Premier Boxing Champions and Fox, which announced a four-year rights deal in September, on Tuesday unveiled their first 10 cards -- and the rest of their dates for the year -- at a news conference at the Fox Studios in Los Angeles.
In all, they announced 14 bouts through April that will air on either Fox in prime time or on cable network Fox Sports 1. But the biggest fight made official was the much-discussed showdown between welterweight world titlist Errol Spence Jr. and lightweight titlist Mikey Garcia, who will move up two weight divisions to go for a world title in a fifth division in a meeting between two of boxing's elite pound-for-pound best in the world.
The fight will headline the first Fox PPV card and will take place at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas, on March 16. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a big boxing fan and has wanted to host another major fight at his stadium, which has played host to three previous boxing events, two headlined by Manny Pacquiao and one by Canelo Alvarez.
"I wanted to get the biggest fight available and make the biggest splash and what better way than to do it on a Fox pay-per-view," Garcia said. "That's why I'm taking it, because it's such a big challenge and that's what I'm about. I want the biggest fight, the biggest challenges. There's no one else out there right now that I can compete with at that level and Spence is the guy, so that's why I'm after him."
Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) began calling Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) out before he unified lightweight belts in a lopsided win over Robert Easter Jr. in July.
Now, for the first time in his career, Garcia will be an underdog and looking to turn the conventional wisdom of a great big man always beating a great little man on its head.
"That's a common saying but every once in a while you get these exceptions where the smaller man beats the bigger guy and that's what I'm after and what I'm looking forward to," Garcia said. "I really believe in myself. I have great skills that most everybody still hasn't seen. I think Errol Spence will be the one to bring those out of me and allow me to perform at the best of my abilities. I think it's going to be a great fight and this is one of those occasions where the little guy beats the bigger man."
Spence, who was also seeking a marquee fight, was happy to accept Garcia's challenge for a fight that he will be favored to win but one that also figures to a draw a large crowd given that Spence is from the Dallas suburb of DeSoto, Texas, and Garcia is a Mexican-American with a growing fan base.
"It's a dream come true and it's gonna be a big fight," said Spence, who will be defending his title for the third time. "I have a lot of great fans in Texas and he has a lot of fans, especially with him being Mexican."
The schedule will also feature the return of welterweight world titleholder Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) from a long injury layoff. He has not fought since March 2017 because of an elbow injury that required surgery followed by a hand injury. But he will be back to defend his title for the fourth time when he takes on heavy underdog Josesito Lopez (36-7, 19 KOs) on Jan. 26 (Fox) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
"It's been a long time since I've been back in the ring and I'm just gonna prove what I've always proved," Thurman said. "A lot of people are itching -- I'm itching [to return]. A lot of people say, 'When are you getting back, champ?' I say we'll be back soon and we got the fight date. We're truly looking forward to it and I'll perform like I always do.
"The injuries weren't fun and I didn't enjoy doing a lot of interviews so I stayed out of the press. But what my situation was was elbow surgery, which took about 10 to 12 months to recover from. Then we got back in the gym and we suffered a hand injury. So all year I've been dealing with that. ... I'm still on a mission, but my health comes first. I look forward to getting back into the ring and establishing myself as the No. 1 champion in the world."
The Spence-Lopez card will also include a heavyweight fight between Brooklyn contender Adam Kownacki (18-0, 14 KOs), who was born in Poland and is a popular ticket seller, and former world title challenger Gerald Washington (19-2-1, 12 KOs), who got a title shot against Deontay Wilder in February 2017 and suffered a fifth-round knockout loss.
In another significant fight, welterweight titlist Shawn Porter (29-2-1, 17 KOs) will make his first defense against mandatory challenger Yordenis Ugas (23-3, 11 KOs) on March 9 at a site to be announced in Las Vegas.
There were several other notable bouts announced as well:
Super middleweight world titlist Jose Uzcategui (28-2, 23 KOs) will make his first defense against mandatory challenger Caleb Plant (17-0, 10 KOs) on Jan. 13 (FS1) at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Featherweight world titleholder Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) will have a hometown fight at a site to be announced in Los Angeles when he makes his third defense against Miguel Flores (23-2, 11 KOs) on Feb. 16 (Fox). A win by Santa Cruz likely will send him into a unification fight with Gary Russell Jr. (29-1, 17 KOs) later in 2019 on Showtime, which has a three-year deal with PBC. The co-feature shapes up like an all-out slugfest when former lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa Jr. (27-0-1, 19 KOs) returns from a 19-month layoff due to injuries and legal issues to face former world title challenger John Molina Jr. (30-7, 24 KOs) in a welterweight bout.
Former super middleweight world titlist Anthony Dirrell (32-1-1, 24 KOs) and Avni Yildirim (21-1, 12 KOs) will meet for a vacant world title on Feb. 23 (FS1) at the Armory in Minneapolis. They will box for the 168-pound belt recently stripped from David Benavidez following a positive drug test.
Former welterweight and junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KOs) will face former junior welterweight titlist Sergey Lipinets (14-1, 10 KOs) on March 24 (FS1) at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, right outside of Peterson's hometown of Washington, D.C. Peterson will try to bounce back from a seventh-round knockout loss to Spence in January. Lipinets, who lost his title by decision to Garcia in March, will be looking for his second win a row.
Former super middleweight world titlist and Minnesota native Caleb Truax (30-4-2, 19 KOs) will have the home crowd in his favor when he faces former middleweight titleholder "Kid Chocolate" Peter Quillin (34-1-1, 23 KOs) on April 13 (FS1) at the Armory in Minneapolis. Truax will look for a second win in a row after losing his title to James DeGale by decision in their rematch in April. Quillin has been very inactive, having won his only two bouts since a first-round knockout loss to Daniel Jacobs in a December 2015 middleweight title fight.
Former welterweight and junior welterweight titlist Danny Garcia (34-2, 20 KOs) will return from a decision loss on Sept. 8 to Porter for a vacant welterweight title to face battle-tested Adrian Granados (20-6-2, 14 KOs) on April 20 (Fox) at a site to be determined.
Another card, scheduled for Dec. 22 on Fox at Barclays Center, had previously been announced but it is the first card of the new series and will see twins Jermall Charlo (27-0, 21 KOs) and Jermell Charlo (31-0, 15 KOs), who were on hand Tuesday, defend their belts. Jermall will defend his interim middleweight title against former title challenger Willie Monroe Jr. (23-3, 6 KOs) in the main event, with Jermell defending his junior middleweight belt against former title challenger Tony Harrison (27-2, 21 KOs) in the co-feature. Heavyweight contender Dominic Breazeale (19-1, 17 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian, will open the telecast against 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian Carlos Negron (20-1, 16 KOs).
An additional 13 dates were also announced for the main network and sports network, with two shows per month from May through December except with no cards in October and one in November.
Fox also announced the broadcast team for the series. Former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who was on hand for the news conference to help introduce the fighters, and former lightweight champion Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini will serve as analysts. Chris Myers, who hosted the news conference, and Kenny Albert will serve as blow-by-blow announcers. Kate Abdo will serve as the host of the fights as well as a PBC studio show. In addition, Larry Hazzard, the longtime New Jersey boxing commissioner, will serve as the rules expert and unofficial scorer.
On the Fox Deportes side, Jaime Motta, Jessi Losada and former four-division world champion Erik Morales will call the action.