Keith Thurman was selected to headline the first PBC card on ESPN, which is now replacing the longtime staple of Friday Night Fights on the network. Thurman had also previously been selected to headline PBC's first event on NBC because of his talent and marketing appeal, and is being brought back to usher in the new age of PBC on ESPN for that very same reason. He'll be taking on former belt-holder Luis Collazo in the kickoff show on ESPN on July 11th, marking what will be Thurman's second title defense. The venue is still to be determined, but it'll be somewhere in Tampa, FL.
"I am very happy to be where I am in my career," Thurman told ESPN.com. "Boxing is opening back up to the people, and it's been a dream of mine to be a true champion, and there's no better form of that than being the people's champion. (The PBC) is opening up doors that will give the world-class fighters the exposure that they need. I want to be the American people's champion. There is nothing better than getting the exposure, giving the fans great fights and being cheered by the public."
Thurman (25-0, 21 KOs) is coming off of a unanimous decision win over Robert Guerrero back in March while Luis Collazo (36-6, 19KOs) won a second round TKO over Christopher Degollado last month (in what was a get well fight after getting thrashed by Amir Khan last May).
"Collazo always comes to fight," Thurman said. "He has been in with some of the best fighters in the world and he has tons of experience. Fighting another southpaw, we'll be prepared. I'm looking forward to it and I'm looking forward to giving the fans what they love to see -- action. July 11 is going to be a night full of action. Might as well call the fight 'Fireworks,' since it's in July."
The PBC co-feature will consist of 154-pounders Tony Harrison (21-0, 18 KOs) and Willie Nelson (23-2-1, 13 KOs), fighting in a scheduled 10-round bout. Harrison is a young (24) prospect and protege of the late Emanuel Steward and Nelson (28) is a fringe contender who saw his chance at a title shot vanish after losing to Vanes Martirosyan last October.