The unbeaten super middleweight contender is guaranteeing victory in Sunday night's IBF title fight vs Jose Uzcategui on FS1—believing he is the next king of the 168-pound division.

Caleb Plant knew something was wrong almost instantly. After landing a punch on his sparring partner’s elbow, his left hand felt like it was swelling into a balloon.

Plant pulled his hand free from the glove. As soon as he looked at it, he sensed trouble. It was a puffy, contorted mess. An August 2018 bout versus IBF world super middleweight champion Jose Uzcategui was just a month away. But in that moment, Plant knew it wasn’t happening.

Hopes dashed with one punch—though not completely gone.

Six months later, what seemingly was a disaster has blossomed into a second chance for the 6-foot-1, 26-year-old from Nashville, Tennessee. Plant says he feels stronger, smarter and far more prepared for Uzcategui now. The anticipated match takes place this Sunday, January 13, at Microsoft Theatre at L.A. Live, in Los Angeles on FS1 and FOX Deportes (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).

Plant’s broken left hand is fully healed after undergoing surgery for the first time in his life. Following a quick but arduous rehab, he was back in the gym by October.

“The rehab center where I worked said they never saw anybody ever go through rehab that fast,” he said. “I couldn’t hit anything until October. When I first heard that I broke my hand, it was disheartening. But I’ve been through bigger and harder obstacles than that.”

By late October, Plant fully trusted his left hand, knowing each time he threw it, it wouldn’t come apart. It was, in many ways, just like the fighter himself, forcefully moving forward despite the cracks that came with it.

The worst blow occurred on Thursday, January 29, 2015. That was the day Alia, Plant’s 19-month-old daughter, died after losing her battle with Aicar Transformylase/Imp Cyclohydrolase Deficiency, a rare condition with only two known cases worldwide. Alia was one of them.

 “I had Alia at a young age, and not only did I have a child at a young age, I had a disabled child at a young age,” Plant said. “That’s what turned me into a man and the responsibilities that come with it. I have a tattoo of the date Alia died.

“It’s something I think about every day. What happened to me and my daughter will always be a part of me. Something like that happens to you, it changes you. That’s why I say it turned me into a man.”

What happened to me and my daughter will always be a part of me. Something like that happens to you, it changes you. That’s why I say it turned me into a man. Unbeaten 168-pound contender Caleb Plant

Having gone through that, a little broken hand wasn’t going to derail Plant.

“I want to be a world champion, and to be so close to making my dreams happen, it was depressing, but each day, I kept going back to the gym, working on my right, working on my conditioning,” he said. “I don’t think I learned anything new about myself. It was just another ordeal that I had to go through. I’ve been doing it all my life.”

Plant, 17-0 (10 KOs), will carry his life experiences into the ring against Uzcategui. He’ll need everything in his arsenal to topple the lanky Venezuelan who, at 6-foot-2, is an inch taller than Plant, and possesses a 76.5-inch reach to his 74.

Uzcategui’s last loss came via controversial disqualification against Andre Dirrell in May 2017, when referee Bill Clancy ruled Uzcategui hit Dirrell after the bell ended the eighth. At the time, Uzcategui was up on two of the three scorecards.

In March 2018, Uzcategui got his revenge, stopping Dirrell in the eighth round of their rematch to win the interim IBF world super middleweight title. His status has since been upgraded to IBF world super middleweight champion.

Plant envisions himself wearing that belt around his waist at some point on Sunday night. Further, the man known as “Sweethands” believes he knows Uzcategui, 28-2 (23 KOs), better than the champion knows him.

“I don’t have to concern myself with nowhere near as much as what he has to concern himself with me,” Plant promised. “When I was recovering from the broken hand, I studied film of him. He’s a rough, rugged guy. He’s tough, but sometimes tough is not enough. I know he’s a pressure fighter who will come forward and try and cut the ring off.

“I’m going to make things happen. I trust my left hand. A new king is going to be crowned. It doesn’t matter how the job is going to get done. I can guarantee you everything that needs to be done will be done. And I can guarantee you’re going to hear, ‘And the new!’”

For a complete look at Uzcategui vs Plant, check out our fight page.

The Venezuela native had to fight for everything he’s ever had. Now that he’s a world champion, he has no plans of letting the title go.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

If true, then Jose Uzcategui would be a man after Roosevelt’s own heart. As a child, Uzcategui used to fight in the streets to appease his father. His toddler daughter died when he was barely 16. His first fight in America nearly derailed his career. And he lost by disqualification in his first world title bout.

