"Outside the Ring" is a regular feature centered on the charitable efforts of Premier Boxing Champions fighters. Learn more about what motivates these boxers and the causes they support outside the ring.
Unbeaten 140-pound contender Mario Barrios and his sister, Selina, teamed up for a recent sock-drive for the Salvation Army in San Antonio.
Like many prizefighters, Mario “El Azteca” Barrios (22-0, 14 KOs) came from humble beginnings. Now, the 140-pound contender from San Antonio, Texas is using his platform to help others who are struggling.
“Growing up, it wasn’t the best time,” Barrios said. “We faced struggles of our own. We witnessed a lot growing up. That stuck with me, and when I was younger I thought when I get to the point in my career when I’m able to help out, I want to give back to the community.”
Recently, the 23-year-old Barrios and his sister, Selina, teamed up with the Salvation Army in San Antonio for a noble cause: providing new socks to local children in need. The donated socks, along with pairs of new shoes, were given to kids at the Salvation Army’s Shoe-In event in San Antonio.
Barrios spoke about how he got involved with this cause.
“A friend of ours knew the chairman from the Salvation Army at the office here in San Antonio,” Mario said. “I had spoken to our friend saying I wanted to be more involved in our community, just giving back. He presented me with the opportunity when we went by the Salvation Army Center downtown--they gave us a walk-through of what they do at that facility.
“They said they were having a back to school shoe drive, but a lot of people don’t realize the kids can get shoes but a lot of them don’t have socks to wear with the shoes. They elaborated on things they need that no one really thinks of. Me and my sister, we’re more than willing to step up with that.”
Not everyone who showed up to the sock drive, donated socks. But they helped in other ways.
“We had a lot of people show up and didn’t have socks, but they donated money that still went towards the cause.”
Having grown up in San Antonio, Barrios had the connections. Now, as a rising contender who has performed on television multiple times, Barrios also had the platform to reach more people. He used that to rally more help for the worthy cause.
“We had a really good turnout. A lot of people came out: old friends I went to high school with, a lot of people who follow me on social media. We were able to get the word out quite a bit and we were really amped to see that with the sock drive. People were saying they saw the post from different social media (accounts), friends of friends, and it really opened our eyes to the bigger picture to what we can do for our city.
“We always just kind of dreamed of it. This was when we really hit the realization that we’re at that point (of being able to help people).”
Before he partnered up with the Salvation Army, Barrios helped found other, more grassroots ways to help those in need.
“Me and my people from the smaller boxing gym here (in San Antonio), we would go on social media and ask if anybody knows a kid who really needs shoes, to please let us know and give us their size. We were doing this the past couple years—we’d go out and buy 20 or 30 pairs of shoes, and then we’d surprise (the kids) when it gets closer to Christmas.
“It’s a really great feeling. A lot of times we’d end up crying because the families got so emotional.”
Anyone can contribute money, items, or volunteer time to the Salvation Army — which is dedicated to meeting human need and lifting up local communities throughout the country.
Unified 154-pound world champion Jarrett Hurd and unbeaten 168-pound contender Caleb Plant have both suffered minor setbacks in the form of injuries, but their journey down the road to recovery is all but complete.
In the professional sports world, injuries are an unfortunate variable. This week on PBC Jabs, we check in with two men who are wrapping up their road to recovery and looking to return to the ring by the end of the year.
First up, we have unbeaten 154-pound unified champ Jarrett Hurd who suffered a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder during training camp for his fight with Erislandy Lara. Hurd offers an update on his injury and reveals who he wants to face in 2019.
Next, we check in with undefeated super middleweight Caleb Plant who broke his left hand this summer during training camp. He was scheduled to face IBF super middleweight champ Jose Uzcategui this fall in his first world title appearance but the fight was postponed to due Plant’s hand injury. Plant joined us to discuss his recovery and what’s next for him.
That’s all for this episode of PBC Jabs. Thank you for watching and we’ll see you next time as we continue to bring you the best in boxing!
Here’s a list of some of PBC's top rising stars. Boxers on this list are on a hot streak, like a slugger in baseball on a hitting streak or a running back in football who keeps posting 100-yard rushing games. They’re not ranked in any particular order. We’ll leave that to you—the reader.
