Melnicki, Rivera added to Wilder-Helenius undercard

Exciting rising prospect Vito Mielnicki Jr. will return to action facing Limberth Ponce in an 8/10-round super welterweight showdown that headlines PBC Prelims on FS2 and FOX Deportes this Saturday, October 15 from Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The FS2 telecast begins at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT and also features unbeaten top lightweight contender Michel Rivera battling California’s Jerry Pérez in an eight-round matchup, and undefeated heavyweight Gurgen Hovhannisyan in an eight-round showdown against Bronx-native Michael Coffie that kicks off the telecast.

Prelims will precede a FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View event at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT headlined by the return of boxing superstar and former longtime heavyweight world champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder as he takes on hard-hitting Robert “The Nordic Nightmare” Helenius in a WBC Heavyweight Title Eliminator.

Representing Roseland, New Jersey, Mielnicki (12-1, 8 KOs) returns to fight at Barclays Center for the second-straight fight after stopping Jimmy Williams in six-rounds in July. The 20-year-old will look to add a third victory to his 2022 record, after kicking the year off with a unanimous decision over Dan Karpency in April. Mielnicki first turned heads during his exceptional amateur career where he compiled a 147-22 record and was named the Most Outstanding Boxer of the 2011 Junior National Golden Gloves, amongst many accolades before turning pro.

Born in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico, Ponce (19-5, 11 KOs) fights out of Rock Island, Illinois throughout his pro career that dates back to 2012. The 31-year-old won eight of nine fights before dropping a December 2021 bout against unbeaten Joey Spencer. Most recently, Ponce scored a unanimous decision over Ramiro Hernandez in May.

Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and now fighting out of Miami, Fla. Rivera (23-0, 14 KOs) burst onto the scene in 2019, making his U.S. debut with a victory over Rene Tellez Giron. The 24-year-old continued his ascent with five more victories in 2020 and 2021 including knockouts of Jon Fernandez and Anthony Mercado. Most recently Rivera dominated the previously unbeaten Joseph Adorno on his way to a unanimous decision in March.

Trained alongside four-division champion Leo Santa Cruz and his family, Pérez (14-1, 11 KOs) bounced back from an April 2021 defeat against top lightweight contender Frank Martin by knocking out Erick Lanzas Jr. in May. The 29-year-old from Oak Hills, California had put together a three-fight knockout streak heading into the Martin fight, which included a 2020 KO of then once-beaten Joshua Zuniga.

The 24-year-old Hovhannisyan (3-0, 3 KOs) has delivered three consecutive knockouts since turning pro in September 2021. Originally from Yerevan, Armenia, he now fights out of Los Angeles as he looks to bolster his heavyweight resume. Most recently, Hovhannisyan blasted out Jesse Bryan on his way to a second round knockout in May.

Coffie (13-2, 10 KOs) hopes to continue his climb back to contention after back-to-back defeats to Jonny Rice in July 2021 and January of this year. 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 most recently knocked out Fulgencio Zuniga in July.

The non-televised undercard lineup will include unbeaten super bantamweight prospects Michael Angeletti (6-0, 5 KOs) and Jeremy Adorno (7-0, 3 KOs) in a six-round showdown, welterweight prospect Keeshawn Williams (9-1-1, 2 KOs) in a six-round matchup against Julio Rosa (5-1, 2 KOs), Cuban heavyweight Geovany Bruzón (7-1, 6 KOs) battling the unbeaten James Evans Jr. (4-0-1, 6 KOs) in a four/six round bout and unbeaten super bantamweight prospect Miguel Román (2-0) taking on fellow unbeaten José Negrete (2-0, 2 KOs).

Rivera: ‘I don’t feel any pressure to remain undefeated’

Unbeaten rising lightweight contender Michel Rivera exuded confidence in previewing his upcoming showdown against Jon Fernández that serves as the co-main event of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING this Saturday, July 3 (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.

“My skills, speed and intelligence are all advantages in my favor,” said Rivera. “I am an aggressive fighter when it is most advantageous for me, but I can also be crafty and turn that into an advantage. My skills and talent will be the difference on fight night.”

The 23-year-old Rivera’s confidence comes from an intensive training camp in Miami with his coach, Herman Caicedo, that has allowed him to work on numerous aspects of his game heading into perhaps the toughest fight of his young career.

“I think it’s important to work on everything in training,” said Rivera. “I am the type of boxer who adapts to what is going on in the moment. So we’ve made sure to work on all areas in order to prevail Saturday night. We’ve had a very organized yet intense preparation for Fernández.”

Rivera broke onto the scene in his U.S. debut in June 2019, as he out-boxed dangerous power-puncher Juan Rene Tellez to earn a unanimous decision. In 2020, Rivera added a pair of impressive victories over veteran contenders, as he stopped Fidel Maldonado Jr. in round 10 of their February clash, before winning via unanimous decision over Ladarius Miller in October. Despite giving up a three-inch height advantage to Fernández, Miller doesn’t see anything in the Spaniard that he won’t be able to overcome.

“His height may be an issue, but I don’t really know much he uses his reach,” said Rivera. “I haven’t seen many of his previous fights, but I’m 100% confident I will overcome anything that he thinks he could do to make me uncomfortable.

“I’ve never fought a European opponent before, but I have fought opponents that were taller than me. I may be smaller, but I have good reach and will look for openings when I get into close range. If it bodes better for me to dominate him with my quickness, I can do that as well.”

A native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Rivera represents the next potential superstar from the sport-rich island, an honorific that has helped motivate and push Rivera toward the championship level that he has nearly reached.

“It feels good to have the support of my country,” said Rivera. “I’m excited by it and I hope that the entire nation is behind me and ready to support me in the way any athlete needs to be cheered on when they reach these heights. I feel it now more than ever. I’m honored when people tell me that I’m the hope of the Dominican Republic.”

In addition to potential pressure from carrying the torch for his homeland, Rivera finds himself fighting smack dab in the middle of a section of the boxing calendar filled with young, undefeated stars such as July 3 main event participant Chris Colbert and last week’s centerstage combatant, Gervonta “Tank” Davis. Despite this, Rivera knows that with opportunities like Saturday, combined with his skills, that he is on the track he has long hoped for.

“I don’t feel any pressure to remain undefeated,” said Rivera. “I trust myself and my abilities 100%. I am convinced that my opportunity to shine has finally arrived and I’m going to make a big statement on July 3.”