Yet he remained steadfast through it all. Today, Uzcategui, 28-2 (23 KOs), is the IBF super middleweight world champion. This Sunday, January 13th, he defends that title versus top-rated contender Caleb Plant in the main event of a PBC on FS1 card (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

The 26-year-old Plant is a smooth boxer from Nashville, Tennessee. Yet all Uzcategui sees—true or not—is a fighter that has had too much handed to him, one who hasn’t experienced the hardships that makes championship material.

Uzcategui’s own baptism by fire began in the agricultural town of El Vigia, Venezuela. While most six-year-olds are learning how to form sentences, Uzcategui was busy putting combinations together in street fights.

“My dad was a streetfighter,” he said. “He would pay other kids in the area to fight me. That’s where the nickname, ‘Bolivita,’ comes from. That’s the name of the Venezuelan currency. I would always win so I would keep the money.”

“But I loved boxing,” he continued. “And I was good at it. I would study tapes of Felix Trinidad, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr, Ricardo ‘Finito’ Lopez, Juan Manuel Marquez and, of course, my countryman Edwin Valero. Even at that young age, my goal was to become a world champion.”

Uzcategui went from being the neighborhood’s best to joining the nation’s elite. He had 327 amateur bouts and became a member of the national amateur team. His Olympic hopes were dashed when his six-month-old daughter died during the qualifying events. It’s a subject he doesn’t like discussing; Jose only saw her twice, when she was born and when she died.

Still hurting from the loss, Uzcategui relocated from Venezuela to Mexico, where he closed out his amateur career. In 2011, he turned pro as a middleweight. Despite ring successes—he won his first 22 bouts, all in Mexico—he struggled financially.

In June 2014, he made his US ring debut versus undefeated Russian Matt Korobov. Korobov controlled much of the action. In the seventh, he dropped Uzcategui twice. That’s when the Venezuelan came alive, catching Korobov with repeated hooks in the eighth. Uzcategui finished strong but couldn’t overcome his slow start, losing a 10-round unanimous decision.

“I was undefeated going in so I thought I was invincible,” he admits. “Here I am fighting in America for the first time…everyone says they’re ready for it, but you never know until you’re in there. The lights and all that had an effect on me. It was the biggest lesson I learned. I analyzed every part of myself and my team and decided change was needed.”

I don't respect Caleb Plant. In the fight game, you’ve got to earn respect. You can’t just talk, you’ve got to get in the ring and prove it. IBF Super Middleweight Champion Jose Uzcategui

Uzcategui continued to reside in Mexico but opted to train in the U.S. He enlisted the help of a then-31-year-old trainer, Jose Cital. Cital had an equally rough background; a formerly homeless teen who worked three jobs to build his own gym in San Diego.

Together, they concluded it was time for the lanky, six-foot-two boxer to move up to 168-pounds. The decision paid off. Uzcategui won his next four fights, all inside the distance, including a two-round destruction of unbeaten prospect Julius Jackson—son of Hall of Fame inductee Julian Jackson.

In May 2017, Uzcategui faced the ultra-talented Andre Dirrell for the vacant interim IBF 168-pound strap. He surprised early on, nearly flooring Dirrell in the second with a hard right.

The American found his rhythm in the middle frames, but the cleaner, more effective punches came from Uzcategui. With seconds remaining in the eighth, he drove Dirrell toward the ropes and unloaded a three-punch combination. The third blow landed a split-second after the bell. Dirrell fell face-first. Uzcategui, ahead on two of the three cards, was disqualified.

Emotions boiled over in the aftermath. Dirrell's uncle and co-trainer, Leon Lawson, confronted Uzcategui, landing a one-two on a fighter who didn’t defend himself, nor did he swing back.

It’s reasonable to assume most humans, let alone boxers, would’ve done one or the other, if not both. But compared to what he’s already gone through, this was a walk in the park for Uzcategui.

These days, he only recalls the positives when reflecting on the incident.

“That whole situation made me famous,” he laughs.

The rematch occurred in March 2018. Uzcategui dominated from the opening bell, winning the world title via ninth-round TKO. That belt will be on the line against a Plant brimming with unabashed confidence.

“I don't respect Caleb Plant,” said Uzcategui. “It’s not a personal disrespect but in the fight game, you’ve got to earn respect. You can’t just talk, you’ve got to get in the ring and prove it. How can anyone show you respect when you keep saying you’re better, but you haven’t proved it? Do your talking in the ring and then after, not before.”

