This Friday night from the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Nebraska a notable milestone is being reached. 'ShoBox: the New Generation' celebrates it's 20th anniversary with a triple-header that is headlined by a super middleweight clash between two undefeated prospects in Kalvin Henderson (14-0-1. 10 KO's) and Isaiah Steen (15-0, 12 KOs).
What began on July 21, 2001 with a novel concept of matching young, relatively unknown boxers against one another to see who would be moving up the ladder, has stood the test of time. That first card that took place at the Bally's Park Place Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, featured Leonard Dorin, who stopped Martin O'Malley in nine rounds. Eventually, Dorin would capture a version of the lightweight title.
Which has been a common theme for this franchise, that fighters who are able to survive this crucible, oftentimes go onto to bigger and better things in their career. At the moment, 84 boxers who have appeared on 'ShoBox' have gone onto win world titles.
The list includes: Tim Bradley, Tyson Fury, Andre Ward, Deontay Wilder, Carl Froch, Ricky Hatton, Kelly Pavlik, Shawn Porter and Gary Russell Jr.
This series was originally the brainchild of promoters Gary Shaw (who at the time was the head of Main Events) and Frank Warren -- both of whom were doing regular business with Showtime at that juncture -- who were able to convince the late Jay Larkin, the long-time Sr. Vice President and Executive Producer for Showtime Sports, to run with the concept of featuring fledgling prizefighters in fights where they would be matched with other up-and-coming boxers.
'ShoBox' was then given over to Gordon Hall as his baby. While his official title is 'executive producer', in reality he is the heart-and-soul of it. Basically every match that has been made and put together on this series, has been screened and approved by him. One day, he should get consideration for a permanent spot in Canastota because of his dedication to his job, and the contribution this series has made to the sport of boxing.
It's that rare developmental series that actually has an air of real competition. While many others feature a series of lopsided 'house fights' and squash jobs, 'ShoBox', at least in theory, is trying to give you some real fights. And more often than not, you will see a bright prospect prove their mettle and advance their careers, or see one that gets exposed as nothing more than a built up record.
The business needs another series or two similar to 'ShoBox', where fighters who haven't quite become stars or mainstays of premium cable outlets (or nowadays, streaming platforms) can stay active and continue to hone their skills, and just as importantly, build their profiles.
In the past we had 'Tuesday Night Fights' on USA, which was a personal favorite of mine. It regularly showcased world-class boxers in between their bigger bouts, and you would see a plethora of blue-chip prospects from various promotional outlets. Then there was 'Solo Boxeo' on UniMas, which was a key developmental portal mainly for Top Rank in the early-to-late 2000's featuring mostly Latin fighters. Then there was ESPN's 'Friday Night Fights', which didn't always feature the best fights, but at the very least provided a communal gathering spot for hard-core fans of the sport to kick off the weekend.
Now you have FS1 which does a series of fights from PBC. Telemundo has had it's late night Friday night series (Boxeo Telemundo) for years, and 'the Ring City USA' series on the NBC Sports Network must be lauded for it's early efforts.
'ShoBox' should be given plaudits just for sticking around and staying as true as they could to their original mission statement. Beyond that, any entity that can last 20 years in the television industry should be given praise. Long ago it established itself as the most consistent launching pad for future world champions in boxing. For two decades it has provided boxers a pathway into our consciousness that may have otherwise not been available, the two most recent examples are Jaron 'Boots' Ennis and Brandun Lee, who seemed destined to join the illustrious list of champions who cut their teeth on this program.
Here's to at least 20 more years of 'ShoBox'
“This is a milestone 'ShoBox' event and we could not be more excited,” said Hall. “As we celebrate two decades of 'ShoBox' on July 23, we will stay true to our ethos to match undefeated, developing prospects tough."
SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER
Triller announced on Wednesday that 'Legends II' featuring the bout between Oscar De La Hoya and Vitor Belfort (which will no longer be an 'exhibition bout') will take place on September 11 at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles.
Then it was reported by various outlets, that a deal would be coming together for WBC/WBA/WBO super middleweight champion, Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, to face IBF belt-holder, Caleb Plant on September 18. According to Mike Coppinger of ESPN, this showdown will take place in Las Vegas and be promoted by PBC.
Then a week later, unified heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua (WBA, IBF, WBO) will take on his WBO mandatory, Oleksandr Usyk, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England. This is an intriguing match-up, I believe Usyk will give the much larger 'AJ' all he can handle despite the difference in size.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Sports
As part of the Joe Joyce-Carlos Takam undercard this weekend at the Wembley Arena is junior middleweight hopeful, Hamzah Sheerez, who faces Ezequiel Gurria, in a 10 rounder.
The 22 year old Sheerez(who has a record of 12-0, 8 KO's) who hails from London, for the last year or so has been training in Van Nuys, California, under the guidance of Ricky Funez, who is sky high on this prospect.
"I believe Hamza has the potential to be an elite 154-pounder, and a champion, if he stays grounded and disciplined as he is now," Funez said to me. "Every once in awhile someone special comes into boxing like (Mike) Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Alexis Arguello and Canelo.
"I believe this kid will be there and is going to make a statement in in the boxing world when his time comes."
Former WBA super middleweight champion, Callum Smith, is now working under the direction of trainer Buddy McGirt at the Blue Moon Boxing Gym in Los Angeles. Smith is coming off a December loss to Canelo... Manager Tim Van Newhouse, who has branched out on his own, has announced the signing of Najee Lopez, a 21 year old heavyweight from Atlanta....Top Rank has made it official, WBC 130 pound champion, Oscar Valdez, will be defending his title versus Robson Conceição in Tucson, Arizona. This card which will be streamed on ESPN+ has a really attractive co-feature with WBO flyweight titlist, Junto Nakatani, taking on number one contender, Angel Acosta....Did anyone see that tweet from De La Hoya towards Canelo and Eddie Hearn? Yeah, he's got more receipts than Rite Aid....My email is firstname.lastname@example.org