NEW YORK – Cancer survivor and unbeaten, top-ranked super middleweight Anthony Dirrell (23-0, 20 KOs), of Flint, Mich., will face fellow world-ranked southpaw Renan St-Juste (23-2-1, 15 KOs), of Canada, in the 12-round main event on ShoBox: The New Generation on Friday, Dec. 2, live on SHOWTIME® (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast). The telecast will originate from Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, Calif., just one night before the highly anticipated rematch between International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight titleholder Abner Mares and Joseph King Kong Agbeko on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING.
In the 10-round co-feature on Dec. 2, the ShoBox proficient Chris Avalos (19-1, 15 KOs), of Lancaster, Calif., and Colombia’s Jhonatan “Momo” Romero (19-0, 12 KOs) will clash in a battle of up-and-coming super bantamweights.
Dirrell is ranked No. 1 in the World Boxing Council (WBC) and No. 3 in the World Boxing Association (WBA). St-Juste, the WBC’s No. 3-rated contender, represents the first top-10 fighter Dirrell has faced. The bout will serve as a title eliminator for the super middleweight title, currently held by Super Six World Boxing Classic finalist Carl Froch.
“I’m determined (to get a title shot),’’ Dirrell said. “This is what I’ve been waiting on since I was a kid. I had cancer and it’s meant to be for me to win a world championship for my grandfather. Most people can’t say they had cancer and came back and won a world championship. It’s a story to tell and I want to tell it.’’
A talented boxer-puncher, the 27-year-old Dirrell will be fighting for the second time on ShoBox and for the fourth time at Chumash. In his ShoBox debut on June 23, 2006, he registered a first-round TKO over James Morrow in Oakland, Calif. Dirrell won his last start with a second-round knockout over Kevin Engle in Cabazon, Calif., last July 22. It was Dirrell’s third start in nine weeks.
The younger brother of 2004 Olympic Games bronze medalist Andre Dirrell, Anthony turned pro in January 2005. He won his seven fights that year inside the distance and recorded four stoppages in five outings the following year. Shortly after knocking out James Hopkins in the first round on Dec. 22, 2006, however, Anthony, then 12-0, was informed by doctors that he had cancer and did not fight again for 22 months.
“I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2006,’’ Dirrell said. “I did chemo and I did radiation after chemo. The chemo treatments lasted about two-and-a-half hours. I had to take the chemo treatments every two weeks or so for eight months. It wasn’t that long on the radiation. It was fast. I would go in there five minutes maybe, and I’d be out. It was just like a zap or something.
“But I had to do that every day for about a month – 25 times. No more treatments after that. I’d take the chemo and right after chemo my family and I would go have a big meal because I wasn’t able to eat for three days. But after those three days, it would be like I was normal. I could eat, but the only thing I could taste and really liked to eat was fruit. I couldn’t taste anything else.
“I kept running and staying in shape. They said I’d lose weight, but I got up to at least 200 pounds.”
Doctors gave Dirrell clearance to resume training in September 2008. A month later he had his first fight. Dirrell won two of his initial three comeback fights by decision, but he’s been on a knockout roll since by recording eight straight stoppages.
“I’m just trying to stay active,’’ said Dirrell, who trains at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas. “I was off for two years and that set me back. But now I’m back in the midst of things. I want to get my name out there and keep it buzzing in the boxing world. It’s my time. I’m ready to go out and show that to the world.
“(St-Juste) is a good fighter, a real experienced fighter. I couldn’t keep fighting lower opposition (forever). I knew I’d have to move up and this is my chance to move up. But I’m young, train hard and prepare to the fullest. I’m ready to go. I can’t get to where I want to go unless I win, so there is no way I will overlook him.”
St-Juste, a veteran who is ranked in the top 15 by all four major boxing organizations, possesses good power and stamina and has never been knocked out. He’s won two consecutive fights and is 15 of 16 since November 2005. In his last start and first outside of Canada (all but one were in Montreal), he took a unanimous decision over Jaudiel Sepeda on July 9 in Romania.
Two outings ago, St-Juste scored the most noteworthy victory of his career when he flattened countryman Sebastian Demers in the second round on Dec. 3, 2010, to capture the North American Boxing Organization (NABO) 168-pound belt.
“I’m really proud and excited to fight on ShoBox on Dec. 2. I’ve been waiting for so long for the chance and this is it,” said St-Juste. “I respect Anthony Dirrell. I expect a very good fight but I’m going to win and will get my shot for a world title fight. I’ll take this opportunity very seriously and I can’t wait to step in the ring for this challenge.”
St-Juste, who’ll be making his ShoBox and United States debuts, comes from a family of four children, all boys. At 15, he began reading the books of Bruce Lee and imitating his movements. St-Juste went on to win several tournaments in such disciplines as Chinese boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai.
In the co-feature, Avalos will be making a record sixth appearance on ShoBox. He captured the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Intercontinental crown in his last start with a unanimous decision over Khabir Suleymanov on June 10. The aggressive-minded Avalos scored knockdowns in the first and third rounds and, despite losing a point for a low blow in the third, won by the scores of 97-90, 96-91 and 95-92.
The only blemish on 22-year-old Avalos’ résumé came on ShoBox when he lost an upset 10-round split decision to Chris Martin on Aug. 6, 2010, in Hinckley, Minn. Avalos has won three consecutive fights since.
Avalos’ opponent, Romero, will be making his sixth start of the year and only the second of his career in the United States. He is coming off a second-round TKO over Luis Zambrano on Oct. 27. In his outing before last, Romero won his U.S. debut with a unanimous decision over Cecilio Santos on June 24 in Ontario, Calif.
Romero, who turns 25 on Dec. 14, grew up in the “El Retiro” neighborhood of Santiago de Cali in the Valle del Cauca region of Colombia. Before turning pro on May 15, 2009, he was an outstanding amateur boxer who was a Silver Medalist at the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games. A pure boxer with good power, Romero captured eight Colombian national championships in over 250 amateur fight