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The venerable ShoBox kicks off twentieth season on January 20

15
Dec

It’s better, isn’t it, that ShoBox kicks off its 20th year in business in 2021, not 2020.

This year, summing it up overall, let’s ask for a write-off, shall we?

The venerable–yes, they are now old enough to have that term used to describe them–series will have their ball drop, of sorts, on Jan. 20, 2021, and seven undefeated boxers will get on stage and look to elevate themselves to that next level. That’s been the signature quest for the athletes who sign on to perform on ShoBox, where they know the”through line” for the series has remained consistent from conception to present day: “The ShoBox philosophy is to televise exciting, crowd-pleasing and competitive matches while providing a proving ground for willing prospects determined to fight for a world title.”

Patrick Cora and Hurshidbek Normatov meet in a 10-round super welterweight bout Wednesday, January 20 live on SHOWTIME at 9 p.m. ET/PT from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. January 2021, y’all.



The eight prospects currently attached to the card have a collective record of 93-1-3, 45 KOs. But let’s not get lost in a swirl of virtual confetti, as we ponder the start to the special season. It would be a minor miracle if all eight athletes make it to the Jan. 20 finish line. I don’t have to guess, I know Gordon Hall and company are in touch with all matchmakers and managers who have a hand in the 2021 starter show, and have some ideas for fill ins if needs arise.

The ShoBox quadrupleheader features Yeis Gabriel Solano making his ShoBox return against fellow unbeaten Mykquan Williams in an eight-round super lightweight bout. Also, Panama’s unbeaten Jose Nunez is to face amateur ace Aram Avagyan in an eight-round featherweight matchup.

Featherweight prospects Martino Jules and Pedro Marquez Medina are set to meet in the eight-round telecast opener.

“We are excited to ring in the new year with a ShoBox event that brings together five promoters and features eight fighters with only one loss amongst them,” said Gordon Hall, executive producer for ShoBox: The New Generation. (Yes, that is the official name of the series.)

Phillips, Hall and Gaughan, in their element, circa 2011. (Photo by Tom Casino)

“Each fight presents prospects in both corners in their toughest tests to date with all looking to continue their quest to turn from prospect to contender. Our 2021 kickoff event speaks to SHOWTIME’s commitment to work with all promoters and managers to develop the stars of tomorrow.”

The event is promoted by Sampson Boxing and Paco Presents Boxing, in association with DiBella Entertainment, Kings Promotions and Salita Promotions.  Let that variety of promotional powers working in concert be a blue-print for the rest of our nation toiling outside the fight game sphere.

And yes, the 2021 opener coming out the same time as Andre Ward, the ShoBox alum, getting into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, along with Floyd Mayweather and Wladimir Klitschko, it fits. The durability of the concept and program, it is something to celebrate, maybe more so than during some other eras, which will not be looked back upon as being riddled with uncertainty like this.

“Andre Ward fought five times on ShoBox,” Gordon Hall recalls. “One of his career defining fights was on ShoBox, against Edison Miranda (May 16, 2009). He was always thought of as a skilled boxer with limited power. In that fight he bullied the bully and showed he was more than just a pretty fighter.”

Even hardcore fight fans with some gray in their game may not recall that out of the gate, they were to run ShoBoxes on Saturdays, early Saturday afternoon on the West Coast. Or that blow by blow man Nick Charles had been a CNN guy.

The late Jay Larkin ran boxing at Showtime then, and he told media that people like good fights, coinflip fights on paper, and bells and whistles and laser light shows aren’t the primary draw here.

The first one unspooled on Saturday, July 21, 2001, at Bally’s in Atlantic City. The first fight had NYer turned Jersey boy Johnny Molnar (18-1-1 entering, ended career 20-2-2 in 2005) beat Victor Rosado after cuts from butts sent it to the cards after 8 of a scheduled ten.

Then, Romanian Leonard Dorin (17-0 entering, finished 22-1-1 three years later) bettered Martin O’Malley in the main event, when commissioner Larry Hazzard pulled the plug after the ninth because O’Malley looked like Dorin was using a Louisville Slugger.

And who recalls it was PBC’s Tim Smith interviewing Dorin, the first ShoBoxer to win a world title, in the ring after his hand was raised?

Faces change, but the identity of the show stays pretty much the same. Many of the fights are on paper early cross-roads matches, and one striver often shows another ambitious pugilist things they weren’t aware they didn’t know. It may be too sad a task to tally up how many boxers who perceived themselves to be young guns learned a sad lesson in the concept of professional ceilings, and started to ponder vocational plan Bs after taking an L on a ShoBox stage.

To start season 20, Cora (10-0, 7 KOs; pictured below) from Puerto Rico and Uzbekistan’s Normatov (10-0, 3 KOs), who now resides and fights out of Brooklyn, NY both want to win and keep winning, and get to be known sports celebs in their homelands.

The Colombian Solano (15-0, 10 KOs) meets Williams (15-0-1, 7 KOs), from Connecticut, who was featured in Ring Magazine’s “New Faces” column in 2019.

Panama’s Nunez (11-0-1, 4 KOs) turned pro in 2016 and looks forward to his U.S. debut on ShoBox on January 20. He meets the Aremian Avagyan (10-0-1, 4 KOs), who returns to ShoBox for the second time after surviving two early knockdowns in his debut against then-unbeaten Dagoberto Aguero in March. It was the last ShoBox telecast before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sports world for several months.

Allentown, PA’s Martino Jules (10-0, 2 KOs) is to make his ShoBox debut. Puerto Rico’s Medina (12-1, 8 KOs) had a sweet win in January 2020, when he captured the WBA NABO featherweight title via third-round technical knockout over Juan Carlos Pena, who was 30-1.

International Boxing Hall of Famer Barry Tompkins will call the action from ringside with fellow Hall of Famer and boxing historian Steve Farhood, who was there for that first July 2001 program.

Farhood and Charles had chemistry, and a manner that came off as the proper blend of passionate, respectful, intelligent and knowledgable.

Farhood still has an envious amount of hair.

Former world champion Raul Marquez will also analyze. The executive producer has been and will be Gordon Hall, with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.

A couple of those guys have less hair than they did in shows or years past, but no less love for the game. Credit to them for that, and to that network, including Showtime boxing bossman Stephen Espinoza, for having a culture which shows continuing respect for continuity and tradition.

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