Showtime’s groundbreaking boxing series ‘ShoBox: The New Generation’ celebrated its 20-year anniversary at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Nebraska, on Friday night.
Across two decades, ShoBox has given a platform to some of boxing’s richest, emerging talent, with 84 fighters progressing to win a world title belt of some description. ShoBox alumni include the likes of Devin Haney, Dmitry Bivol, Claressa Shields, David Benavidez, Yordenis Ugas, Jose Pedraza and Tevin Farmer.
Friday night’s 258th ShoBox broadcast provided some typically hard-fought action as well as a mystifying piece of judging.
Cleveland super-middle Isaiah Steen continued his rise with a keenly-contested decision over Kalvin Henderson in the main event. Scores were 97-93 (twice) and 96-94.
Half-brother of super-welterweight contender Charles Conwell, Steen (16-0, 12 KOs) won with his greater boxing acumen and ringcraft, employing movement and a ready jab to outfox Fayetteville’s aggressive Henderson (14-1-1, 10 KOs). Henderson later claimed to have torn his right shoulder in the fourth round.
More aggressive early, Steen buzzed Henderson with a hurtful right in the third with the Arkansas fighter suffering a cut left eye from a headclash later in the session. The Ohio man pulled away in the second half of the fight through his purer boxing skillset with Henderson’s pressure unable to change the narrative.
“It was a close decision because in the first few rounds I wasn’t going by the game plan and was just trying to get him out like I usually do in my fights,” said Steen. “It would have looked good to have the knockout, but beating him like I did was more amazing.
“I want to get added to the undercard of my brother’s fight on the Jake Paul-Tyron Woodley card in my hometown [August 29]. I want to bring it back to Cleveland next month.”
Henderson added: “I thought it was a close fight and that I lost by a close decision. I lost my right hand in Round 4 because I tore my shoulder and from then on, I used the left to try and control the pace. I could have cut the ring off a little bit more. I didn’t want to let him know I couldn’t use my right hand because I knew he would try and take advantage of it. My coach told me to try and fake the right hand like I was going to throw it, and then hit him with the left hand. We followed our game plan, and everything we wanted to do.”
In the co-featured bout, 147-pounder Shinard Bunch appeared unlucky not to earn a clear points verdict over Janelson Figueroa Bocachica. The more cultured and crisp Bunch seemed to win with something to spare, but two of the judges thought otherwise. Scores were 97-93 (Bunch), 95-95 even and 96-94 (Bocachica).
Trenton’sBunch (15-1-1, 13 KOs) was bewildered by the cards. “Of course, I thought I won the fight,” said Bunch. “I honestly feel like I won it. Even his coach said I won the fight. I landed the more powerful shots, even boxing-wise; sticking and moving. The only thing I could do better was get a knockout. I feel like I hurt him plenty of times. I don’t know what the judges were watching.”
Detroit’s Bocachica (17-0-1, 11 KOs) disagreed: “I felt like he didn’t land anything that hurt me and I applied the pressure. I didn’t agree with the judges, but I’m the fighter not the judge. I could have put pressure from beginning instead of the end. I could have used the jab more. I was being lazy with my right hand because I was going to knock him out. Those are things I need to learn.”
Bunch found an early rhythm with Bocachica’s work seeming more wild and harried. Gradually, Bocachica found a groove and edged his way back into the bout as an under-fire Bunch felt the pace in the eighth. But Bunch regrouped well in the final two rounds only for the judges to rule a stalemate.
In the show opener, featherweight Martino Jules (11-0, 2 KOs) earned an eight-round decision over previously unbeaten Armenian Aram Avagyan (10-1-2, 4 KOs). Scores were 79-72, 78-73 and 77-74. Allentown southpaw Jules sealed his victory with a final round knockdown, courtesy of a left hand.
Main photo: Isaiah Steen. Photo: Esther Lin/Showtime.