Yet Plant, 17-0 (10 KOs), isn’t the only one full of self-assurance. Uzcategui believes he’s simply too much for a man who hasn’t gone through the trials he faced.

“Plant is a good fighter,” he said. “We’ll find out how good on the 13th. I’m going to punish him, beat him up and then knock him out. It may not be easy…nothing is easy."

For a close look at Uzcategui vs Plant, check out our fight page.

March 3 fight at Barclays Center featured multiple knockdowns, Wilder on the verge of his first loss—and a concussive conclusion.

WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder was on the brink of defeat, perhaps just one more punch away from losing his perfect record.

But just when it looked as if Wilder would fail the biggest test of his career, “The Bronze Bomber” roared back with his most violent answer—his powerful right hand.

“‘King Kong’ ain’t got nothing on me!’ A true champion always finds a way to come back and that’s what I did tonight,” proclaimed Wilder, who barely survived a vicious seventh-round onslaught by Luis Ortiz to stop the Cuban contender in the 10th round of their March 3 title fight in front of 14,069 fans at Barclays Center.

“When he leaves tonight Ortiz can hold his head high. He gave the fans a hell of a fight. We knew we had to wear him down. I showed everyone I can take a punch.”

Indeed, Wilder did.

Ortiz, who was looking to become the first Cuban heavyweight champion, landed a straight left to Wilder’s chin in the seventh that badly wobbled him and forced him to hang on until the bell sounded. All three judges scored the round 10-8 in Ortiz’s favor.

“Wilder was definitely saved by the bell. I thought I had him out on his feet,” said Ortiz, who was knocked down for the first time in his career in the fifth. “But you have to give him credit, he weathered the storm.” 

The all-action bout in Brooklyn—which beat out other Fight-of-the-Year contenders like Erislandy Lara vs Jarrett Hurd, Caleb Truax vs James DeGale, Adrien Broner vs Jessie Vargas, Leo Santa Cruz vs Abner Mares 2 and Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury—earned our annual honor with its dramatic twists and turns as Wilder was in trouble, then Ortiz, then Wilder, and finally the concussive conclusion by the self-proclaimed “baddest man on the plant.”

For all of the year-end honors, visit our Best of PBC 2018 page.

Unbeaten junior middleweight prospect, who returns to the ring this Sunday night on PBC on FS1, might have only five fights under his belt—but is seasoned well beyond his years.

Joey Spencer was introduced to boxing in kindergarten, trained alongside high-profile champions in middle school and began showcasing his own skills around the time he started driving.

Spencer is still only 18 yet is a veteran in the fight game, accepted and respected by boxers with far greater credentials. The junior middleweight from Lansing, Michigan shares a close relationship with former world champion brothers Andre and Anthony Dirrell, who hail from neighboring Flint. He also trained for his professional debut alongside retired great Andre Ward and two-time 147-pound champion Andre Berto.

Spencer, 5-0 (5 KOs), now resides in Union City, California. This Sunday, January 13, he battles southpaw Brandon Harder (2-1, 1 KO), of Southaven, Mississippi, at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles on a PBC on FS1 card (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).

The bout will be on the undercard of the anticipated IBF 168-pound title showdown between champion Jose Uzcategui (28-2, 23 KOs) and top contender Caleb “Sweethands” Plant (17-0, 10 KOs).

What is your relationship with Caleb Plant?

We’re managed by the same people, so it’s really been a great thing having someone to look up and relate to who is eight years older and a little farther ahead in his career than I am. I'll know the type of things that may be coming for me in the next couple of years. Right now, I’m training at the Dirrell’s Gym in Flint, Michigan, and I’m pretty sure Caleb’s training in California.

Do you have a ring nickname or does Caleb have one for you?

I don’t have a nickname yet. I haven’t had anybody really put one on me. My dad and I have thought about it, but we haven’t come up with one.

The ones we have come up with are too corny to even mention. Caleb doesn’t have one for me either. He just calls me ‘Little Bro’ most of the time.

Your father Jason is also your trainer. Do you two work well together?

It’s a great father-son relationship and a great working relationship. He’s trained me since I was a little kid. He’s always done his best to take care of me.

He’s always learning the best training methods for me, and we’ve continued to learn as we go along. My father fought as an amateur, and as I’ve learned as a professional, he’s learned more as a coach. 

What about your relationship with the Dirrells?

