Big Windy City – The UIC Pavilion in Chicago hosts a 9-bout card on Saturday, June 18. Topping the marquee is a 12-round contest between Juan Carlos Payano and Rau’shee Warren for the WBA World super bantamweight title. Payano-Warren and two other bouts will be televised live on NBC beginning at 8:30 PM ET (5:30 PT). The event is promoted by Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.
The bout between Payano (17-0, 8 KOs) and Warren (13-1, 4 KOs) is a rematch. They went at it hammer-and-tongs last July 2 at Winter Park, Florida, in Payano’s first title defense after wresting the diadem from Panama’s Anselmo Moreno. When the smoke cleared, Payano was awarded the decision. Two judges favored him by scores of 113-111 with the third judge voting for Warren, 115-109. Many ringsiders thought Warren was more deserving.
Payano and Warren, both southpaws, have outstanding amateur pedigrees. Payano, who now resides in the Miami area, represented the Dominican Republic in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games. Warren, who hails from Cincinnati, owns the distinction of being the only three-time U.S. Olympic boxer.
The co-feature, a 10-round contest between Andrzej Fonfara (28-3, 1 ND, 16 KOs) and Joe Smith Jr. (21-1, 17 KOs) could stand alone as the main event because the Warsaw-born Fonfara has acquired a large following in the Windy City where he makes his home. Sixteen of Fonfara’s 32 fights have been here at the UIC Pavilion and he has competed at other venues in the Chicago metropolis.
Fonfara was perceived as nothing more than a club fighter until he opposed reigning WBC World light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson on May 24, 2014, on Stevenson’s turf in Montreal. Fonfara lost the fight, but made Stevenson dig deep for his bone. He went on to dominate Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. en route to a ninth round stoppage and then, in his most recent fight, outpoint Nathan Cleverly, the former WBO light heavyweight champion. On paper he figures to have little trouble with Joe Smith Jr., a Long Island construction worker who is taking a big jump up in class.
A third TV bout finds rising star Erickson Lubin (14-0, 10 KOs) tangling with Daniel Sandoval (38-3, 35 KOs) in a 10-round contest in the 154-pound division. The precocious Lubin, only 20 years old, eschewed a chance to compete for the U.S. Olympic team to jump-start his pro career. A southpaw, he hails from Orlando, Florida. Sandoval, from Guadalajara, has scored 20 of his 35 knockouts within the first two rounds.
Another 10-round contest is an intriguing battle between undefeated middleweights Hugo Centeno Jr. (24-0, 1 NC, 12 KOs) and Maclej Sulecki (22-0, 7 KOs). Centeno hails from Oxnard, a hotbed of boxing in southern California. Sulecki, in common with Fonfara, hails from Warsaw. Recognized as the Polish middleweight champion, Sulecki will be making his fourth appearance in a U.S. ring. Centeno represents his stiffest test.
The Sweet Science has been on the scene in Chicago covering pre-fight activities. To follow the latest developments, check out The Boxing Channel.
Big Windy City