The new year will kick off with a heavyweight bang, as five exciting heavyweight matchups take center stage on a jam-packed FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View on New Year’s Day live from Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
The main event will see top heavyweight Luis “King Kong” Ortiz take on former world champion Charles Martin in a 12-round IBF Heavyweight Title Eliminator. In the co-main event, unbeaten rising heavyweight star Frank “The Cuban Flash” Sanchez will square off against Puerto Rican Olympian Carlos Negron in a 10-round attraction.
The pay-per-view telecast begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and will also see heavyweight contenders Jonnie Rice and Michael Coffie battle in a 10-round rematch, former title challenger Gerald “El Gallo Negro” Washington in a 10-round showdown against Turkish Olympian Ali Eren Demirezen and unbeaten Viktor Faust facing Iago Kiladze in a 10-round attraction to open the pay-per-view.
With exceptional power and sublime technical skills, Ortiz (32-2, 27 KOs) has been a fixture atop heavyweight rankings for years, with his only defeats coming in memorable contests against former longtime heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. Born in Camaguey, Cuba and trained by longtime coach Herman Caicedo in Miami, Ortiz won three bouts between Wilder contests, defeating Travis Kauffman, Christian Hammer and Razvan Cojanu. Prior to that run, Ortiz picked up victories over the likes of Bryant Jennings, Tony Thompson and Malik Scott to build up his heavyweight resume. Most recently, Ortiz blasted out Alexander Flores in the first round of their November 2020 bout.
“I can’t wait to give my fans in South Florida a great show on New Year’s Day and earn another shot at the heavyweight title,” said Ortiz. “Charles Martin is a good fighter, but he’s standing in my way. The only thing on my mind is getting in the ring and making a big statement in this fight to show again why I’m feared by the heavyweight division.”
The 35-year-old Martin (28-2-1, 25 KOs) became heavyweight champion in January 2016 when he won by TKO against then unbeaten Vyacheslav Glazkov. After losing his title to Anthony Joshua, Martin has won five of his last six fights, with all of his wins coming inside the distance. Originally from St. Louis, now living in Las Vegas and currently training in Southern California with Manny Robles, Martin bounced back from a narrow decision defeat to Adam Kownacki in 2018 to earn three-straight victories, including most recently knocking out Gerald Washington in February 2020.
“Nobody wants to fight me and nobody wants to fight Ortiz, so we’ll fight each other,” said Martin. “I’m going to show the world on January 1 why I deserve a title shot. I’ve paid my dues and I want my belt back. Beating Ortiz is going to get me one step closer to that goal. In order to become two-time heavyweight champion, I have to get past Ortiz first, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
An amateur standout from his native Cuba, Sánchez (19-0, 13 KOs) now trains in San Diego with top trainer Eddy Reynoso. The 29-year-old has stayed busy on his rise up the heavyweight rankings, scoring three victories in 2020 as he earned a unanimous decision over Joey Dawejko and stopped Brian Howard and Julian Fernandez. Sanchez most recently scored a career-best win in October, dropping previously unbeaten Efe Ajagba on his way to a unanimous decision victory.
“I’m happy to be back so soon after beating Agjaba, but the work is only beginning,” said Sanchez. “There’s much more to be done. I believe I will be the first heavyweight champion in Cuban history. Negron is a strong, dangerous opponent. I’ll have to be my best, but I’m confident that I will come out victorious. I believe in my team, and my team believes in me. We’ll start the New Year off getting to 20-0, remain busy and make a strong case for a world title by year’s end.”
The 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian Negron (25-3, 20 KOs) rides a five-fight winning streak into January 1, including four wins by stoppage. The 34-year-old bounced back from defeats to Dominic Breazeale and Brian Howard to put together his win streak, which includes a March 2020 knockout over previously unbeaten Robert Alfonso. Negron has fought professionally since 2009 and now lives in Miami where he trains alongside Luis Ortiz.