Shawn Porter ended a 10-month ring absence by winning a clash of former champions with a unanimous decision over two-division title-winner Danny Garcia for the WBC’s vacant crown on September 8 at Barclays Center, setting up a potential unification against undefeated left-handed IBF counterpart Errol Spence Jr.
The 30-year-old Porter’s third-straight victory earned his second world title at the same location where he won his first one. He defeated Devon Alexander by unanimous decision at Barclays Center in 2013 and lost the title to Kell Brook in 2014.
“Showtime” is 5-1 with two knockouts since falling to WBA champion Keith Thurman by unanimous decision in 2016, rising from a final-round knockdown for a unanimous decision win over four-division champion Adrien Broner in June 2015 and scoring a three-knockdown ninth-round TKO of former two-time titleholder Andre Berto in April 2017.
The 6-foot-2, James is 4-0 with two knockouts following his lone loss to 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Yordenis Ugas in August 2016. He is now a mandatory challenger to WBA champion Keith Thurman.
In December, James took less than three rounds to knock out Diego Chaves. It was a career-defining moment for James. He accomplished something faster than Thurman, who defeated Chaves by 10th-round KO in 2013.
“Everybody in the world thought Kovalev was going to win by knockout. Kovalev punches much harder than I do, but I was able to withstand his punches thanks to my sturdy chin,” said Alvarez, a 34-year-old 2008 Olympian from Colombia who moved to Montreal in 2009 to become a pro.
“After waiting almost three years for this title shot, never in my wildest dreams did I expect the spectacular knockout I got against Kovalev. Beating Kovalev the way that I did was a dream come true.”
The triumph was a follow-up to Frampton’s unanimous decision over four-division title winner Nonito Donaire in April for the WBO’s 126-pound interim crown.
Frampton hopes to force a trilogy fight with WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz, having split bouts with Santa Cruz. He beat Santa Cruz by majority decision in 2016 and lost in the rematch the same way in 2017.
Although he is still the owner of the WBC’s 135-pound title after vacating his crown at 140, Garcia is seeking a 147-pound showdown against undefeated IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. But that bout will be on hold momentarily as Garcia agreed this week to meet mandatory IBF challenger Richard Commey in a lightweight title tilt with a date, venue and network still to be negoiated.
“I’m still focused solely on getting an Errol Spence fight. Nothing else excites me other than that one, so we’re working on that,” said the 30-year-old Garcia.
Armed with brutal power punching abilities and pinpoint accuracy, “TNT” stopped Klimov for the first time as he had previously gone the distance in a unanimous decision loss to two-time champion Jose Pedraza in June 2015.
Maidana’s victory was his second this year and second straight in the United States, the Argentine’s previous U.S. appearance being a third-round stoppage of Justin Savi at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. on the April undercard of a draw between four-division champion Adrien Broner and former two-division titleholder Jessie Vargas at 144 pounds.
A 39-year-old southpaw nicknamed “King Kong,” the 6-foot-4 Ortiz maneuvered like a middleweight before his thudding straight right, left-cross to the head floored Cojanu, who tried in vain to rise only to fall forward several times.
Cojanu was coming off a unanimous decision loss in May 2017 to then-unbeaten WBO king Joseph Parker.
Errol Spence scored his 10th- and 11th- straight knockout victories in his first and second world title defense with one-knockdown eighth- and first-round stoppages of two-division champion Lamont Peterson and previously unbeaten Carlos Ocampo in January and June.
Spence earned his crown in May 2017 by 11th-round knockout of Kell Brook in Sheffield, England, making him the first American to earn a world title from an English champion on foreign soil since Tim Bradley upset Junior Witter in Nottingham, England for a 140-pound title in 2008.
Spence next desires a unification clash with WBC counterpart Shawn Porter, four-division champion Mikey Garcia, 2008 Cuban Olympic bronze medalist Yordenis Ugas or left-handed former titleholder Luis Collazo in December or January.
The 29-year-old Kownacki’s run of four straight knockouts ended against Martin, who followed “Baby face’s” one-knockdown, fourth-round TKO of left-handed former title challenger Artur Szpilka in July 2017 and his sixth-round knockout of Iago Kiladze in January.
Kownacki’s stoppage of Szpilka was quicker than his Polish countryman was dispatched by both heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings in the ninth and 10th rounds, and Kiladze’s streak of six straight wins, five by knockout, was ended.
