NEW YORK, February 8 – The next chapter of the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico boxing rivalry will play out in the Big Apple on Saturday, March 2 when Mexico’s Daniel Ponce De Leon defends his World Boxing Council (WBC) Featherweight World Championship against Puerto Rico’s latest knockout artist, Jayson Velez, in the main event from the legendary Apollo Theater in New York City live on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast). The night of fights marks the first time in over 15 years that the Apollo has played host to professional boxing with the last fight taking place in November 1997.
The SHOWTIME action doesn’t stop there as the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) Lightweight World Championship will be on the line when Richard Abril and Sharif “The Lion” Bogere square off in the co-main event which was originally scheduled for November, but was postponed when Bogere suffered an ankle injury. Opening the broadcast will be unbeaten featherweight phenom Gary Russell Jr. against Russia’s Vyacheslav Gusevin a 10-round featherweight bout.
“There’s nothing like boxing’s Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry and this fight between Ponce De Leon and Velez is going to be explosive from start to finish,” said Oscar De La Hoya, President of Golden Boy Promotions. “New York City is the perfect location for this event and we can’t wait to have our first show at the historic Apollo Theater.”
“This will be a great fight once again the classic battle between Puerto Rico and Mexico,” said Miguel Cotto. “Jayson is ready to take the challenge and fight for the world title. Puerto Rico will have a new world champion on March 2.”
“This is a fight we’ve been waiting a long time for and my first defense is just around the corner,” said Ponce De Leon. “I feel better prepared than when I won the title against Jhonny Gonzalez. I’m sure I’ll win and will be world champion for a long time. I’m focused on the fight. I’m not bothered or uncomfortable fighting outside of my own backyard. To the contrary, it motivates me to fight better.”
“I’ve been training really hard and am focused for this fight,” said Velez. “Winning a belt has been the goal my whole life. Everything in camp is going as we planned and I can’t wait to be in the ring on March 2.”
“On March 2, SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING will give boxing fans another action-packed card featuring a line-up of pressure fighters who almost never take a step back,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager, SHOWTIME Sports. “With two world title fights at the legendary Apollo Theater, this event promises entertaining action from start to finish.”
Ponce De Leon vs. Velez, a 12-round fight for Ponce De Leon’s WBC Featherweight World Championship, is presented by Golden Boy Promotions and Miguel Cotto Promotions and sponsored by Corona. In the co-featured attractions on SHOWTIME, WBA Interim Lightweight World Champion Richar Abril squares off against WBA number three rated lightweight contender Sharif Bogere for the vacant WBA Lightweight World Championship and featherweight contender Gary Russell Jr. faces Russia’s Vyacheslav Gusev in a ten-round featherweight bout. The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast begins at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast) with preliminary fights to air live on SHOWTIME Extreme at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).
Tickets, priced at $300, $200, $100, $50 and $25, not including applicable taxes and service charges, go on sale on Tomorrow, Saturday, February 9 at noon ET and will be available for purchase at the Apollo Theater box office, www.ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster locations or by calling 800-745-3000.
Considered by many to be comeback fighter of the year in 2012, former Junior Featherweight World Champion Daniel Ponce De Leon (44-4, 35 KO’s) took the long road back to the top, but last year he reaped the fruits of his labor in spectacular fashion. Ponce De Leon had an excellent 2012 during which he knocked out Omar Estrella in January, decisioned Eduardo Lazcano in May and became a two-division world champion on September 15 when he outpointed Jhonny Gonzalez for the WBC Featherweight World Championship. On March 2, his second reign begins as he makes his first defense.
Hailing from Juncos, Puerto Rico, 24-year-old Jayson Velez (20-0, 15 KO’s) has a mighty legacy to live up to when it comes to the warriors from the boxing-rich island, but over the course of his five-year career, he’s shown the talent and drive to join them. The owner of the WBC USNBC, WBO Latino and WBC Silver Featherweight titles, Velez put on a precision power-punching clinic last December when he stopped Salvador Sanchez in the third round at Madison Square Garden. On March 2, he’ll be back in New York in an attempt to earn his first world title.
30-year old Richar Abril (17-3-1, 8 KO’s) was fairly unknown outside of hardcore fight circles heading into 2012, but when the Cuba-born resident of Miami, Florida took on highly-touted Brandon Rios for the WBA Lightweight World Championship in April of last year, that status changed over the span of 12 rounds. Though WBA Interim Lightweight World Champion Abril lost a split decision to Rios that night, the boxing media and fans around the world voiced their displeasure, calling it one of the worst decisions ever. On March 2, Abril rightfully gets another shot at the title, this time against Bogere.
Uganda native Sharif “The Lion” Bogere (23-0, 15 KO’s) was a five-time African champion in his amateur days and now he’s eager to add some professional gold to his trophy case on March 2. An aggressive contender with impressive power, the 24-year old (who now makes his home in Las Vegas) has impressed in his wins over top rising stars Ray Beltran, Francisco Contreras, Sergio Rivera and Manuel Leyva, putting him in prime position for a shot at the world title.
Perhaps the most talented young fighter in the sport today, 24-year-old southpaw Gary Russell Jr. (21-0, 13 KO’s) has been showing his stellar boxing skills since his days as an amateur standout. In the fourth year of his professional career in 2012, he began adding power punching into his repertoire with impressive knockouts of Christopher Perez and Roberto Castaneda. On March 2, the Capitol Heights, Maryland resident will look to continue to wow fans in his New York debut in the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING opening fight against Gusev.
Prokopyevsk, Russia’s Vyacheslav Gusev (20-2, 5 KO’s) is a nine year professional who has started to fulfill his world championship potential in the ring. A decorated competitor with several regional titles to his name, the 26-year-old began making his mark in 2010 as he began a four-fight winning streak that he will bring into the ring with him on March 2. In his most recent fight on April 30, he rose from the canvas to decision Padjai Yongyuthgym and he plans on handing Russell his first defeat at the Apollo.