Fight week kicked-off in Chicago on Wednesday for Premier Boxing Champions on NBC taking place this Saturday, June 18 at the UIC Pavilion headlined by light heavyweight bruiser Andrzej Fonfara battling hard-hitting New Yorker Joe Smith Jr.
Televised coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT and features a bantamweight world championship rematch between Juan Carlos Payano and Rau’shee Warren plus rising star Erickson Lubin battling Mexico’s Daniel Sandoval. At 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT, PBC coverage switches to NBCSN and will feature a battle of unbeaten middleweights as Hugo Centeno Jr. takes on Poland’s Maciej Sulecki.
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by Warriors Boxing and Star Boxing, are priced at $201, $101, $61 and $41, not including applicable service charges, and are on sale now. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or UIC Pavilion Box Office at (312) 413-5740. Tickets are also available at www.ticketmaster.com or by visiting the UIC Pavilion Box Office (Thursday or Friday 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.).
Wednesday’s media workout took place at Oakley Fight Club in Chicago as the fighters showed off their skills for the media heading into fight night.
Here is what the fighters had to say Wednesday:
“I’m in great shape right now. Camp went very well. We had great sparring and conditioning. I’m definitely ready to fight.
“We’ve seen a couple of his fights. He’s a young, tough guy. I know that I must win the fight. I’m prepared and I will be victorious.
“I expect this fight to be a real battle. I’m not going to stop throwing punches. I will control the ring and find my spots. I definitely want to give my fans the knockout.
“Fighting in Chicago is a great motivation for me because I have such outstanding support here. I always want to entertain my fans so they keep coming back to watch me perform.
“I was the underdog my whole career. Now in this position, it’s even better. I’m motivated by being in this position. I know my opponent feels overlooked and that will add to his motivation, but I’m ready.”
JOE SMITH JR.
“We’ve done some traveling in camp to get excellent sparring and overall it’s just been a great camp. I’m excited to be here and ready to get in the ring. I’m happy to have this opportunity because I worked so hard for it. I’m looking to put on a show.
“This is a big chance and if I win I can open up a lot of doors. I just need to do what I do best and hopefully I’ll be in a world title fight next.
“I love representing Long Island and New York. I want to bring a title back home.
“I’m going to give it my all and at the end of the night I should come out on top.”
JUAN CARLOS PAYANO
“People can expect a great fight with the same result as the first matchup. I will come out the victor.
“As far as any controversy from the first fight, it was a close fight. I could have made it easier but nevertheless it was what it was.
“At the end of the day, I am the world champion and I took the fight to the challenger. That alone warrants a win. Warren connected at a high percentage but mostly with small body shots that didn’t affect me.
“Warren is the second best fighter in the division and I have no bad feelings towards him. I respect him as an accomplished amateur, but this is not the amateurs. This is a 12-round battle and the same result will come on Saturday night.
“I’ve prepared in the same fashion that I always do. I train all out and I give it my all in the ring.
“I understand my mistakes from the first fight and I know they’re corrected coming in. I’m sure Rau’shee has made his own adjustments. No matter how many times we fight, it will be this same kind of exciting battle.
“I’m going to prevail as the world champion that I am. I will show that there really was no controversy. I’m going to be decisive and make sure that the judges will have no option but to give me each round.
“I’ve been on the big stage before so there is no extra pressure on me. I believe I’m the underdog in this fight but with a win I can show how great I really am.”
“This camp I’ve been sparring with a lot of bigger guys and guys with similar styles to Payano. This camp overall has been great. There’s been a lot of energy in.
“I’ve been getting ready for this since the first fight. That’s going to be the biggest difference from the last fight.
“I’m expecting Payano to try to prove himself. He’s going to bring his all and put it all on the line, just like I will.
“It’s been such an unbelievable camp working in D.C. with Lamont Peterson and his coach, Barry Hunter, along with my coach, Mike Stafford.
“This fight is going to be different. I know it. I’m coming in there to fight. He might think he has the blueprint, but it’s a different story every time. I don’t know if this fight is going 12.
“This is going to take my name up to another level. The world can see me fight. People are ready for the rematch and they’re excited to see what we bring to the table.
“I’m going to do what I do. I’ll feel him out, then take control. It’s important to stick to my plan. I’m not thinking about anything else but me and Payano.
“I’m ready to bring something different. If he misses, I’m going to make him pay. He brought the dog out of me last fight and it will be out again. I have a lot to bring to the table.”
“Training camp was great. I had a lot of time to improve my game and I feel like this Saturday I will be more than prepared. I’m planning on putting on a show.
“I always want to be in tough matchups. It’s been tougher every time and I’ve still come out victorious. That won’t change on Saturday. I’m moving up the ladder and I’m ready.
“I’ve always known I would get here because I believe in myself and my team believes in me. I’m chasing that world title.
“I picture myself breaking my opponent down. If he makes a mistake I’ll knock him out early. No matter what, I’m going to dominate the fight and come out victorious.”
“I’m very happy with training. It’s been a great camp and now I’m just getting ready to weigh-in and get in the ring.
“The kid is a good fighter. He’s young and skilled but I know that I am going to get this victory.
“I’m a Mexican. Mexicans are hungry and we want to win. I have better technique and I’ve done my studying. I’m going to come forward and win the fight.”
HUGO CENTENO JR.
“I’m really excited. I feel strong and ready for fight night. Fortunately, I was able to have a nice long training camp with Eric Brown.
“There’s been a long layoff but now we’re here and ready to keep it going. I’m a gym rat. So I’ve been in the gym for six months. The layoff won’t hurt me, I just love to get in the ring.
“I’m an aggressive boxer, but if I have to mix it up on the inside I will happily do it. I like to fight smart, I’m a lanky fighter and I can fight right handed or southpaw.
“I’m an aggressive boxer, but if I have to mix it up on the inside I will happily do it. I like to fight smart, I’m a lanky fighter and I can fight right handed or southpaw.”
“My opponent is about my size and it should be a really good matchup. We’re both undefeated which should make it fun. Honestly, I don’t think he’s fought someone at my caliber yet, but we’ll see on Saturday.”
“We’re going to find out how hard this fight is when I get in the ring. Only then can we see what my opponent really can do.
“No matter what, there can only be one winner and it will be me. I will win decisively.
“I’ve only seen one of his fights. He has a come-forward style and he’s tall. It won’t be about him though. It’s going to be about what I can do in there.
“I’m not a guy who thinks about how each round will go. But I have a general idea of what I want to do and how I want to get the victory.”