New Al Haymon-Spike TV boxing series to debut with Southland card

New boxing series to debut on Spike TV featuring Southern California bout with Shawn Porter and Roberto Garcia

Shawn Porter lost his welterweight world title on premium cable network Showtime last year, but the former welterweight world champion is back with a chance to redeem himself in front of a wider audience.

That’s the appeal and pitch of another new boxing format available for fighters created by powerful boxing manager Al Haymon, who in addition to announcing a new prime-time series on NBC this month has now established a similar show on cable network Spike TV.

The debut card will be March 13 at a to-be-determined Southern California venue with Riverside welterweight Josesito Lopez (33-6, 19 knockouts) fighting former welterweight world champion Andre Berto (29-3, 22 KOs) in the main event.

Porter (24-1-1, 15 KOs) will fight Texas’ Roberto Garcia (36-3, 23 KOs) on the card, providing the former welterweight champion a new start with a fresh set of eyes to view what he intends to be a return road to a belt.

“I’m steadily improving myself. I have to prove I am who you thought I was,” Porter told the Los Angeles Times in an interview at Viacom offices in Santa Monica.

In the Showtime main event in August at Carson’s StubHub Center, Porter lost his title by majority decision to English boxer Kell Brook.

“Me not making adjustments in the fight left it to the judges,” Porter said. “Since that fight, some people may feel they know what to do to handle me – keep your distance and try to jab him -- but I will show you March 13, they don’t. That fight doesn’t matter to me anymore.”

Spike TV officials are hopeful the three-year deal with Haymon for a monthly boxing card that will be promoted by a “shoulder” program telling the fighters’ human-interest stories will exceed the ratings the cable network draws for Bellator MMA fights -- around 1 million viewers.

Porter’s Showtime fight with Brook attracted around 700,000 viewers, according to an industry source.

Against Garcia, Porter is facing a friend and former sparring partner from Las Vegas who has won eight consecutive fights since a 2010 loss to Antonio Margarito. Garcia says his sharpened focus on his boxing work has been driven by his commitment to two daughters born within the last four years.

“If you look at what we’ve done, it’s all about fighters first, building their stars,” said Kevin Kay, Spike TV president. “What bothered me about boxing is that it could be 1970 as far as the presentation.

“These are good names, big names. The philosophy is do something innovative, change the presentation. Before getting involved in boxing, I needed to hear there’s going to be a stable of great fighters and it’s going to be presented in a different way. That's what we have.”

Haymon, who manages top pound-for-pound fighter Floyd Mayweather Jr., has noticeably beefed up his stable in the last few years.

His first two NBC Premier Boxing Champions cards, in March and April, are headlined, respectively, by a battle between welterweight title contenders Keith Thurman and Robert Guerrero, and a junior-welterweight title defense by Danny Garcia against former champion Lamont Peterson.

Kay said the matchmaking will be left to Haymon, with Spike TV affording the fighters an opportunity to showcase their stories and skills.

The ultimate measuring stick for the Spike TV series will be if it can live up to Kay’s hope that “nobody’s fighting a [tomato] can on Spike.”

Haymon, in keeping with his tradition of not speaking to reporters, did not appear at the news gathering his company called to promote the card.

Several reporters said at a gathering later Thursday at Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions offices in downtown Los Angeles that they were not invited to the Haymon event and believed they were blackballed from the session because of previously writing disparaging comments or stories about Haymon.

The Los Angeles Times, too, has criticized Haymon for working in the shadows and being overly protective of some of his top fighters, including Mayweather, Garcia and super-bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz.

Haymon now has to work to satisfy Showtime, NBC and Spike TV with competitive fights that will draw audiences.

“I believe he’ll keep everyone happy because he has to,” Kay said. “There are partners who’ve invested in this. It makes good business sense. The more you put them on the biggest platforms, the more exposure they get.

“I’m sure there’ll be some push and shove, as there always is, but the goal is to get these guys the broadest possible audience. Guys need fights. They only get paid when they fight, and they’re building their brands. That’s what we’re here for.”

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire

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