It's that time of the year for Showtime to once again come out swinging.
In its continued efforts to serve as the industry leader for top shelf boxing, the premium cable giant turned its 2018 schedule announcement into a major event with many of the participants on hand for the unveiling Wednesday afternoon in New York City.
"The stars have truly aligned, and SHOWTIME and (Premier Boxing Champions) will once again set the pace for a landmark year in boxing," said Stephen Espinoza, who earlier in the day was promoted to President of Sports & Event Programming for Showtime Networks Inc. "To continue with the positive momentum, our goal is to deliver the very best fights on a consistent basis to the broadest possible audience."
A total of 12 sanctioned title fights grace 10 shows through June 16, including its 2018 premiere which took place January 20 in Brooklyn, New York.
Speaking of Brooklyn, the Barclays Center will play host to at least three shows and possibly five as the six-year old venue continues its own efforts to serve as the hub for boxing on the east coast. The January 20 show was staged there, with championship boxing returning to Brooklyn on March 3 with the long awaited heavyweight title clash between unbeatens Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz.
Wilder celebrated his three-year anniversary as champ earlier this month and will attempt the seventh defense of his lengthy reign. Meanwhile, Ortiz seeks to become the first-ever Cuba-born boxer to win a piece of the heavyweight crown.
Two weeks prior, former two-division titlist Danny Garcia returns to the ring for the first time since a narrow points loss to Keith Thurman in their title unification clash last March. Garcia takes on another former beltholder in Brandon Rios, as their welterweight clash tops a televised doubleheader live from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Opening the show is a rematch to the September 2017 thriller that saw David Benavidez Jr. become the youngest super middleweight titilist in boxing history in a razor-thin decision over Ronald Gavril.
The full 2018 Showtime first-half schedule—which runs all the way through Father's Day—is as follows:
1/20—Barclays Center, Brooklyn NY (already happened)
Errol Spence TKO8 Lamont Peterson —welterweight title fight
Robert Easter Jr. W12 Javier Fortuna—lightweight (non-title due to Fortuna missing weight)
2/17—Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV
Danny Garcia vs. Brandon Rios—welterweight title eliminator
David Benavidez vs. Ronald Gavril—super middleweight title fight rematch
3/3—Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz—heavyweight title fight
Jermall Charlo vs. Hugo Centeno—middleweight interim title fight
3/10—Freeman Coliseum, San Antonio, Texas
Sergey Lipinets vs. Mikey Garcia—super lightweight title fight
Rances Barthelemy vs. Kiryl Relich—super lightweight title fight rematch
Erislandy Lara vs. Jarrett "Swift" Hurd—super welterweight title unification fight
Adrien Broner vs. Omar Figueroa—super lightweight title eliminator
Gervonta Davis vs. TBA
5/19—Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Keith Thurman vs. TBA—welterweight unified title fight
5/19—Location in Canada TBD
Adonis Stevenson vs. Badou Jack—World (lineal) light heavyweight championship title fight
6/9—Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares—featherweight title consolidation fight (rematch)
Jermell Charlo vs. TBA—super welterweight title fight
6/16—Location in Dallas TBD
Errol Spence vs. TBA—welterweight title fight
Not listed on the schedule, the March 31 heavyweight title unification clash between unbeaten champs Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker is expected to land on Showtime or an affiliated network. Terms for TV coverage have not been finalized, which of course is why it was not part of the network announcement, although such an event—which will take place in front of more than 70,000 fans in Cardiff, Wales—will serve as the centerpiece of a loaded boxing schedule. Even more so, it would be the perfect follow-up to Wilder-Ortiz earlier in the month, as Showtime is all the way committed to serving not just as heavyweight headquarters, but eventually pairing the winners in a blockbuster bout that would crown a true heavyweight king.
If by chance Joshua-Parker doesn't land somewhere among the Showtime family, the remaining schedule still far outshines what any other stateside network can offer up through the first half of the year.
"This lineup delivers pivotal bouts with frequency and purpose - all free to our subscribers," notes Espinoza. "Showtime is far and away the No. 1 destination for boxing fans nationwide."