The three-city international press tour for the December 1st heavyweight title showdown between WBC world champ Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury has come to an end—and now the real work begins.
On Sunday, September 30th, PBC on FS1 delivered a show stacked with action from Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. The night began with undefeated featherweight Stephen Fulton facing Mexico’s German Meraz. Fulton, who took the fight on only 72 hours’ notice, dominated every round and scored a knockdown in the 8th and final round—to collect his 14th career victory by unanimous decision.
Then, rising heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba returned to the ring vs fellow unbeaten Nick Jones. Ajagba wasted no time, landing a hard right hand that sent Jones to the canvas in the very first round, securing his 6th KO victory.
Also, on the card was fast-rising super welterweight Joey Spencer who met Cory Macon. Spencer attacked the body from the opening bell, but it was a right hook that sent Macon to the canvas, resulting in yet another first-round knockout.
In the co-main event, British Olympic Silver Medalist Joe Joyce made his U.S. debut in a heavyweight fight against battle-tested Iago Kiladze. Joyce sent Kiladze to the canvas in rounds 2 and 3 before scoring a knockout with a big shot that ended the fight in the fifth.
And in the main event, undefeated super bantamweight Brandon Figueroa fought Columbia’s Oscar Escandon in a scheduled 10-round bout. It was a toe-to-toe fight right from the start but it was Figueroa who remained more active and accurate throughout the later rounds. In the final round, Figueroa landed a powerful right upper cut that sent Escandon to the canvas, clinching the KO win for Figueroa—who improved to 17-0.
In other news, the world title heavyweight showdown between WBC champ Deontay Wilder and lineal champ Tyson Fury is set for December 1st at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, and live on Showtime pay-per-view. In anticipation of this blockbuster event, Wilder and Fury embarked on a three-city international press tour earlier this week. Both men have been very vocal on what they plan to do to each other in the ring where Wilder’s big power will be tested against Fury’s size and strength. Stay tuned for more details, including ticketing information and undercard fights.
That’s all for this week’s PBC Jabs. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you next time as we continue to bring you the best in boxing!
Figueroa (17-0, 12 KOs) didn't know he was going to be the main event until midweek and had never previously headlined a televised card before. The younger brother of former titlist Omar Figueroa Jr., Brandon proved that being able to handle the bright lights might just be in his blood.
Figueroa didn't have it easy, either. The 21-year-old had never previously been past the eighth round and went nearly the full 10 after sustaining a cut midway through the fight. Escandon (25-5, 17 KOs) gave a game challenge but ultimately met his end at the end of a right uppercut from a southpaw stance from the normally orthodox Figueroa at 1:42 of the 10th round. Figueroa showcased his switch hitter abilities throughout the fight.
It was a fun fight, and it had a lot to live up to in replacing a sure fire slugfest between Victor Ortiz and John Molina as the main event. Figueroa was cut over his left eye from an accidental headbutt and fought through the blood, handling his first real test of courage with flying colors.
It was Figueroa's third fight of the year and he punctuated his 2018 with an exclamation point. Escandon had only been stopped by much more experienced opponents in the past, including in an unsuccessful title challenge against Gary Russell Jr. last year.
“Escandon is tough. He is short and it was hard to get to the body,” Figueroa said. “I can fight both inside and outside, but his size did matter. I had to get in there and he wasn’t backing up. I was ready for this fight. Opportunities like this don’t come often so I had to take it and run with it. I have been training all summer and I am ready to take a few days off and get right back to it.”
The two fighters traded on the inside with regularity from the opening bell, with Figueroa getting the better of it. That's not to say Escandon didn't make him pay to do so. In previous fights we've seen Figueroa fight mostly from the outside but fought like a guy looking to live up to the action fighter image his older brother cultivated.
Though Figueroa at times tried to make it a boxing match, he was lured into a firefight at times and made Escandon think twice about turning it into a brawl again. It was also impressive to see him get a finish in the last round — not many fighters have finishing power deep into a fight. Figueroa proved he does.
The two combatants both threw at a high rate but Figueroa often landed the cleaner and crisper shots against his more experienced opponent.