“This is a great opportunity for me to get a win over a strong up-and-coming fighter and show everyone what I’m capable of,” said Negron. “I’m training hard and I’ve had great sparring in order to be ready for anything that Sanchez is going to bring. My experience and preparation are going to be the difference. I’m extremely motivated to give the fans a great fight and put myself in position to get a world title opportunity.”
Born in South Carolina and now fighting out of Los Angeles, Rice (14-6-1, 10 KOs) will look to repeat a career-best performance in the rematch against Coffie, after he stopped the previously unbeaten fighter in the fifth-round in July. Rice won six of seven fights from 2018 through 2019 before a pair of losses in 2020 against then unbeatens Efe Ajagba and Demsey McKean. In a pro career that dates back to 2014, the blemishes on Rice’s records have all come against previously unbeaten fighters.
“In my last fight against Coffie, I went in there to prove myself and do what I had been training to do,” said Rice. “It was sink or swim, and I came out on top. Now I have to go out there on January 1 and show that it wasn’t a fluke. This is a great stage for me to display my talents and prove that I’m capable of big things. I’m looking to give the fans a great performance and I know that Coffie is doing the same. Don’t miss this fight.”
Coffie (12-1, 9 KOs) hopes to bounce back from his first career defeat after dropping the first matchup against Rice in July. A Marine Corps veteran who picked up boxing after returning from overseas, Coffie quickly impressed in amateur tournaments enough to earn sparring assignments with Deontay Wilder and Adam Kownacki. He was born in the Bronx, but now trains in Orlando, Florida and broke through in 2020 with three dominating stoppage victories, including knockouts over previously unbeaten opponents Darmani Rock and Luis Pena.
“I want to get it back and make it an actual fight this time against Jonny Rice,” said Coffie. “Last time, I was in a position where I faced some adversity, and I had to make a decision to go through with the fight. I know that I can fight through adversity, and on January 1, I will be ready for whatever way the fight goes. On January 1, there will be a fight.”
Washington (20-4-1, 13 KOs) is a six-foot-six heavyweight contender who was a former college football standout at the University of Southern California and a U.S. Navy veteran. Born in San Jose, California, Washington most recently lost a contest against former heavyweight champion Charles Martin in February 2020. Prior to that fight, Washington had delivered a knockout of veteran contender Robert Helenius in July 2019. Washington was unbeaten in his first 19 pro fights before dropping his world title challenge to Deontay Wilder in February 2017.
“I’m looking forward to stepping back in the ring on January 1,” said Washington. “I’m ready to go to work and get myself back in position for some big time fights. My experience is going to be the difference in this fight. It’s going to be a great night of heavyweight action!”
A 2016 Olympian for Turkey, Demirezen (14-1, 11 KOs) has fought out of Hamburg, Germany in the professional ranks since turning pro in late 2016. The 31-year-old won his first 11 pro fights, including a second round stoppage of Rad Rashid to capture a European heavyweight title in 2018. Demirezen made his only other U.S. start in 2019, when he became the first person to go the distance against Efe Ajagba, losing by decision. Since that defeat, Demirezen has scored three-straight victories, most recently stopping Nikola Milacic in March.
“I learned a lot from my loss to Ajagba and I’m looking forward to getting another chance to box in the U.S.,” said Demirezen. “I’m still angry about the Ajagba fight, because I know that I could have won. I want to show now that I belong on this stage. I’m proud to be in this position to show what I can do and I’m going to make the most of the opportunity.”
The 29-year-old Faust (8-0, 6 KOs) turned pro in February 2020 after an extensive amateur career fighting out of his native Svitlovodsk, Ukraine. Faust knocked out his first four opponents, before winning dominant six and eight round decisions. After a first round knockout over previously unbeaten Jacek Piatek in May, Faust made his U.S. debut in October, dropping Mike Marshall twice on his way to a third-round TKO victory.
“I’m really excited to be back fighting in the U.S. again on January 1,” said Faust. “I’ve been welcomed warmly and fighting stateside already feels like my living room. I love the atmosphere. This is a great chance to show myself on this pay-per-view show against a very high-quality opponent. I won’t disappoint fans when I step into the ring.”
