Boxing Chicago style: Fonfara vs. Smith, PBC on NBC Saturday

Andrzej Fonfara bides his time in front of his adopted hometown fans waiting for his rematch with Adonis Stevenson.

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Andrzej Fonfara prepares for his bout Saturday against Joe Smith Jr. in Chicago. Photo: Nabeel Ahmad, Premier Boxing Champions
Andrzej Fonfara prepares for his bout Saturday against Joe Smith Jr. in Chicago. Photo: Nabeel Ahmad, Premier Boxing Champions

SAN DIEGO, June 17, 2016 – Polish born light heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara should be fighting Canada’s Adonis Stevenson in a long-awaited rematch this weekend, whether in Chicago or somewhere else.

Instead, Fonfara will face American Joe Smith Jr. in a 10-round main event at Chicago’s UIC Pavillion on Saturday as part of a PBC broadcast on the NBC network starting at 8:30 pm ET/5:30 pm PT.

Andrzej Fonfara is in little danger of losing his WBC title belt Saturday in Chicago. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions
Andrzej Fonfara is in little danger of losing his WBC title belt Saturday in Chicago. Photo: Nabeel Ahmad, Premier Boxing Champions

Fonfara (28-3, 16 KOs) should have little trouble getting his fourth victory in a row and against Smith (21-1, 17 KOs). It will please his Polish fanbase in Chicago who enjoyed watching Fonfara win a unanimous decision including a knockdown over Britain’s Nathan Cleverly in October. This followed his first appearance on the West Coast last April where he stopped Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. in a thrilling fight at the Stub Hub Center.

Two years ago, Fonfara lost to Stevenson, the current WBC light heavyweight champion. Fonfara was hit hard in the first round and was knocked down in the fifth by a body shot from Stevenson, but Fonfara showed how tough and determined he is, and dropped Stevenson in the ninth round for only the second time in his career. Although Stevenson prevailed in the unanimous decision, fans have been eager to see a rematch ever since and more so as Fonfara’s performances have improved.


Fonfara said after the Stevenson fight, “I’m still young, I’m training hard, and one day I’m world champion.” He wants to make good on this promise, but he’ll have to bide his time and put on a good show against Smith Saturday. Fonfara said at Thursday’s pre-fight news conference. “Joe Smith is a young guy who is here to beat me. I have to show him I’m a better fighter in the ring. What we say now doesn’t matter, we’ll see everything on Saturday night.” Fonfara says he won’t give Smith a lot of space to punch.

Andrzej Fonfara showed he was ready to challenge the top competitors in the light heavyweight division with his ninth round stoppage of Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. last year. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions
Andrzej Fonfara showed he was ready to challenge the top competitors in the light heavyweight division with his ninth round stoppage of Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. last year. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions

If you’re trying to figure out who Smith Jr. is, don’t beat yourself up over it. So are the rest of us. Smith has fought all his bouts in New York state or nearby casino venues like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. His only notable win is a unanimous decision against fellow New Yorker Will Rosinsky. Smith Jr. is ranked 41st in the light heavyweight division according to BoxRec. Fonfara pointed out Thursday the only quality opponent (Rosinsky) went the distance against Smith Jr. “I’m here to prove myself to all those who think I shouldn’t be here,” said Smith Jr. “I’m amped up to get in the ring with a high quality fighter like Andrzej Fonfara and put on a show.”

Andrzej Fonfara (left) and Joe Smith Jr. headline Saturday's card in Chicago. Photo: Nabeel Ahmad, Premier Boxing Champions
Andrzej Fonfara (left) and Joe Smith Jr. headline Saturday’s card in Chicago. Photo: Nabeel Ahmad, Premier Boxing Champions

Stevenson will defend his title July 29 in Quebec City against Thomas Williams. Williams knocked out Edwin Rodriguez on the Berto vs. Ortiz undercard April 30 in a strong performance that surprised many people. It’s not that Williams doesn’t deserve the shot against Stevenson, but outside of Sergey Kovalev and now Andre Ward, Fonfara is among the elite in the light heavyweight division and greatly improved from two years ago. Fonfara has been calling for a rematch ever since he stopped Chavez Jr. He’ll have to be patient and wait to see if Stevenson has the nerve to take him on.

While Premier Boxing has been reluctant to pit its best against its best (as in Stevenson and Fonfara), the promoter deserves credit for staging fight cards in regional venues outside of New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles like Chicago, San Antonio, and Birmingham, Alabama with Deontay Wilder. There is an appetite for boxing and by showcasing local favorites, new fans give boxing a chance and may develop enthusiasm for the sport. Nothing beats seeing top level boxing in person.

The opening bout on the televised card puts three-time American Olympian Rau’shee Warren (13-1, 4 KOs) against title holder Juan Carlos Payano (17-0. 8 KOs) of the Dominican Republic in a rematch. Payano won a split decision over Warren in their first fight. Warren knocked down Payano in the 12th round, but it was not enough to overcome a two-point deduction suffered by Warren in the ninth round for roughing up Payano.

Juan Carlos Payano (left) defeated Rau'shee Warren in their first bout. Warren hope to get his revenge in the rematch Saturday. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions
Juan Carlos Payano (left) defeated Rau’shee Warren in their first bout. Warren hope to get his revenge in the rematch Saturday. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions

At this week’s pre-fight news conference, Warren said he felt he won the first time, and “I’m going out to get what I deserve” on Saturday. He has been sparring with Mayweather Promotions prospect Gervanta Davis, who is 20 pounds heavier than Payano with more power and a longer reach. Payano replied, “I know Warren has to say that he thinks he won the fight and maybe he really does think that. It doesn’t affect me … At the end of the day I will win the fight and leave no more controversy.”

Warren, who is 28, stayed much longer in the amateur ranks in search of a medal. He’s had trouble shaking off the amateur volume punching style, and needs to develop the knockout power and predatory instinct needed in the professional ranks to succeed. We suggest he watch video of Vasyl Lomachenko.

Erickson Lubin (left) is dedicating his bout to his hometown of Orlando, Florida. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions
Erickson Lubin (left) is dedicating his bout to his hometown of Orlando, Florida. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions

Fans will also see 20-year-old Erickson “The Hammer” Lubin of Orlando, Florida (14-0, 10 KOs) against Daniel Sandoval (37-3, 34 KOs) of Mexico in a junior middleweight content. This division is hot thanks to Demetrius Andrade’s impressive knockout win last week, the rising fortunes of the Charlo brothers, along with Julian Williams and Erislandy Lara. Lubin can put himself right into the middle of the title hunt with a win over Sandoval. Sandoval has stopped just once and despite his long resume is only 25 years old. His 92 percent knockout rate should not be dismissed.

Lubin, a native and lifelong resident of Orlando, has dedicated Saturday’s fight to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting last Sunday. Lubin lives a 30 minutes drive from the site of the mass shooting. He was at a birthday party for his girlfriend when he learned what had happened.

“This hits really close to home for me in a lot of ways,” Lubin said. “My heart and my prayers go out to everyone in Orlando. I’m looking at coming up with some way of supporting those affected by the situation, maybe a charity or a fundraiser for the hospitals.”

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

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