The big fight is two weeks away. Consider these weekend bouts the appetizers.
At StubHub Center in Carson on Saturday night, Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. returns to the ring for the first time since March 1, 2014, when he fights light-heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara (26-3, 15 knockouts) of Poland in a Showtime-televised bout. The weight limit will be 172 pounds.
In New York, meanwhile, HBO will televise a junior-welterweight battle almost guaranteed to be a slugfest between former champion Ruslan Provodnikov and title contender Lucas Matthysse.
On May 2, the premium cable networks will work together on a joint pay-per-view broadcast between unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. and record eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Chavez Jr. (48-1-1, 32 KOs) was on the sidelines as he worked to split with his former promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank Inc. and join powerful boxing manager Al Haymon, whose Premier Boxing Champions series has television deals with CBS, NBC and ABC/ESPN.
An undisclosed settlement was required to finalize the split after Chavez Jr. balked at bouts against Gennady Golvkin and Carl Froch.
"I stayed in the game, stayed busy, tried to train every day," Chavez Jr. told The Times. "The things [joining Haymon] has given me … I believe it’s a good decision."
He's now aligned with San Fernando Valley trainer Joe Goossen and lives in the Southland.
Fonfara gave light-heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson a competitive fight in May.
"Real difficult guy for me, it's a different weight class, but I'm working on my conditioning and my strength and I think I have the style to beat Fonfara," Chavez Jr. said.
While the former middleweight champion struggled in the past to commit to training – he tested positive for marijuana following his 2012 loss to Sergio Martinez and missed weight a year later before a disputed decision over Brian Vera – he maintained he is eyeing a “world champion, bigger names … what the people want,” at both 168 and 175 pounds.
The StubHub card also includes a super-lightweight bout between promoter Don King’s unbeaten Amir Imam and Walter Castillo at 7 p.m.
With Provodnikov-Matthysse, the expectation is a classic brawl.
"It'll be interesting from the get-go," fight promoter Oscar De La Hoya told The Times. "Ruslan knows one way to fight: forward. He doesn’t know how to take a step back.
"So the question is, how is Matthysse going to keep him off? What kind of strategy does he have? To out-muscle him? To out-box him? If he's going to try to box him, he’s in great shape, because Ruslan is coming with everything."
Provodnikov engaged in a classic with Timothy Bradley in 2013, losing by decision, rebounding to capture a 140-pound belt against Mike Alvarado, but then losing to well-conditioned boxer Chris Algieri in June.
De La Hoya said his Argentinian fighter, Matthysse, is likely too proud to dedicate 12 rounds to a boxing display.
"Everybody’s been talking about how great this fight is going to be. He won’t want to disappoint the fans," De La Hoya said. "And Lucas' knockout ratio is about 80% … so he's no softie, either."
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