We’ve been around them for a long time and they’ve been like family to us since I was young. The Dirrells have a nephew, Leon Lawson III. Leon is a 19-year-old pro right now, 8-0 with four knockouts. Leon and I came up sparring together since we were young, and he’s been like my best friend since we were little.

How long have you known them?

Our two families have always been really close. I’ve probably known them since I was 12 or 13 years old. With the Dirrell brothers, we’ve always gone to their fights, watching them and watching how they trained.

It could be an early knockout. If not, then I’m happy to get rounds in and learn on the job. Unbeaten Junior Middleweight prospect Joey Spencer

Have you been able to speak with them in advance of Sunday?

I haven’t spoken to either of them for this particular fight because they’re both in Florida. Anthony is in training camp. He’s fighting for the vacant WBC 168-pound belt on February 23 [versus Avni Yildirim].

I haven’t been able to get into the ring with them or talk strategy about the fight. But Anthony reached out and told me he is going to be ringside commentating for this fight. I’m really excited about it because he’s going to be ringside to watch me.

How did it feel to fight in front of both Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward on the same night?

My fourth fight was in New York, on the Andre Berto-Devon Alexander card. Both Andre Ward and Floyd Mayweather were ringside. That was a big deal for me.

It was incredible because they’re two of my favorite all-time fighters, and their presence just made me really excited to perform in front of them.

That was the first time I met Floyd. It was amazing that they were both there watching me. I felt like I did a good job, getting a knockout in the second round.  

How are you acquainted with Andre Ward?

Andre Ward is a close friend of mine. When I moved out to California, before my first fight as a pro when I was 16, I was training in his gym.

At the time, Andre Ward was holding a camp preparing for Sergey Kovalev, and I was there training. Since then, I’ve been training out there—for about three years.

Which other fighters have you trained with?

I’ve had a lot of fighters I’ve worked alongside who have been a positive influence and an inspiration to me. Andre Berto is definitely one.

There have been a lot of other big names also, like Amir Khan was there at Ward’s gym, holding one of his camps while I was there.

What do you know about your opponent, Brandon Harder? Do you feel pressure to keep your KO streak going?

Harder is the first guy I have faced with a winning record—and the first southpaw I have faced as a pro. But I’m not feeling any pressure and I’m not concerned about the winning record.

The only thing that’s a step up in my book is the fact that he’s a southpaw. I’m ready for it and we’ll see how that goes.

I’ve had a lot of amateur fights against southpaws, but it is a different thing when you’re under the lights. If he brings something to the table that the other guys haven’t, then I’ll adjust to it.

But who knows, it could be the same as all my previous fights. It could be an early knockout. If not, then I’m happy to get rounds in and learn on the job.

Will you be more incentivized by the presence of Plant in the main event and Anthony Dirrell at ringside?

There will definitely be emotion and motivation, but in a good way. It’s not really going to be nervousness as much as it’s motivating to want to show your big bro what you’ve got and that you’re moving forward and looking sharp.

And then, being able to be ringside when Caleb’s fighting for a world championship for the first time gives me a glimpse into how my career might go. I’ve just been fortunate to have been around a lot of the big names in the sport.

For a closer look at Joey Spencer, check out his fighter page.

In his first bout since losing his perfect record, the former two-division world champion reminded the boxing world of his top-notch pedigree with a highlight reel knockout.

If Danny Garcia was still feeling a little down heading into his first bout since losing his perfect record last February, the mood changed quite swiftly inside Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

While the former two-division champion nicknamed “Swift” was easily in control against Brandon Rios—his first fight back since dropping a close split-decision to Keith Thurman in a welterweight world championship unification fight in March of 2017—the Philadelphia native quickly reminded the boxing world of his top-notch pedigree.

Garcia caught Rios with a huge counter right hand that sent Rios flat on his back. Rios beat the count, but was clearly wobbly on his feet, forcing referee Kenny Bayless to halt the contest at 2:25 of the ninth round.

"I just noticed when I was getting my punches off he was standing right in front of me and I just let it go. As soon as I got the fight in the middle of the ring where I wanted I landed good shots. I was just letting my hands go and the punch landed,” Garcia told SHOWTIME Sports reporter Jim Gray.

Take a look back at the key bouts that took boxing's only eight-division world champion from obscurity to superstardom.

Manny Pacquiao doesn’t shy away from a challenge.