Figueroa did a good job proving he belongs in a crowded 122-pound division. Having only turned 21, there shouldn't be any rush for the fighter as he still could use some fine-tuning.
Prospects Joe Joyce, Joey Spencer, Efe Ajagba and Stephen Fulton stay perfect
English heavyweight and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Joe Joyce (6-0, 6 KOs) kept his perfect knockout record intact with a fifth-round stoppage of Iago Kiladze (26-4, 18 KOs) in the co-feature bout. Joyce made a statement against his toughest and most experienced foe to date, stopping him with a body shot knockout. Joyce had his man on the canvas twice before a third knockout finished things at 2:19 of the round in a successful American debut.
"It is great to be here," said Joyce. "I started training in the United States because it was the best way to start my career here," said Joyce. "It is great to have my sixth win here and I look forward to getting in the ring again soon. I think I made a great impression here tonight and I just want to continue that streak."
Also featured on the card was fast-rising star Joey Spencer (5-0, 5 KOs) of Union City, Calif. Against Cory Macon (0-3-0) of Durham, NC in a four-round middleweight bout. The 18-year-old Spencer, with dreams to become the youngest American with a world title, went to work immediately, going to the body of Macon. He continued to attack the body, but with a hard left hook, he sent Macon to the canvas, ending the fight just inside round number one at minute 2:36.
"I stay active and stay in the gym. It keeps me focused and ready," said Spencer. "My goal is to become a world champion by age 20. Fans need to keep an eye on me and my career because I am here to stay."
Efe Ajagba (7-0-0, 6 KOs) faced Nick Jones (7-1-0, 5 KOs) of Okmulgee, OK in a six-round heavyweight fight that didn't even last one round. With a hard right hand, Ajagba sent Jones to the canvas with a devastating knockout in 2:25 of the first.
"Now we know why my last opponent walked out of the ring. He was afraid that was going to happen to him," said Ajagba. "I watched tape of Jones and I knew he was slow. I was ready to attack the minute I got into the ring. I want anyone that my management will put in front of me. I am ready. I prepared for six rounds and I can't wait to get back in the ring."
In a televised swing bout, young prospect Jose Balderas (5-0-0) of Santa Maria, Calif. was tested by Mexican Ivan Martino (3-3-0, 3 KOs) in a bantamweight, but was able to get his shots off, connected with several left hooks to Martino's body.
"He is a strong guy and he kept coming, but we were ready for it," said Balderas. "I think I got the rounds he needed. I have been improving since my first fight. I am going to keep learning and keep growing."
Stephen Fulton (14-0-0, 6 KOs) of the fighting city of Philadelphia faced German Meraz (61-50-2, 38 KOs) of Mexico opened the telecast in a scheduled eight-round featherweight fight. Fulton, who took this fight with 72 hours' notice, used his jab throughout the and dominated every round. In the first minute of the eighth and final round, Fulton knocked Meraz down, setting up the win. In the end, the judges ruled the bout a unanimous decision.
"I wasn't worried about taking the fight on such short notice," said Fulton. "I knew I was going to dominate. I might have prepared for someone else, but that didn't matter. I have the experience to be able to adjust. He could have had 100 fights or five fights and I would have bene ready. I want Brandon Figueroa next."
Unbeaten heavyweight returns to the ring this Sunday night for the first time since one of boxing's most bizarre scenes occurred when his last opponent walked out of the ring instead of facing the dangerous prospect from Nigeria.
Harper cited a dispute over money for his decision not to fight, which resulted in his disqualification. Many wonder whether fear of Ajagba played a role.
Ajagba (6-0, 5 KOs) will get another crack at a different opponent as he steps into the ring against Nick Jones (7-0, 5 KOs) this Sunday night on the undercard of PBC on FS1 (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, California.
Who could blame Harper if he was afraid? Ajagba is an imposing figure—6 feet, 5 inches (196 cm) and around 235 pounds (107 kilos) of lean, chiseled muscle—and had knocked out each of his five previous opponents, four in the first round.
Harper, a journeyman, knew that he very likely would’ve left the ring shortly after the opening bell anyway as just another notch on Ajagba’s belt. Instead, he might’ve done Ajagba a favor.
“I think it was very positive for Efe,” said Ronnie Shields, the Nigerian’s Houston-based trainer. “I’m getting calls from people I don’t even know, people who didn’t even know I was working with Efe. People are really excited about him now.”
