The main event isn't quite what was promised from the Premier Boxing Champions series, especially on the massively important network television channel NBC, but Andrzej Fonfara's return on June 18 in Chicago will give us a chance to see a bantamweight world title fight on major American TV, too, so take the good with the bad.
Fonfara (28-3, 16 KO), a highly-ranked light heavyweight contender, will face Joe Smith Jr (21-1, 17 KO) in the main event at the UIC Pavilion, where Fonfara is a popular local fighter and will draw a crowd. In 2015, Fonfara "upset" Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, really beating the crap out of him in April, and then defeated Nathan Cleverly in an action-packed fight in August.
On paper, Smith is a massive step down from that competition. The 26-year-old fighter from Long Island counts Will Rosinsky and Otis Griffin as his best wins. He's only gone past six rounds two times in his career, which began in 2009.
Fonfara, 28, is hoping to get a rematch with Adonis Stevenson, and knows that this fight is must-win to keep that hope alive.
"Smith is young and hungry, and he wants to use this fight and my name to show the world his skills," he said in the PBC release. "He’s coming to Chicago for victory and glory. I have to show him that I am stronger, more experienced and, most importantly, a smarter fighter. I have to win this fight, because it will open the door for me to rematch Adonis Stevenson."
For Smith, it's obviously a massive opportunity on the biggest stage of his career. "I’ve been working very hard and for many years toward an opportunity like this," Smith said. "This fight is going to change my life, and no one is going to keep me from winning."
The bigger news for diehard boxing fans is probably the co-feature, which will see Juan Carlos Payano (17-0, 8 KO) defend the WBA bantamweight title against Rau'shee Warren (13-1, 4 KO) in a rematch of a highly controversial decision from last August.
Payano, 32, won on split decision scores that night in Winter Park, Florida, in a bout that saw Payano down in the 12th, plus deducted a point in the third, while Warren lost two points in the ninth round. It was a messy affair, but many observers, even most, perhaps, thought that the 29-year-old Warren, a three-time Olympian from Cincinnati, did enough to win.
"I’ve been waiting for this rematch since the moment we got out of the ring the first time," said Warren. "I’m happy it’s finally coming up on June 18. Until that day is here, there is nothing else on my mind. It didn’t go my way last time, but I’m bringing home the belt this time."
"I knew this rematch would be offered, and it’s been a waiting game since I beat him the first time," Payano said. "I feel like I won convincingly, but some people feel otherwise. I’m very excited about fighting him again, and this time I’ll beat him even more easily."
Also in action will be 20-year-old junior middleweight prospect Erickson Lubin (14-0, 10 KO), one of the best prospects in American boxing right now. He'll face veteran Daniel Sandoval (37-3, 34 KO), a fighter with a gaudy but thin KO-heavy record.