SAN DIEGO, Calif., January 17, 2020 – It’s easy to get distracted by football playoff games in January, but there is boxing action on the calendar this weekend well worth your time. Never mind a certain notorious MMA fighter who is also in action in Las Vegas.
Showtime’s Shobox series celebrates 250 cards Friday
Showtime’s long-running “Shobox: The New Generation” fight series marks its 250th fight card Friday from Sloane, Iowa. Since its first broadcast card in 2001, the series has been quietly churning out terrific fights featuring prospects who go on to become champions. Andre Ward, Timothy Bradley, Regis Prograis, Claressa Shields, David Benavidez, Dmitry Bivol, Gervonta Davis, Errol Spence Jr., and most recently prospect Jaron “Boots” Ennis are among the many names who have gotten their first bit of national exposure in the ShoBox ring.
Tonight’s milestone features a tripleheader with super middleweight contender Vladimir Shishkin (9-0, 6 KOs), super lightweight Shohjahon Ergashev (17-0, 15 KOs) and super flyweight Jarico O’Quinn (13-0-1, 8 KOs) all looking to make the kind of impression on fans and their matchmakers to move up to the major leagues. Ergashev and Shishkin both train out of the Kronk Gym with Javan “Sugar” Hill, who is gaining notoriety as the new trainer of heavyweight Tyson Fury.
Philadelphia homecoming: Williams vs Rosario
WBA and IBF unified super welterweight champion Julian “J-Rock” Williams (27-1-1. 16 KOs) also knows what it’s like to win a title in an upset victory. A six to one underdog, Williams took apart Jarrett Hurd in an exceptional performance in May to win the belts. The Philadelphia native will celebrate in the first fight in his home town since 2011 at Temple University’s Liacouras Center on Fox and Fox Deportes, starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
Williams takes on Jeison Rosario (19-1-1, 13 KOs), a 24-year-old Dominican native fighting out of Miami. Rosario is dropping from middleweight to take on the title fight. Bravo to him for having the guts to do it, but he is primarily in front of the 29-year-old Williams to make him look good in front of his family and friends.
“Rosario brings ambition to the table. I think he’s an ambitious kid,” said Williams. “And I don’t think it’s a difficult fight (for me), to be quite honest … I just think it’s a matter of being focused and on top of my game, and I think I’ll take care of him. I don’t think it’s difficult, though. He’s a decent fighter. We’re not going to make him out to be Ray Robinson … He has the ambition to win, so you can’t underestimate him.”
Still, the fight offers Rosario good exposure, and with aggressive fighters, anything can happen.
“I really have been working for years towards this fight. All the training I have done since I began my pro career was a step towards this goal,” said Rosario. “I trained hard. I made sacrifices. I sacrificed my family. And it’s all for this fight. God’s timing is perfect, and this is my time. The public sees it as an easy fight for Williams. I thank him for the opportunity, but my job is to go in and take his titles from him. I have to do it, and I will.”
Williams can’t get careless in any zeal to put on a show. Rosario will come right at him. The fans will enjoy it, for as long as it lasts. Then Williams can start thinking about who presents a worthy matchup at his level shortly.
The Williams vs Rosario card offers the better undercard fights including two names from our 2019 Prospects of the Year list, middleweight Joey Spencer of Union City, California via Michigan, and welterweight Vito Mielnicki Jr. of New Jersey, still four months shy of turning 18 years old.
Alvarez vs Seals offers opportunity to advance toward a title fight
After scoring the biggest win of his career with a shocking knockout victory over Sergey Kovalev, light heavyweight Eleider Alvarez lost the rematch in a lopsided unanimous decision. Alvarez hopes to get back in the win column Saturday at Verona, New York’s Turning Stone Casino against Michael Seals.
The main event begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on ESPN. Alvarez of Colombia living and training in Montreal (24-1, 12 KOs) and Seals of Mobile, Alabama (24-2 18 KOs) made weight with ease.
This is Alvarez’s first fight since handing the WBO title back to Kovalev, who was outboxed by the Russian. He has wins over top talent, including Jean Pascal, Lucien Bute, and Isaac Chilemba, and he has never backed down from a challenge. He still has ambitions of fighting the titleholders at the top including Artur Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol, and
Seals is riding a three-fight stoppage streak and is anxious to work his way back into title consideration. Seals suffered his first loss in 2015 to Edwin Rodriguez, then struggled with an injured shoulder, and an unfortunate DQ loss in 2018 for a late punch. Seals fell off the radar, but he kept taking fights anywhere he could while rideshare driving to make ends meet. The grind paid off when he started delivering attention-getting knockouts. Now the 37-year-old knows he has one last opportunity he always wanted against the crafty, difficult technician Alvarez.
Up for grabs in for the bigger men are two minor titles, the vacant WBC Continental Americas and WBO Intercontinental light heavyweight belts for the winner of this 10 round fight. Alvarez is the favorite, but this is not an easy matchup against the lesser-known Seals. Alvarez has shown he’s got knockout power, but he is more likely to sail to a victory aboard his sharp jab and boxing skills. It is not in his best interest to brawl with the power-punching Seals.
Seals has a puncher’s chance, but he needs to figure out how to get to the more skilled Alvarez to let his power work for him. It’s a tall order for Seals, and a mission he is likely to fail. Alvarez should win by a comfortable unanimous decision and get the opportunity to face one of the top names in the division.
Lightweights Felix Verdejo (25-1, 16 KOs) of Puerto Rico and Manuel-Rey Rojas of Dallas (18-3, 5 KOs) get into action in a 10-round co-main fight. Verdejo weighed in at 136.75; Rojas at 135.75 pounds.
Verdejo’s career took off after his 2012 Olympic Games appearance where he lost in the quarterfinals to eventual gold medalist Vasiliy Lomachenko. But his career seemingly stalled a few years in, and then Verdejo suffered a head injury in a 2016 motorcycle crash. He recovered physically enough to resume his career, only to take his first loss by TKO in 2017. He simply hasn’t reached his early potential since.
Verdejo needs to perform well to get himself back into the mix and potentially get a rematch as a pro with Lomachenko at some point. Andy Vences is the only opponent of any note on Rojas’ record. He should not present that great a challenge to Verdejo. If he does, Verdejo needs to come to a reckoning about his future.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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