Ajagba’s habit of stopping his opponents began at the earliest stage of his fighting career.
As the story goes, when he was a tall, but thin teenaged soccer player, a minor argument with a young woman escalated into a situation where Ajagba was face to face with her angry, mountain-of-a-man boyfriend.
Moments later, after a single punch, the boyfriend was lying unconscious at Ajagba’s feet with a deep gash over his left eye.
“I thought I killed him,” Ajagba said. “I was with two friends when that happened. They told me, ‘Man, you should try boxing.’ That was the start of everything.”
Ajagba loved soccer but decided by 2011 that he had a better chance of building a career in the ring, which led him to a local sports center in his hometown of Ughelli in central Nigeria. There he found a boxing coach willing to work with him.
The argument-ending knockout not withstanding the young wannabe had no idea how to throw a proper punch. But, with natural gifts, he caught on quickly. Three years after lacing up his first gloves he represented his country in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, and won a bronze medal in the superheavyweight division. Ajagba and his fellow medalists were invited to the home of the Nigerian president as part of a celebration and given stipends as a result of their success, which in Ajagba’s case allowed him to focus 100 percent on the sport for the first time.
The bronze medalist had been working at a bakery while he trained, his meager earnings helping his struggling family to make ends meet in a challenging economic environment. His father, Ajagba said, was unable to work because of health problems.
That’s why the elder Ajagba, a former amateur boxer who gave up the sport to work, wasn’t thrilled when his son declared he wanted to give up his job and pursue his boxing dreams in earnest. Dad marched to the gym and told the coach in no uncertain terms: “No, it’s not possible.”
The impromptu meeting produced an agreement: Efe would train early in the morning and work afterward.
“That was the only way we would survive,” Efe said.
Those days are now in the past. Ajagba would go on to cap his successful amateur career by competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where he was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Along the way he caught the attention of boxing manager Shelly Finkel, who ultimately signed the prospect to a professional contract.
Ajagba’s first pro fight was in July of last year.
“I saw some footage on him,” Finkel said. “I thought he was a really special heavyweight. He’s so calm under pressure. He’s big. And he’s a giant puncher, a really big puncher.”
Finkel led Ajagba to Shields, which led to Ajagba relocating to Houston about 14 months ago. The fighter couldn’t be happier. He said Shields has become “a father figure” and that he can’t wait to get to the gym each day. He also enjoys living in Texas, far from the hardships back home in Africa.
“I’m very happy,” said Ajagba, who shares in a nice apartment with a cousin. “I love it. This is what’s best for me, the best stepping stone a boxer can have. And (Shields) is the best coach, the best coach I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m learning a lot every day.”
Ajagba’s hard work and contentment has paid off so far, as only one of his six opponents has survived beyond the first round. One of them, Dell Long, lasted only 35 seconds in May. The power is obvious.
Finkel and Shields don’t want to rush anything, though. Ajagba is only 24 and still has a lot to learn, which the fighter acknowledges. They project that he could become a championship contender within two years, assuming things continue to go well.
And, of course, no one connected to Ajagba expects bumps in the road. He’s too talented, too determined.
“I Googled him and saw his Olympic fights,” Shields said. “I thought, ‘Man, this kid has all the tools it takes to win the heavyweight championship of the world. That got me really excited. … And, oh my god, he’s a hard worker. He doesn’t know when to stop. He wants to be a world champion. He wants to show his people what he’s capable of doing.
“He doesn’t want to go back to Nigeria without a championship belt.”
That’s Ajagba’s goal, a world title. And, yes, he is motivated in part by pride. There’s more to it than that, though.
Ajagba was uncomfortable talking about the fortune he stands to make if things go well. He knows that sudden riches have ruined more than one boxer. Some turn into miserable boors while others simply blow through their earnings and end up worse off than they started. Ajagba, his feet firmly on the ground, doesn’t want that to be his fate.
That said he does have a plan for when the big checks start coming in.
Ajagba knows well how discouraging life can be for young people in his home country. He wants to become a champion in part to demonstrate what’s possible - to serve as an example for others as his favorite fighter, Lennox Lewis, once did for him.
As part of that, he intends to open a boxing complex back home for at-risk youths. He also plans to move his entire family to the United States.
