CBS and its premium cable partner Showtime announced a multiyear deal with powerful boxing manager Al Haymon on Tuesday that will bring the sport regularly to network television and include bouts anchored by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Adonis Stevenson and Jhonny Gonzalez.
Mexico's Gonzalez, the World Boxing Council featherweight champion, will defend his belt March 28 in Showtime’s season-opener against Gary Russell Jr., a card that will also include super-welterweights Jermell Charlo vs. Vanes Martirosyan.
CBS will follow April 4 by airing Premier Boxing Champions fights, the circuit formed by Haymon, starting with light-heavyweight champion Stevenson defending his belt against former super-middleweight champion Sakio Bika.
The first CBS fight will begin at noon Pacific time, a return to the Saturday afternoon staple of televised boxing that increased the star-power of fighters including Sugar Ray Leonard and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
Premier Boxing Champions also has a deal with NBC and Spike TV, with cards airing on those networks March 7 and March 13, respectively.
No sites have been announced for the CBS/Showtime bouts yet, but it’s believed Stevenson will fight in his native Canada.
Chavez, who left promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank stable to join Haymon, is expected to fight in the Southland in his April 18 light-heavyweight bout on Showtime against Andrzej Fonfara.
The second scheduled CBS show is May 9, featuring unbeaten former lightweight world champion Omar Figueroa, in his junior-welterweight debut, against former world champion Ricky Burns.
The May 9 card and the ones to follow on CBS will begin at 1:30 p.m. Pacific time.
The network announced it will stage as many as eight Saturday afternoon cards this year, with others to follow in June, July and September.
The fights will be promoted across multiple platforms, including CBS, Showtime and CBS Sports Network, the networks said in a news release.
“With the support of our parent company, we are uniquely positioned for a three-tiered approach that includes live boxing broadcasts on America’s No. 1 network … the benefit of elevating the sport across these platforms for all involved, including Showtime, is immeasurable,” Showtime Vice President Stephen Espinoza said in a prepared statement.
Negotiations for that long-awaited welterweight title bout are nearing a conclusion, according to officials involved in the talks.