Mikey Garcia’s bid for a world title in a fifth division against welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. will mark the launch of Fox pay-per-view next year.
Garcia (39-0, 30 knockouts), the World Boxing Council lightweight champion, will fight for the International Boxing Federation belt belonging to Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) on March 16 at AT&T Stadium outside Dallas. The bout was announced Tuesday by Premier Boxing Champions as part of a multi-fight deal.
Garcia is regarded as a longshot to upset former Olympian Spence, who hails from near Dallas, on his home turf.
“That is one of the reasons I took this. I wanted to make a splash. I want to prove everyone wrong,” Garcia said.
“I really believe in myself. That’s why I keep challenging myself,” he added. “I have skills a lot of people haven’t seen, and I believe Errol Spence will bring that out of me, and you’ll see this will be when the little man beats the bigger guy.
“I wouldn’t take this fight if I didn’t think I can win. He is the bigger man, but as far as skills, you can’t deny me.”
Spence, after selling out a bout this year at the Dallas Cowboys’ workout facility, The Star, said he expects a turnout worthy of the massive stadium that had crowds of 50,000-plus for bouts featuring Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez.
“It’s a dream come true, a big fight in Dallas. I have a lot of fans. He has a lot of fans too. I hope they all come out to see this,” Spence said.
Weeks after HBO announced it was exiting boxing, pay-per-view is a new platform for Fox, one that Spence said he believes holds great promise because the network can promote its arrival and the fight during NFL Sundays.
Two title fights in the cards for L.A.
As part of a four-year deal that offers 10 fights per year on Fox and 12 on FS1, the Fox-PBC schedule also includes a Jan. 13 bout at L.A. Live’s Microsoft Theater between super-middleweight champion Jose Uzcategui versus mandatory opponent Caleb Plant on FS1.
On Feb. 16, featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz will defend his World Boxing Assn. belt against Mexico’s underdog Miguel Flores at a venue to be announced in the Southland. That card also will include a welterweight fight between La Verne’s John Molina Jr. and former lightweight champion Omar Figueroa.
“It feels great to fight in my hometown, a big opportunity,” Santa Cruz said. “I want to prove I’m the best featherweight. I want three fights: Flores, then Carl Frampton and Gary Russell Jr.”
Santa Cruz, following his June rematch triumph over Southland rival Abner Mares at Staples Center, returns to action against little-known Flores, 26, who has fought only once this year and usually fights in Texas.
Santa Cruz has taken heat before for being assigned lesser competition by PBC founder and powerful boxing manager Al Haymon, and this bout will renew that criticism. The effort to place Santa Cruz in a unification meeting against WBC featherweight champion Russell was unsuccessful.
Still, the co-main should soothe any disappointment over a predictable outcome in the main event. Texas’ Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 KOs) and La Verne’s Molina are both aggressive punchers. Figueroa has fought only once since 2015, defeating former champion Robert Guerrero in July 2017.
Molina (30-7, 24 KOs) was due to fight former welterweight champion Victor Ortiz in September in Ontario, but Ortiz was arrested on rape charges and the fight was scrapped.
Former junior-welterweight title challenger Molina participated in the 2014 fight of the year against Lucas Matthysse at StubHub Center.
The Fox play-by-play team will include veteran broadcasters Kenny Albert and Chris Myers, with the renewed deal starting with a Dec. 22 card featuring twin brothers Jermell and Jermall Charlo in Brooklyn.
On Jan. 26, former USC football player Gerald Washington meets heavyweight Adam Kownacki at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a card headlined by a welterweight title defense by Keith Thurman against Riverside’s Josesito Lopez.
Thurman has been off for more than a year due to elbow and hand injuries.
On March 9, WBC welterweight champion Shawn Porter defends his belt for the first time, against Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas. Veteran junior-welterweight Lamont Peterson will meet Sergey Lipinets on March 24 in Maryland. On April 20, former welterweight champion Danny Garcia meets Adrian Granados.
Fighter of the year?
Ukrainian cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk polished his credentials as the most successful boxer of 2018 on Saturday by unleashing a devastating left hand that knocked out former champion Tony Bellew in the eighth round in England.
Usyk, who trains in Oxnard alongside his close friend and lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, is the front-runner to win the Boxing Writers Assn. of America honor as fighter of the year. On top of retaining the four cruiserweight belts he won this year by defeating Mairis Briedis and previously unbeaten Murat Gassiev to win the inaugural World Boxing Super Series competition, Usyk (16-0, 12 knockouts) is now ripe to move to heavyweight.
Usyk sat ringside this year to watch three-belt heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, who also fights for new streaming service DAZN, and the Ukrainian is a capable challenger who’d allow Joshua to further delay a showdown with Deontay Wilder should the WBC champion defeat Tyson Fury on Dec. 1.
Floyd of L.A.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. had quite a week around Los Angeles after posting on Instagram that he was effectively duped in a news conference that strongly suggested he was to fight a 20-year-old kickboxer in Japan on New Year’s Eve.
The longtime champion sat courtside at last week’s Lakers-Minnesota Timberwolves game, then was spotted in field-level seats at the Rams-Seattle Seahawks game at the Coliseum .