“When I become something, I will open a big boxing gym there to motivate young people to become all they want to be,” Ajagba said. “I know how things go in Nigeria; it’s not easy. That’s why I want them to hear my story. I want people to know where I started and where I am today.”
Indeed, Ajagba is shaping up to be a terrific fighter — but also a fine role model.
Showtime to produce and distribute the most significant heavyweight fight In the U.S. since 2002 — a blockbuster matchup of undefeated champions.
Wilder vs. Fury tests the raw power of Wilder against the unmatched size and mobility of Fury. America’s only heavyweight champion since 2007, Wilder has 39 knockouts in 40 professional fights, including knockouts in all seven of his title defenses. Fury is a former IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight world champion who is undefeated in 27 professional fights and holds boxing’s coveted lineal heavyweight title.
The evenly matched showdown of top-ranked heavyweights pits boxing’s two largest champions against each other in the most significant heavyweight fight in the United States since Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson in 2002. In addition to physical stature – Wilder is 6-foot-7, Fury 6-foot-9 – both are among boxing’s greatest showmen, with outsized personalities and heavyweight charisma.
“Wilder vs. Fury is a throwback to the glory days of heavyweight boxing – a 50/50 matchup between two larger-than-life athletes with towering physical frames and captivating personalities,” said Stephen Espinoza, President, Sports and Event Programming for Showtime Networks Inc. “Deontay Wilder has proven he’s the hardest puncher in boxing. Tyson Fury‘s size and skill set present a challenge unlike any other in the heavyweight division. No one knows what will happen when these two giants step into the ring, and that’s what makes this fight so fascinating.”
Wilder vs. Fury is the latest major heavyweight event to take place in the Southland, expanding an already deep history of heavyweight boxing featuring Hall of Famers Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko, the last of whom faced off at STAPLES Center in 2003.
Tickets for the event, which is promoted by BombZquad Enterprises and Queensberry Promotions, in association with DiBella Entertainment and TGB Promotions, go on sale Wednesday, October 3 at 12 p.m. PT. Tickets are priced starting at $75, plus applicable fees, and are available via AXS.com. Wilder vs. Fury will be produced and distributed by SHOWTIME PPV.
“I can’t wait to fight Tyson Fury in the biggest fight in the heavyweight division and all of boxing,” said Wilder. “I have tremendous respect for Fury for agreeing to leave England and come to the U.S. to challenge me. I’m the WBC champion, he’s the lineal champion, and the winner of this fight will show the world who is ‘The Man’ in the heavyweight division. As much as I respect Fury, I fear no man and fully intend to knock him out like every man that I’ve ever faced in the ring.”
“People talk about me only having two fights since my layoff, but that doesn’t bother me at all,” Fury said. “This is the Tyson Fury show. It always has been. This is my era, and I proved that when I beat Klitschko in his own backyard. Is Wilder the biggest puncher I have faced? You don’t know that until you are on the floor. It is all about not getting hit in this fight. Until someone beats me, I am the king of the heavyweight division. Long live the king.”
“There is no better place in the world than STAPLES Center to have these two giant heavyweights, WBC champion Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury, clashing in an epic championship fight,” said Lee Zeidman, President, STAPLES Center. “This is the kind of match that will add to the rich tradition of Southland boxing and we are incredibly proud to host it."
“ I can’t wait to fight Tyson Fury in the biggest fight in the heavyweight division and all of boxing. The winner of this fight will show the world who is ‘The Man’ in the heavyweight division.
”WBC Heavyweight Champ Deontay Wilder
After winning bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games, Wilder knocked out his first 32 professional opponents inside of four rounds to earn a shot at WBC Heavyweight Champion Bermane Stiverne on Jan. 17, 2015. The Tuscaloosa, Ala., native defeated Stiverne via near-shutout decision, going the distance for the first time in his career to become America’s first heavyweight world champion since Shannon Briggs in 2007.
As WBC champion, Wilder has knocked out all seven of his world title challengers, including a devastating first-round knockout of Stiverne in a 2017 rematch. In his last fight, Wilder survived the toughest test of his career in undefeated top-five ranked world title challenger Luis Ortiz. Wilder knocked out the Cuban slugger in a leading candidate for 2018 Fight of the Year.
