Lem Satterfield

EPIX rolls out Abraham-Stieglitz, Cleverly-Krasniqi, Klitschko-Pianeta


Hammer-fisted super middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham will defend his WBO belt on March 23 against Robert Stieglitz at GTEC Arena in Magdeburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany. The rematch will be televised on EPIX.

In addition, EPIX has announced that a scheduled bout between WBO light heavyweight beltholder Nathan Cleverly (25-0, 12 knockouts) and Robin Krasniqi (39-2, 15 KOs), a winner of 38 consecutive bouts, 14 by knockout, has been moved from March 16 to April 20 at London’s Wembley Arena.

Two weeks later on May 4 on EPIX, heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (59-3, 50 KOs) will defend his many titles against former sparring partner Francesco Pianeta (28-1, 15 KOs), a southpaw who was born in Italy, at The SAP-Arena in Mannheim, Germany.

Klitschko, who turns 37 on March 25, is coming off an EPIX-televised unanimous decision victory over challenger Mariusz Wach, who later admitted to having used an unidentified performing enhancing drug in advance of their fight.

Klitschko will be making his fourth consecutive defense on EPIX.

“We’ve felt that as a network, the heavyweight division has been neglected, but there has been an opportunity for us to own it,” said Travis Pomposello, chief creative officer of EPIX sports. “I still feel, and a lot of people feel, that it is the marquee division in boxing and it really always has been the storybook division. Yes, it’s gone to Europe over the past few years with the Klitschkos, but when you’re the heavyweight champion of the world, nothing sounds quite like that.

“People in the United States, fight fans who have not been exposed to that, have been able to see that on EPIX. I think that it’s been the culmination of the perfect course of events. Having had all of Wladimir’s fights, since the David Haye fight, which was on HBO, his record and his numbers speak for themselves. He’ll be touted as a legend, and we’ve been able to tell his story.”

A 33-year-old former IBF middleweight titleholder, Abraham (36-3, 28 KOs) is coming off the first defense of the crown he won from Stieglitz, an eighth-round stoppage of Mehdi Bouadla in December.

A 31-year-old who had made six defenses of the belt he won by 11th-round knockout over previously unbeaten Karoly Balzsay in August of 2009, Stieglitz (43-3, 24 KOs) is coming off last month’s third-round knockout of Michal Nieroda.

“When I heard that there was a rematch between Abraham and Stieglitz,” said Pomposello. “I knew that it was going to be a great fight.”

NBC’s Bruce Beck and promoter Lou DiBella will call Abraham-Stieglitz “from ringside,” said Pompesello, with the telecast starting at 4 p.m. ET and 1 p.m. PT on EPIX, and will be streamed live on EpixHD.com and on the EPIX app on Xbox consoles and Roku players as part of a special free trial offer.

“The primary goal that we’ve started with is wanting to give good fights and fights that would otherwise be neglected and to bring those to the fans in the United States. We’ll continue to do that, and I think that we’ve had some imitators since we’ve started to do that, and I think that’s very flattering,” said Pomposello.

“We don’t have a number of fights a year that we want to do or what division we want to own, or a promoter we want to make a long-term deal with. We just try to continue to put on competitive fights with marquee value that people want to see, especially at that time of the day.”

Also on the Abraham-Stieglitz II card will be a heavyweight matchup featuring Robert “The Nordic Nightmare” Helenius (18-0, 11 KOs), a native of Finland who was born in Sweden and fights out of Germany.

“We’ve kept an eye on Helenius and what he’s doing,” said Pomposello. “He’s slowly coming back.”

The match up between Cleverly and Krasniqi was moved after the lightweight headliner between Mexican IBF beltholder Miguel Vazquez and British WBO counterpart Ricky Burns fell out.

Pomposello said the network is working toward crossing over to televising Amercan fighters in the United States.

“That’s something on the horizon and it’s certainly a goal. Our strategy is talking about that. When that opportunity comes up, we will definitely be there to do that,” said Pomposello.

“We’ve had some possibilities but they were not quite the right ones yet, but it will happen and it’s definitely on the horizon.”

For more information about EPIX, go to www.EpixHD.com. Follow EPIX Sports on Twitter @EPIXsports  and on Facebook www.facebook.com/EPIXsports.



Lem Satterfield can be reached at lemuel.satterfield@gmail.com

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