Kiladze (27-5-1, 19 KOs) returned to the win column in September, with a knockout victory over Mathew McKinney. Since he began fighting stateside full time in 2017, Kiladze’s losses have come against top heavyweights Adam Kownacki, Michael Hunter, Efe Ajagba and Joe Joyce, who sported a combined 45-1 record heading into their matchups against Kiladze. Originally from Georgia and now fighting out of Los Angeles, Kiladze owns a 2019 draw against then unbeaten Robert Alfonso and won six straight fights between 2014 and 2018.
In the co-main event battle between two unbeaten heavyweights, Frank Sánchez (19-0, 13 KOs) scored one knockdown on his way to a comfortable, 10-round unanimous decision win over Efe Ajagba.
Sánchez used his superior boxing skills to keep the hard-hitting Ajagba (15-1, 12 KOs) off-balance for the entire fight. The “Cuban Flash” displayed his power as well, flooring Ajagba with a hard right in the seventh. A follow-up left hook which landed a tick after Ajagba’s knee hit the canvas and caused referee Mike Ortega to warn Sanchez.
Ajagba made it to his feet and survived the round but never seriously threatened on his way to the first defeat of his career.
Robert Helenius (31-3, 20 KOs) was even better against Adam Kownacki (20-2, 15 KOs) this time. In a rematch of their March 2020 slugfest, which Helenius won via fourth-round TKO, Helenius battered Kownacki throughout to induce a stoppage at 2:38 of the sixth round of their scheduled 12-round heavyweight encounter.
“It was good,” Helenius said of the ending. “Either way, it would have been a stoppage. I had a lot of good shots tonight and he didn’t have any.
“I expected [this win] because, what does he have? Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good brawler, but I’ve been fighting brawlers for 20 years. I know how to deal with them, even if they are hitting me low or behind the head. That doesn’t bother me.”
Helenius used his height and length to box in the first, working the jab up and downstairs and briefly buckling Kownacki with a right toward the end of the stanza.
Kownacki came alive in the second and third, throwing punches in bunches, but earned a warning for two low blows that sank Helenius to his knees. The “Nordic Nightmare” took over from that point on, closing Kownacki’s left eye and bloodying his nose with thudding power shots.
The steady hammering continued until the sixth, when Kownacki landed another low blow. Referee Celestino Ruiz examined Kownacki as he warned him for the infraction and decided to halt the action.
“Right now, I want to go home to my family,” Helenius said. “I’ve been away from them for four weeks. Then we can worry about what’s next.”
Jared “Big Baby” Anderson (10-0, 10 KOs) continued his rapid rise up the heavyweight ranks, stopping veteran Vladimir Tereshkin (22-1-1, 12 KOs) at 2:51 of the second round.
“I was a little anxious in the opening round,” Anderson said. “My first pay-per-view card and all that. But I settled in and gave a great performance. I practiced what my coaches preached. On to the next one.”
Anderson dominated from the opening bell, landing at will. In the second, a series of well-placed power shots drove Tereshkin toward the ropes where Anderson unloaded on his defenseless opponent until referee Kenny Bayless stepped in.
“I got great work in the gym with Tyson Fury. Iron sharpens iron,” Anderson said. “Shout out to Toledo, my home. I hope I made the fans back home proud.”
Photo: Ryan Hafey / Premier Boxing Champions
Top heavyweight contender Luis “King Kong” Ortiz (32-2, 27 KOs) impressed in his ring return Saturday night, knocking out Alexander “The Great” Flores (18-3-1, 16 KOs) in the first round of their FOX PBC Fight Night main event and on FOX Deportes from Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Returning to the ring after a loss to then heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder last November, Ortiz came out firing from the opening moments. The Cuban southpaw landed a series of jabs and a glancing left hand that forced Flores on the retreat early.
It was then a perfectly placed lead right hook to the body that would end the night early, as Flores folded from the shot to the ribs, giving Ortiz the victory at 45 seconds of the first round.
In the co-main event, rising heavyweight Frank “The Cuban Flash” Sanchez (16-0, 12 KOs) scored a fourth-round knockout over Brian Howard (15-4, 12 KOs), knocking him down three times on his way to the victory.