From his victory over Chatchai Sasakul to win his first title in 1998 to the present, Pacquiao has faced one legitimate threat after another. Next up for the eight-division champion is a battle against four-division titleholder Adrien Broner on Saturday, January 19 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand and live on SHOWTIME pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) has faced 24 past or present world champions; 17 fights against opponents that are or will likely be in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. These are unusually high numbers in modern boxing and stark evidence that the Filipino superstar didn’t take an easy road to greatness.

Pacquiao usually came out on top in his most difficult challenges—in crowd-pleasing fashion, of course. Here are five fights that helped grow the legend of Pacman:

5 LEHLO LEDWABA

Date: June 23, 2001
Location: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
At stake: Ledwaba’s IBF junior featherweight title
Records at the time: Pacquiao 32-2, Ledwaba 33-1-1
Result: Pacquiao TKO 6
Significance: Ledwaba was the hot fighter going into this matchup, with some predicting stardom for the South African. Pacquiao, who took the fight on two-week’s notice, was relatively unknown. The odds against Pacquiao were so great that casinos in Las Vegas reportedly wouldn’t take bets on the fight.

Fans in attendance may have come to see Oscar De La Hoya in the main event, but 24-year-old Pacquiao stole the show, unleashing his unique combination of hand and foot speed, in-and-out movement and a lethal left hand. The unsuspecting Ledwaba fell once in the second and twice more in the sixth, prompting referee Joe Cortez to mercifully step in with Ledwaba on his back and the crowd on its feet.

“I had never seen him,” TV analyst Larry Merchant said on air afterward. “And frankly I’d never heard of him. But I’ve seen and heard of him now. And I want to see him again.”

4. MARCO ANTONIO BARRERA

Date: November 15, 2003
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio
At stake: Ring Magazine featherweight title
Records at the time: Pacquiao 37-2-1; Barrera 57-3
Result: Pacquiao TKO 11
Significance: When he agreed to face the young Filipino, Barrera was an established star on a roll, having beaten in succession Naseem Hamed, Enrique Sanchez, arch rival Erik Morales, Johnny Tapia and Kevin Kelley going in.

Without question, the tough, seasoned Mexican – a 4-1 favorite – represented the highest-profile test of Pacquiao’s career. To say he passed it would be an understatement.

Both Barrera—and onlookers—wore a look of bewilderment throughout the fight. Pacquiao was simply too quick, battering the veteran from the opening bell and dropping him twice before Barrera’s corner stopped the fight in the eleventh to save him from further punishment. Barrera won only one round on one card through 10.

The victory earned Pacquiao international status as one of the world’s best fighters and kicked off an epic series with Mexico’s big three of Barrera, Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez, which ended at 6-2-1 in Pacquiao’s favor.

Barrera later said he could’ve fought Oscar Larios instead of Pacquiao but, because Larios was a friend, he opted for the latter.

“I regret having made that decision,” Barrera told ESPN Deportes years later, “because he gave me the beating of my life."

3 ERIK MORALES

Date: January 21, 2006
Location: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
At stake: No title
Records at the time: Pacquiao 40-3-2; Morales 48-3
Result: Pacquiao TKO 10
Significance: Morales did what no one else could do between 1999 and 2012: Beat Pacquiao, winning a close decision in March 2005. Though the great Mexican champion slipped up immediately before the rematch, losing a decision to Zahir Raheem, many still viewed him a threat take down Pacquiao again.

Instead, Morales took a career drubbing as Pacquiao landed hard shots from every conceivable angle to both the head and body. Morales had few answers. The last 20 seconds of the ninth were particularly stunning, as the proud warrior from Tijuana ran to avoid punishment, something fans had never seen him do.

“He’s all gone,” Roach told Pacquiao in between frames.

Pacquiao finished his masterpiece in the tenth, dropping Morales twice. Referee Kenny Bayless decided enough was enough after the second knockdown and ended the beatdown.

It was the first time Morales had been knocked out. Pacquiao would do it again 10 months later, this time in the third round, further enhancing his growing reputation as a freak of nature.

2 OSCAR DE LA HOYA

Date: December 6, 2008
Location: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
At stake: No title
Records at the time: Pacquiao 47-3-2; De La Hoya 39-5
Result: Pacquiao RTD 8
Significance: In retrospect, this was one of Pacquiao’s easiest fights during his peak years. Going in, however, many foresaw a mismatch in Oscar’s favor. The word “farce” was repeated often.

