Now that Showtime has unveiled its boxing schedule through the first quarter of 2017, here comes the next step: the build-up to each card.
The hype began on Thursday at a news conference in Los Angeles with the principals involved in the evenly matched world title doubleheader on Dec. 10 at the Galen Center on the USC campus.
In the main event, featherweight titlist Jesus Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs) will defend his secondary belt against former three-division world titleholder Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) six months after it was postponed due to Mares’ inability to get a boxing license in New York because of a failed eye exam.
Cuellar, defending his belt for the third time and doing so in Mares’ hometown, knows how critical this bout is to him as he faces easily the best opponent of his career.
"This is the most important fight of my career as Mares is one of the best in this loaded featherweight division," Cuellar said. "We had to wait very long for this fight to happen, but everything happens for a reason and I'm grateful that the time is almost here. I know that this fight will be a war.
“I've been working hard with [trainer] Freddie Roach, and I'm excited to show what I've learned and [to] get my frustration of waiting off my chest. I am more motivated than ever to keep my title and prove who is the best in the division."
Mares had surgery for a detached retina in 2008 and said he has had no issue with his eye since, but he did not meet New York’s requirement for uncorrected vision. He said his eye is healthy and he has been cleared by the California State Athletic Commission for the fight.
Now he is excited to box for the first time since August 2015, when he lost a majority decision to Los Angeles rival Leo Santa Cruz for a vacant featherweight world title in a fantastic fight of the year contender.
"I'm excited to get back in the ring and win my fourth world title," Mares said. "I'm 100 percent healthy and ready to go. I'm looking forward to showing that to my fans and the entire audience on Dec. 10. Los Angeles is my town. This is a fight that I've wanted, and I'm glad to be giving the fans a great show at the end of the year. Come watch me on Dec. 10 and see what a warrior looks like."
The co-feature will pit junior middleweight world titleholder Jermall Charlo (24-0, 18 KOs), of Houston, against mandatory challenger Julian "J Rock" Williams (22-0-1, 14 KOs), of Philadelphia, and figures to be as competitive as the main event.
The fight was ticketed for October but delayed by two months because Charlo had a Lasik procedure on his eyes to improve his vision.
"Camp for me started a month after I defeated Austin Trout [in May],” Charlo said. “From that point on, I've been in the gym working and I got my vision corrected, so I'm feeling great. I'm looking forward to putting my clearer vision to the test, and I'm so prepared and ready for this fight.
“This is everything I've ever wanted. It's the best fighting the best. Julian brings an undefeated record to the table, and I know he's watched a lot of my past fights because we always knew we would fight one day. So who's the best? We'll find out, but I know I'm ready to rumble."
Williams will be facing the best opponent of his career but is not a guy anybody has called out. He got the title shot only because it is a mandatory fight.
"I'm excited to get my first title shot, but more than anything I'm just focused on winning," Williams said. "Jermall Charlo is strong and fast, but I will be better than him on Dec. 10. I've been waiting for this fight for the longest time, and I know this will be a great night for the fans. I plan on giving them an exciting, explosive fight and, most importantly, a win."
In addition to two quality matches, the card also marks the return of former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer to the boxing business 2½ years after his nasty split with Golden Boy co-founder Oscar De La Hoya. Schaefer founded Ringstar Sports this past summer and is co-promoting the show with TGB Promotions’ Tom Brown.
"I am elated to be promoting this great night of action for boxing fans around the world," Schaefer said. "Both of these fights are 50-50 matchups with a lot on the line. These are fights that the fans want to see and pose challenges that these fighters are eager to face.
“They will have a great stage at the Galen Center at USC and on Showtime to prove that they are amongst the best in the world. I couldn't be coming back to the sport with a better fight card, and I know that the real winner on Dec. 10 will be the fans."