Sanchez showed improved aggression against Howard, stalking his opponent and forcing the action effectively from the outset. Late in round three, Sanchez broke through with a right uppercut that stunned Howard, before a left hook and straight right hand sent him to the mat.
Howard made it through the round, but in round four Sanchez put him down again with a left hook in the round’s opening moments. Sanchez’s third knockdown of the fight came on chopping right and left hands shortly after. A final flurry from Sanchez eventually forced referee Jerry Cantu to halt the fight 2:07 into the round.
Sanchez controlled the action throughout, out landing Howard 66 to 11, while connecting on 35% of his punches.
In another heavyweight attraction, unbeaten Michael Coffie (11-0, 8 KOs) delivered a TKO victory over veteran Joey Abell (35-11, 33 KOs) in the second round of their bout.
A veteran of the Marine Corps, Coffie connected with a perfect left hook to the body that ended the fight early in the second round. Abell appeared to injure his right bicep while throwing a punch, right before being hit with the hook that ended the fight when referee Rudy Barragan counted Abell out 49 seconds into the round.
“I shielded myself from a punch and I noticed he hit my guard without turning his hand all the way, so I just threw the body shot off of that and he went down,” said Coffie. “I wanted to show a lot tonight. I worked on setting traps in the gym. I saw that he was lunging a lot with his lead hook. So I was trying to sit back and get under that and throw an uppercut.”
In the opening bout, Puerto Rican Olympian Carlos Negron (22-3, 18 KOs) stopped Mexico’s Rafael Rios (11-3, 8 KOs) 2:33 into the second round. Negron hurt Rios with a big right hand early in the frame, eventually dropping him later in the round. While Rios got back to his feet, Negron continued to push forward until referee Rudy Barragan waived off the fight.
Photo: Sean Michael Ham/TGB Promotions
Unbeaten rising contender Frank “The Cuban Flash” Sanchez is determined to send a message to rest of the heavyweight division when he takes on Brian Howard in the co-main event of FOX PBC Fight Night and on FOX Deportes this Saturday, November 7 from Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
“I want to show that I’m the best heavyweight in the world,” said Sanchez. “I’m happy with the way that my career is moving along. I have great power, great speed and the division will have to take notice after this fight. My foot and hand speed is unlike any other heavyweight, and I have much better technique than anyone else in the division.”
The 28-year-old Sanchez has continued to work with renowned coach Eddy Reynoso in San Diego, California as he seeks another win to help his ascension up the heavyweight rankings. Despite the pandemic, Sanchez hasn’t felt any hindrance to his training camp regimen.
“Training with Eddy Reynoso in San Diego has been perfect,” said Sanchez. “There really hasn’t been any difference with the pandemic. It’s a very normal training camp and we’ve been getting a lot of sparring in with a number of different fighters. I’ve even sparred with Canelo Alvarez, who hits like a heavyweight. So, it’s been really strong preparation for this fight.”
A highly decorated amateur originally from Guantanamo, Cuba, Sanchez believes that he has the skillset and dedication to become the first heavyweight world champion from his home country.
“That’s the dream that I am working toward,” said Sanchez. “It would be extremely important for Cuba and for me personally. That’s why I’m working so hard. Because I want to the be the first heavyweight champion that Cuba’s ever had. I have none of the vices outside of the ring that have held back other fighters. All I do is train, train, train and fight. This sport is my whole life.”
On November 7, Sanchez’s latest obstacle will come in the form of the Georgia native Howard. Howard has spent most of his career fighting in the cruiserweight division, before making his heavyweight debut with a first round knockout of Puerto Rican Olympian Carlos Negron last year. Although Howard’s past at a lower weight class could help his ability to create an agile target for Sanchez, it is nothing the unbeaten fighter isn’t confident he will overcome.
“I’ve watched a number of Howard’s fights,” said Sanchez. “He has good power, but I don’t think he’ll be able to handle my power. I think I’ll win inside the distance. I’m a solid, full-fledged heavyweight. My skill level is too high for Howard. His movement won’t matter because I do everything better than him.”