De La Hoya, the biggest name in the sport at that time, was on the decline, but still deemed capable at 35, and naturally the bigger of the two. Pacquiao had fought just once at lightweight (135 pounds) and then made the leap to welterweight (147) to face a man who had fought as heavy as 160, a disadvantage many assumed would be too much for the Filipino to overcome.

Or so we thought.

Pacquiao was too fast, too busy and just too good for the once-great Mexican-American. De La Hoya took a horrible pounding until his corner retired him after the eighth. He would never fight again.

The king was dead, long live the king. Pacquiao became the biggest star in the sport by pummeling the fighter who wore that moniker only a half-hour earlier.

Said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, immediately after the fight: “The dream came true tonight.”

1 RICKY HATTON

Date: May 2, 2009
Location: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
At stake: Hatton’s Ring Magazine junior welterweight title
Records at the time: Pacquiao 48-3-2; Hatton 45-1
Result: Pacquiao KO 2
Significance: The Hatton fight is the most awe-inspiring moment of Pacquiao’s career.

Hatton, confident and fit, had the reputation of a machine-like, in-your-face brawler with the ability to take down anyone not named Floyd Mayweather. However, the raucous fans from England who passionately and repeatedly sang, “There’s only one Ricky Hatton” at the MGM quickly realized that Pacquiao was far more unusual.

Hatton, obviously too slow for his blur of an opponent, went down twice in a stunning first three minutes and returned to his corner with a what-the-hell-just-hit-me look on his face as the bell to close the round.

And that was just a prelude to the real drama. Moments before the second round ended, Pacquiao, perhaps at the very peak of his abilities, landed a left cross for the ages. The blow immediately rendered Hatton unconscious—before he crashed to the mat. Referee Kenny Bayless didn’t bother to count as the crowd erupted.

Pacquiao’s legend was sealed at that moment.

“That is the most spectacular one-punch shot of Many Pacquiao’s incredible career,” said HBO commentator Jim Lampley. Added astute analyst Emanuel Steward, “ANY fighter.”

For a closer look at Manny Pacquiao, check out his fighter page.

Final three minutes of first heavyweight title pay-per-view bout in America since 2002 produced one of the year's best knockdowns—and perhaps and even more impressive recovery.

Showtime analyst and International Boxing Hall of Famer Al Bernstein called it one of the most astonishing things he’s ever seen in the boxing ring.

The final three minutes of December’s epic heavyweight showdown between WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder and lineal titleholder Tyson Fury produced one of the year’s most ferocious knockdowns—when Wilder caught Fury with a wicked right hand and dropped him to the canvas with a devastating following left hook at 2:22 into the 12th round. But, perhaps even more incredible, was how Fury recovered to beat referee Jack Reiss’ 10-count and rose from the canvas ala WWE superstar The Undertaker as an astonished crowd of 17,698 fans inside STAPLES Center cheered all the way to the conclusion of the first heavyweight title pay-per-view bout in America since 2002.

 “I hope I did you all proud after nearly three years out of the ring. I was never going to be knocked down tonight. I showed good heart to get up. I came here tonight and I fought my heart out,” said Fury, who had battled mental illness, substance abuse and extreme weight gain since his career-defining victory over Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015.

Wilder was convinced divine intervention was the only way Fury was able to rise like Lazarus from his thundering shot.

“You know, only God knows how he got back up,” the 33-year-old Wilder said. I literally seen this man’s eyes rolling in the back of his head. And I seen Jack on the ground, checking him, and I said ‘It’s over.’”

It wasn’t and while several other fights, including April’s thrilling 154-pound title unification between Jarrett Hurd and Erislandy Lara, produced exciting Round-of-the-Year candidates—none provided as much theatrics as the final stanza between Wilder and Fury ... which left everyone waiting for the rematch.

For all of the year-end honors, visit our Best of PBC 2018 page.

Unbeaten Nigerian Olympian—who scored four stoppages in the first round, and one before the bell even sounded in 2018—has become must-see TV.

2018 was a big year for Premier Boxing Champions and an even bigger year for our BIG guys. While WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder was making many of the headlines with his two Fight-of-the-Year candidates, another huge heavyweight—unbeaten prospect Efe Ajagba also made quite the name for himself.

The Nigerian-born Ajagba (8-0, 7 KOs), who moved to Houston in the summer of 2017 to train under the guidance of Ronnie Shields, fought five times over the last calendar year—scoring four devastating first-round knockouts. But it was Ajagba’s lone non-stoppage victory that made the biggest splash.