In Fury, Wilder will face his second consecutive top-five heavyweight in what experts have set as the closest odds of his professional career.
Fury, who was born in 1988 and named after then-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, competed as an amateur for both England and Ireland before turning professional in 2008. The self-proclaimed “Gypsy King” dominated the competition early in his career to earn a world title shot against Wladimir Klitschko, who had ruled over the heavyweight division for nine consecutive years.
Fury shocked the world with a unanimous decision win over Klitschko in 2015, limiting the future Hall of Famer to the worst offensive output of his professional career. Subsequent battles with drugs, mental health and weight gain, along with a failure to face his mandatory challengers, cost Fury his belts and led to a nearly three-year hiatus from the sport.
Fury was triumphant in his long-awaited return on June 9 against Sefer Seferi, leading to a second comeback fight less than 75 days later against former world title challenger Francesco Pianeta. Weighing within 11 pounds of his fighting weight when he dethroned Klitschko, Fury displayed prime movement, hand speed and footwork in a shutout decision to earn the opportunity to become a two-time heavyweight world champion on December 1.
The stacked card from Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California will feature unbeaten heavyweight and 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist Joe Joyce making his U.S. debut, plus undefeated prospects Efe Ajagba, Joey Spencer and Stephen Fulton returning to the ring in separate attractions.
John Molina, Jr., who was scheduled to be in the main event, will be rescheduled to return to the ring soon. And former welterweight champion Victor Ortiz, who was slated to face Molina, will no longer be on the card.
Televised coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and will feature 2016 Olympic silver medalist Joe Joyce facing Iago Kiladze in a 10-round heavyweight attraction.
Tickets for the event, which is promoted by TGB Promotions and Ringstar Sports, are on sale now and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.
Figueroa (16-0, 11 KOs), the brother of former lightweight world champion Omar Figueroa, Jr., continues to climb the ladder in the featherweight division with a step up match against the tough former title challenger Escandon. The 21-year-old out of Weslaco, Texas was busy last year as he won all four of his matches and he has logged two knockout victories this year, beating Giovanni Delgado in March and Luis Roy Suarez Cruz in his last fight on August 4, with three of those six wins coming on FS1 and FOX Deportes.
The 34-year-old Escandon (25-4, 17 KOs), who fought in the 2004 Olympian for Colombia, is a hardnosed veteran from Ibague, Colombia looking to rebound from two tough losses to Tugstsogt Nyambayar on May 26 on FS1 and WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell, Jr. in 2017.
A 6-foot-6 heavyweight, Joyce (5-0, 5 KOs) won the silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as a super heavyweight from Great Britain and now trains in Big Bear, California with Abel Sanchez. The 32-year-old from London turned pro in 2017 and has been on a knockout roll since. Joyce, whose nickname is 'Juggernaut,' has ended four of his five fights inside of two rounds. He scored a first-round KO victory over Ivica Bacurin in his last fight on June 15.
Kiladze (26-3, 18 KOs) is an experienced veteran who will test Joyce early in his young career. The 32-year-old out of Ukraine who now lives in Los Angeles and will be looking to rebound from back-to-back losses to Michael Hunter and Adam Kownacki. Before those losses he had put together a six-match win streak.
Accomplished artist and 2016 Olympic silver medalist from London is ready to make a big statement Sunday night when he faces Iago Kiladze on PBC on FS1.
“We are unleashing a beast in the U.S.”
That warning was issued by Richard Schaefer of Ringstar Sports.
The beast is Joe Joyce, a soft-spoken giant of a man from London, England, a college graduate and 2016 Olympic super heavyweight silver medalist who has come to America in search of a heavyweight world title.
The unleashing will take place this Sunday night, Sept. 30, at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California when Joyce (5-0, 5 KOs) makes his American debut against Iago Kiladze (26-3, 18 KOs) from the Republic of Georgia in an eight-round heavyweight battle. It will be part of the undercard for a PBC on FS1 (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) main event featuring former welterweight champion Victor Ortiz and former title contender John Molina Jr.
Joyce has been training hard in the mountains of Big Bear Lake, Calif., under the tutelage of his new trainer Abel Sanchez. It has been an eye-opening experience for Joyce, who had been working in London with Ismael Salas, the legendary former Cuban National team coach, before he abruptly retired.
