The 2018 BROOKLYN BOXING schedule at Barclays Center is starting to take shape.
In addition to the March 3 heavyweight championship bout between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz, two more world championship fights were announced Wednesday as part of SHOWTIME and Premier Boxing Champions’ 2018 Upfront, introducing a 10-event schedule on the network for the first half of 2018 that began with last Saturday’s BROOKLYN BOXING fight night headlined by Errol Spence Jr. retaining his welterweight title with an eighth-round stoppage of former two-division champ Lamont Peterson.
A bout for the WBC interim middleweight championship has been added to the Wilder vs. Ortiz card, with unbeaten former super welterweight champ Jermall Charlo taking on Hugo Centeno Jr. On May 19, unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman will make his return to the ring following elbow surgery, fighting for the first time since his win over Danny Garcia at Barclays Center in March 2017.
Wilder, Ortiz, Charlo, Centeno and Thurman were among the 21 fighters taking the stage at Wednesday’s event.
“Our commitment is stronger than ever before,” said Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark. “2017 was our best year to date. We were home to many of the year’s top highlights, brought to us by some of the fighters here today. 2018 will top it. Last Saturday’s boxing event was just the beginning. We plan to host six to eight major events this year, including the long-awaited matchup between Wilder and Ortiz on March 3. We’re also looking forward to hosting Keith Thurman’s return to the ring this May.”
But first up is Wilder vs. Ortiz. The two brawlers were expected to meet in Brooklyn last November before Ortiz failed a drug test for banned substances. Wilder responded by destroying former champ Bermane Stiverne, Ortiz’s replacement, with a first-round knockout. That lifted Wilder’s career mark to 39-0 with 38 knockouts. Ortiz is unbeaten in 28 fights with 24 knockouts, meaning the two men who will face off on March 3 have knocked out a combined 62 opponents in 67 fights.
“The people are in for a great fight,” said Wilder. “Come March the 3rd I can’t wait. It’s going to be fireworks. It’s going to be explosive. 39-0 with with 38 KOs. I’m looking to add another KO to that like I always promise to do.”
“If he comes out all crazy, we can give him an electric shock early to finish this fight,” said Ortiz via a translator. “But if he comes out smart, then it could be a long fight.”
Wilder’s 2016 title defense against Artur Szpilka brought heavyweight championship boxing back to Brooklyn for the first time in 115 years, and this will be his third fight at Barclays Center. The Ortiz fight will be the seventh straight for Wilder held in either Brooklyn or his home state of Alabama, dating back to June 2015.
Like Wilder, Charlo will also be fighting at Barclays Center for the second straight time. Last July, he easily handled Jorge Sebastian Heiland with a fourth-round stoppage in his middleweight debut after vacating the IBF world super welterweight title he had held for two years.
“My ideal goal is to show the world why I’m the best in the world at 160 pounds,” said Charlo.
Centeno is getting his first title shot in this battle for the interim belt. He last fought at Barclays Center in 2014, a fifth-round knockout of James De la Rosa.
“We’ve got a good game plan for this fight and I’m very excited,” said Centeno. “Excited to be back in Brooklyn fighting at Barclays Center. I’m all about the best fighting the best.”
In May, Barclays Center will once again welcome welterweight king Keith Thurman. His March 2017 fight win against Danny Garcia made him the unified champ, holding the WBA and WBC belts. It also drew the largest crowd in BROOKLYN BOXING history with attendance of 16,533, in addition to drawing 5.1 million viewers on CBS, making it the highest rated primetime boxing broadcast since 1998.
Elbow surgery after the Garcia win sidelined Thurman for the rest of 2017.
“My first fight coming back in the ring is a welcome back fight,” said Thurman. “Out of surgery. Before my surgery, I fought Danny Garcia, I fought Shawn Porter. I took out two top welterweights in the welterweight division. I had surgery. Athletes need time to recover, so I’m going to have a get-back fight. After that, we’ll have to see what happens. It might be a mandatory. Could be pushed upon me later this year. We don’t know exactly where the politics will lead.
“But I know Errol Spence is thinking about me. I know he’s gunning for me. And he’s on my radar as well. I look forward to stepping in and testing out and seeing for myself what the truth is all about, because to me, I’m the truth. He’s going to have to see me. I’m the true champion at 147. He’s going to have to see me. He’s eager to take my No. 1 spot, and I love competition.”
This will be Thurman’s third straight fight at Barclays Center. His 2016 championship defense against Shawn Porter was widely recognized as one of that year’s top fights.
Yormark also announced that two Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment venues currently under renovation, Webster Hall and the LIU Brooklyn Paramount Theatre, would be hosting grassroots boxing events upon their opening, citing the ascendant careers of local fighters like Brooklyn heavyweight Adam Kownacki and Staten Island light heavyweight Marcus Browne.
“We think of ourselves as much more than just a building,” said Yormark. “BROOKLYN BOXING has become an international brand and Barclays Center has become an aspirational venue for fighters. Our investment in boxing is not just about showcasing world title fights and big names. It’s about building careers in our ring.”