The 2016 Nigerian Olympian, nicknamed “The One and Only,” was all set to face Curtis Harper on a PBC on FS1 card on August 24 at The Armory in Minneapolis.

The two men touched gloves in the center of the ring and went back to their respective corners to wait for the bell to sound. By the time Ajagba had taken his first of three steps toward the center of the ring, Harper already had pivoted away and begun exiting through the ropes. He rapidly walked out of the arena and into the locker room using the same entry ramp and sending shock waves through the fans packed inside the Armory.

“I started walking toward him and saw him stepping through the ropes. I was shocked and surprised at first, thinking maybe it was a joke,” Ajagba said.

It was no joke as Ajagba was declared the winner by disqualification at one second into the first round. Harper said he walked out of the ring because "he’s not getting paid enough to fight,” but Ajagba's promoter Ringstar Sports CEO Richard Schaefer had a different theory.

"This was legendary," Schaefer told ESPN. "We waited a long time to have another heavyweight who instills fear in his opponents by just being in the ring and looking at them. The last time a fighter instilled that kind of fear in an opponent was Mike Tyson. The heavyweight division has a new star, and his name is Efe. No doubt that he is the biggest puncher in the sport.”

Whether he’s stopping opponents directly after the bell sounds or terrorizing them into submission beforehand, Ajagba—who beat out other top prospects Carlos Balderas, Joe Joyce, Joey Spencer and Eimantas Stanionis for our PBC Prospect Of The Year award—has become must-see TV every time he steps into the ring.

Unbeaten 122-pound contender may be nicknamed “Heartbreaker,” but his non-stop body assault is taking the heart away from his opponents too.

Brandon Figueroa was only eight-years-old when a group of smitten girls — dazzled by his blue eyes — inadvertently gave the young boxer his nickname.

Figueroa would travel with his older brother, Omar Figueroa Jr., and father, Omar Sr., to Mexico for amateur boxing competitions at that time. The girls, maybe a dozen of them, would see Brandon and begin shouting, “Rompecorazones! Rompecorazones!” which is Spanish for “Heartbreaker.”

Even today, Figueroa’s good looks might be the first thing you notice about the now 22-year-old from the small town of Weslaco on the southern-most tip of Texas. Two minutes into any of his fights, however, is enough to see that he’s all fighter once he steps through the ropes.

Figueroa (17-0, 12 knockouts) isn’t considered to be as gifted as his brother, but he compensates for any deficiency with unusual conditioning, body shots from hell and sheer guts.

Moises Flores will get a taste of all that when he meets Figueroa in a 10-round featherweight bout that serves as the co-feature of a PBC on FS1 card (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) on Sunday, January 13 at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

“That kid has a lot of heart,” said trainer Joel Diaz, who worked Figueroa’s corner alongside Omar Sr. several times. “He might not have the natural talent of some kids but he’s very durable, very disciplined and very determined. And he packs a punch.

“I really believe he can beat a guy with a lot of talent because of his work ethic.”

The fact Figueroa became a professional boxer at all might’ve been surprising not long before he adopted his moniker.

One, he didn’t seem to have the disposition. The self-described “calm, collected person” can remember getting into a street fight only once as a child. He was an honor student, not a roughneck.

Two, Omar Sr., a street fighter turned self-taught trainer, was focused on guiding Omar Jr. — seven years older than Brandon — through the amateurs when the younger son decided to get serious about boxing. He had no time for a second pupil.

And, three, Dad didn’t believe that Brandon had the makings of a boxer.

“Brandon was like 6, 7 years old when he told me, ‘Dad, I want to box.’ I said, ‘No. You’re too skinny, too wimpy and too good looking to be fighting,’” Omar Sr. said. “You know what? That kid proved me wrong.”

Indeed, he did. Brandon continued to train as a boy, largely by himself. He’d observe his brother’s routine and try to copy it, perhaps in part to attract the attention of his father. It worked.

Omar Sr. noticed during intermittent sparring sessions that Brandon was able to go numerous rounds without tiring and was hurting his sparring partners to the body.

“I suddenly realized, ‘I don’t have one great boxer on my hands; I have two,’” Omar Sr. said.

Honestly, I don’t feel any pressure being Omar’s brother. We’ll always have each other’s backs because we know this is not an easy road. We do compete against each other in a way — even now, we still do — but I’m making my own way. I’m making a name for myself. Unbeaten 122-pound contender Brandon Figueroa

The younger Figueroa trained regularly but didn’t fight as often as he would’ve liked. He believes he had a record of 36-12 as an amateur, which allowed him to learn enough nuts and bolts to turn pro at 18.