Joyce subsequently came to Big Bear for a trial run with Sanchez, who trains former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. Joyce and Sanchez fighter clicked immediately, making it an official working relationship two months ago.
“Being on the (British) Olympic team I was used to working in secluded places, but out here in Big Bear there are no distractions,” Joyce said. “There are benefits to being here because the air quality is really fresh, and the altitude benefits my training. It’s tough running up here in the altitude. I’m already super fit. This is just going to get me ultra-fit. The training regimen here is very tough, and you’ll see on fight night what I’ve gained from it.”
Schaefer says Joyce, who turned 33 last week, is the real deal and Sanchez is a perfect fit for Joyce.
Joyce’s age could be a detriment for a guy so early into his pro career, Sanchez said. He’s working hard to get the message of urgency across to the fighter.
“It’s unfortunate … but he’s going to have to push it fast. He hasn’t got that many years to school in the gym. He’s going to have to go at a pace that isn’t the best thing for him but he’s got no choice,” Sanchez said. “He just turned 33 a couple days ago, so they’re going to have to move him into a title fight very soon to take advantage of his youth. Although heavyweights mature a little later, I understand from the management that they are looking to move him very fast.”
Joyce hasn’t felt that sense of urgency yet, and says it’s because he’s a low-mileage fighter who has only been boxing for 10 years and had his pro debut less than a year ago. With three first-round KOs, he has only 13 rounds of pro experience under his belt.
“I still feel young, and fresh. I’ve been in the sport for 10 years and I started when I was 22, so I’ve got low mileage and at the same time I’m an experienced amateur, winning all five of the medals you can get as an amateur,” Joyce said. “I had a 10-rounder in my pro debut, and [needed only] four fights to win the Commonwealth title, so I’m very capable of winning heavyweight titles.
Despite his age, Joyce has a quality that can’t be taught in the gym, according to Sanchez: an innate meanness that he’s seen come out during sparring sessions. It’s the polar opposite of Joyce’s happy-go-lucky personality outside of the ring.
“I look at him like a George Foreman, where once he gets in the ring he wants to punish you, just jump on you,” Sanchez said. “He has a tendency to get a little upset when he gets hit with a shot that he shouldn’t have been hit with, and he has this mean streak in him that comes out. It’s, how can it put it, dangerous for his sparring partners.”
Of all the qualities the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Joyce carries into the ring—the biggest is his size.
“How he moves for his size, and how he reacts for his size,” Sanchez said. “Not so much a Muhammad Ali movement, but his reactions and instincts for a big man are quite impressive.”
What Joyce needs the most work on is his speed.
“I think I have to pick up his speed in sparring,” Sanchez said. “His defense is decent but his speed is something I have to get a little bit faster because it’s going to be a detriment to him when he fights the smaller heavyweights that are quicker.”
Sanchez is working on putting more snap into Joyce’s punches, “showing me how to throw them power shots, the hooks that Gennady (Golovkin) use … how to get that snap in my punches to land heavy shots.”
Away from the ring, there’s another type of canvas Joyce enjoys working on, the kind that sits on an easel. Joyce is an accomplished artist who counts Picasso, Van Gogh and American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat among his inspirations.
“I started being creative and painting at a young age and both my parents (his mother is Nigerian) are artsy,” Joyce said. “I was very good in school and I progressed to ‘A’ level. I went to college and did an art foundation, got a BA (in) Fine Arts, and I’ve been painting at quite a high level.”
He also did a semester as an exchange student at Sacramento State.
“I love art,” he said. “Boxing is my sole focus right now, but as soon as I get time, I’d love to make some work.”
Joyce hopes to make short work out of Kiladze, whom he says “is very seasoned and had a lot of success in his fights. He’s a good solid boxer so it’s going to be tough competition.”
Kiladze, 32, is coming off consecutive knockout losses to undefeated slugger Adam Kownacki and former U.S. Olympian Michael Hunter.
Joyce hopes to live up to his nickname, “The Juggernaut,” on Sunday. “I’m really looking forward to expanding my fan base here in America,” he said.
Joyce’s prediction is summed up in three words.
“Joe Joyce. Knockout.”
For a closer look at Joe Joyce, check out his fighter page.