fighters on the card, each thought this opportunity would not only increase his exposure, but also help matchmaking in the sport to bring fans better fights.
Lopez said: "Just the first couple fights goes to show. Those exciting fights that people want to see, those are going to be made."
Berto offered: "You can see it now. Matches that they're making with Spike and the card with NBC as well. PBC is coming with great fights. We're trying to make sure we grab the attention of the public who aren't used to seeing us. We have a platform to be seen in almost 90 million homes."
Fans who are familiar with Spike's presentation with combat sports should expect the same type of storytelling to build the notoriety of each fighter appearing on a program. Per Kay, "There will be shoulder programming and specials for every event. This first event has an hour-long special dedicated to promoting the two bouts."
Potentially, this is a venture that could effectively change the way the sport is viewed in the United States. Most fans have never seen the caliber of fights that NBC and now Spike TV are bringing on network television. If Spike and PBC have their way, this series of moves could invite new fans to the sport and be enticing to longtime followers of the sweet science.