He powered through his first 16 opponents despite a shoulder injury that had nagged him since he was a teenager and wasn’t corrected until this past summer. Then he received the first big break of his career.

Figueroa was scheduled to fight former WBA “interim” titleholder Oscar Escandon in a junior featherweight bout — his first 10-rounder — on the Victor Ortiz-John Molina Jr. undercard on September 30 Ontario, California when the Ortiz-Molina fight fell out. That bumped Figueroa-Escandon to the main event, which was televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.

The young Texan took advantage of the opportunity, surviving a bad cut and stubborn resistance to stop his unusually short — 5 feet, 1½ inches — opponent in the final round.

“I have to admit I was excited when I heard I was in the main event,” said Figueroa, who is 5-8. “I knew I was more than ready to take the opportunity and shine. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t spar for that fight because of an injured knuckle on my left hand. He was really short and aggressive, which made it difficult to find my distance. And the cut was a problem for a few rounds.

“Once I knew my conditioning was good, though, I just went back to my game plan and worked and worked and worked.”

Figueroa is close to his first title shot even though he has fought only 17 times as a professional. He’s ranked by both the WBA and IBF as a 122-pounder, but the next step is to get past Flores (25-1, 17 KOs), no easy task. The 32-year-old Mexican, perhaps best known for being knocked out by Guillermo Rigondeaux after the bell to end the first round, is a tall, awkward boxer-puncher with big-fight experience. He’s coming off a unanimous-decision loss to Daniel Roman this past June.

Figueroa’s game plan will look familiar: Keep the pressure on Flores and break him down with body blows.

If he’s successful, bigger things await. He almost certainly will face a next-level opponent and could fight for a title before the end of the year. And comparisons to his older brother, a former lightweight titleholder who returns to the ring against John Molina Jr. next month, will intensify.

And that’s OK with Brandon.

“Honestly, I don’t feel any pressure being Omar’s brother,” he said. “I’m more excited when he fights than when I fight. I support him to the max and he supports me. We’ll always have each other’s backs because we know this is not an easy road.

“We do compete against each other in a way — even now, we still do — but I’m making my own way. I’m making a name for myself.”

Indeed, Brandon has made it clear that he is more than just a pretty face.

For a closer look at Brandon Figueroa, check out his fighter page.

Hard-hitting light heavyweight—who recently moved to Las Vegas—talks about his January 13 PBC on FS1 fight that takes place at Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.

LAS VEGAS — Having recently moved from Miami to Las Vegas, hard-hitting light heavyweight Ahmed Elbiali shared his thoughts on training camp as he prepares to face Oklahoma's Allan Green Sunday, January 13 from the Microsoft Theatre at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. The fight will be featured on the Premier Boxing Champions Prelims live on FS1 and FOX Deportes telecast that begins at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT, if time allows.

Prelims precede a Premier Boxing Champions on FS1 and FOX Deportes show that features IBF Super Middleweight World Champion Jose Uzcategui taking on unbeaten Caleb Plant in the main event. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and will also see unbeaten featherweight Brandon Figueroa take on Moises Flores and sensational prospect Joey Spencer entering the ring.

Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by TGB Promotions and Zanfer Promotions, start at $50, are on sale now and can be purchased at AXS.com.

Here is what Elbiali had to say from training camp at Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas:

On training with new coach Chris Ben-Tchavtchavadze:
"Chris is a great coach and he's teaching me a lot. I'm learning how to parry punches and my defense is improving. On offense, I'm using my jab more to set up combinations. With Chris in my corner, I feel I have someone who can help me make the proper adjustments in a fight."

On facing veteran Allan Green:
"I know I'm up against a fighter in Allan Green who's been in the ring and went the distance with some very good fighters. He has a lot of experience, so I must fight wisely to be victorious. I'm going into this fight with a do or die mindset and I'm going to leave everything in the ring."

On making the move from Miami to Las Vegas:
"It's been a tremendous blessing since I moved here a few months ago from Miami. The quality of sparring I'm getting is just incredible. I'm getting better every day just from sparring top level guys. In Miami, there just isn't the quality of guys to spar on a regular basis. The move has been great."

On making his return to the ring:
"I only fought once last year so I'm hoping to get back on track fighting regularly in 2019. I think with a few more fights I'll be ready to challenge anyone in my division. I just need to stay active."

For a closer look at Ahmed Elbiali, check out his fighter page.

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