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Wilder-Ortiz, Santa Cruz-Mares II, Lara-Hurd among slew of boxing fights announced by Showtime

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If you’re a boxing fan, then Showtime has released a busy schedule for the first-half of 2018.

Showtime held a special press conference on Wednesday, announcing a series of upcoming fights for boxing fans to look forward to from February through mid-June. In total, ten of them are for major championships, and one is a unification bout between two of the top junior middleweights in the world.

The lone February event is on the 17th, a doubleheader in Las Vegas headlined by welterweights Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) and Brandon Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs), in a WBC title eliminator. The co-main event, which is easily more intriguing, is WBC super middleweight champion David Benavidez (19-0, 17 KOs) rematching Ronald Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs). Benavidez defeated Gavril by split decision last September, in an underrated Fight of the Year contender.

On March 3rd, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) defending his title against Cuba’s Luis Ortiz (28-0-2 NC, 24 KOs) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. This is arguably the toughest opponent to date for Wilder, and hopefully Ortiz doesn’t fail his drug test again. The co-main is middleweight Jermall Charlo (26-0, 20 KOs) against Hugo Centeno Jr (26-1, 14 KOs) for the WBC interim title. Centeno had one of the best knockouts of 2017, starching Immanuwel Aleem with a vicious left hook.

In San Antonio, Texas on March 10th, current WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs) move up to junior welterweight to challenge IBF champ Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs), as Garcia seeks to a major title in his fourth weight class. A rematch between Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KOs) vs. Kiryl Relikh (21-2, 9 KOs) serves as the co-main event, with the vacant WBA 140-pound title on the line.

April 7th (site TBD) will pit WBA 154-pound titleholder Erislandy Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs) unify belts with IBF champion Jarrett Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs), who engaged in a remarkable fight vs. Austin Trout last October.

Two weeks later (also with a TBD venue), Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KOs) battles Omar Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 KOs) at 140-pounds. Former IBF junior lightweight champion Gervonta Davis (19-0, 18 KOs) returns to the ring for the first time since the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor PPV. Davis missed weight for his fight against Francisco Fonseca, so he was stripped of the belt on the eve of the card. An opponent for Davis has not yet been confirmed.

May 19th will be a split-site doubleheader, as WBC welterweight king Keith Thurman (28-0-1 NC, 22 KOs) will have what amounts to a tune-up title defense given his inactivity. While no opponent was named, he’s expected to face Jessie Vargas (28-2, 10 KOs), the former WBO champion. Meanwhile, WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) is set to face Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) in what is by far the most compelling fight Stevenson has had in ages. Stevenson-Jack will occur in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, while Thurman-TBA is going to be in Brooklyn.

June 9th sees the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California host a championship doubleheader. Leo Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 KOs) puts his WBA featherweight title at stake against Abner Mares (32-1-1, 15 KOs). Both men live in Southern California and thus this should produce a hot crowd. Santa Cruz bested Mares by decision in 2015, and the two will finally lock horns again. The co-main event is a WBC junior middleweight title defense for Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs), with an opponent TBA.

Lastly, Errol Spence Jr (23-0, 20 KOs), who is fresh off a TKO of Lamont Peterson, will get a home fight in Dallas, Texas. The IBF ordered Spence to fight Mexico’s Carlos Ocampo (22-0, 13 KOs), who is the mandatory challenger, but Spence’s next opponent was not officially named at the presser.

You may notice that Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker wasn’t on that list, well that’s because HBO and Showtime are currently bidding to broadcast that fight. Showtime has matching rights in case HBO outbids them. If Joseph-Parker goes to Showtime, then you can add March 31st to the list of dates the network will be televising boxing.

Of the confirmed bouts, at the top of my list for pure intrigue are Benavidez-Gavril II, Wilder-Ortiz, Lara-Hurd, Stevenson-Jack, and Santa Cruz-Mares II. After a strong 2017, it looks as if Showtime is continuing to heavily invest in boxing in 2018.

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