LOS ANGELES (AP) — Andre Berto, Josesito Lopez and Shawn Porter are all thrilled to be a part of the second show for Premier Boxing Champions, the high-profile endeavor designed to put their sport in front of new audiences and television networks.
The veteran boxers also realize the showcase is only as good as their performances.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re fighting in front of an amazing production or we fight on the street,” Berto said. “We’re going to go ahead and put these fireworks in.”
Berto (29-3, 22 KOs), the former WBC welterweight champion, headlines Friday night’s show in Ontario, California, against Lopez (33-6, 19 KOs) in a matchup of two entertaining fighters hoping to bounce back from recent struggles.
The card at Citizens Business Bank Arena east of Los Angeles also showcases former 147-pound champion Porter (24-1-1, 15 KOs) in a tough matchup with Roberto Garcia (36-3, 23 KOs). Earlier, former heavyweight title contender Chris Arreola returns against Curtis Harper.
After getting ample attention and decent TV ratings in its NBC debut, the PBC series really gets down to business on Spike TV. For impresario Al Haymon’s time-buys on various networks to have a lasting impact on the way boxing is sold, the fights must be entertaining enough to turn accidental viewers into fans.
So Haymon has matched two contenders with all-action styles in need of a career boost. Both Berto and Lopez believe a victory will put them right back in contention for titles and bigger paydays.
“I think what makes this fight exciting is that we both have a lot to lose and a lot to gain,” Lopez said. “When the fight was announced, every fan that knows boxing knows that this is going to be a fight that’s going to be talked about for a long time, because I feel like we’re in the same position. We both have a lot to gain from it, and we’re both not willing to take a step back.”
Berto is hoping to bounce back from losing three of his last five fights, while Lopez is looking for the latest upset in a career built on doing the unexpected.
Lopez owes his career to Berto in a way. Lopez was the late replacement after Berto failed a doping test for a 2012 fight against Victor Ortiz at Staples Center, and Lopez’s dramatic stoppage victory propelled him into a headlining Vegas shot at Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
After stoppage losses to Alvarez and Marcos Maidana, Lopez bounced back with three straight wins and a PBC shot at Berto.
“My management forced me to take a break, take a rest,” Lopez said. “I had fought three fights in a row, so I feel fresh and I feel like I’m ready to step in with the big dogs and do it again. I feel as fresh as I could be.”
Berto took his first career loss against Ortiz in 2011, losing his WBC 147-pound title. After dropping another punishing fight to Robert Guerrero in 2012, Berto badly injured his shoulder in the second round of his bout with Jesus Soto Karass in July 2013, eventually getting stopped in the 12th round of a thrilling fight.
He didn’t return to the ring for 14 months, winning a decision last September and positioning himself for another run at the top.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to be in this position to fight anymore, to be honest,” Berto said. “I thought my career was probably going to be over because the injury, I’ve never been through anything like that in my life, and it was just so taxing on me. I really had to learn how to use my right hand, my right arm all over again.”
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