By Francisco Salazar
Much has been mentioned in recent weeks about the number of world champions that first appeared on ShoBox telecasts.
But what about those fighters who have yet to win a world title? What about them?
Take the case of John Molina. As a prospect and contender, Molina is never in a bad fight and could change the course of a fight with one punch. Do not remind Mickey Bey.
There are many fighters in Molina's shoes that are willing to risk their unbeaten record or a big money fight to get that exposure on national television. Sometimes it works and sometimes it fails. But when it does work, a lot of these fighters hit the jackpot.
That is what eight fighters hope to do tonight as the 200th broadcast of ShoBox will take place at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y.
In the 10 round main event, middleweight Antoine Douglas (14-0, 9 KOs) fights Michel Soro (23-1, 13 KOs) for a regional title belt. In eight round bouts, welterweight Cecil McCalla (18-0, 6 KOs) faces late-replacement Oscar Godoy (13-2, 6 KOs), super featherweight Wanzell Ellison (11-0-1, 5 KOs) fights Tony Luis (17-2, 7 KOs), and hard-hitting Jerry Odom (11-0, 10 KOs) faces Vilier Quinonez (8-0, 5 KOs).
Showtime will begin its ShoBox telecast at 10PM ET/ 7PM PT.
So, which of these fighters could be the next John Molina? The next Timothy Bradley? The next Shawn Porter? These, and a number of other fighters, became world champions and household names to boxing fans after having fought on ShoBox.
On the flip side, not every fighter who appears on ShoBox is guaranteed to become a world champion or generate significant paydays. While it is interesting to see who has and who could possibly travel down that road, there are fighters who unfortunately weed themselves out.
Welcome to ShoBox 101, said longtime Showtime commentator and boxing analyst Steve Farhood.
"We've been consistent for the most part to our mission statement, which is to take young fighters, match them tougher than they've ever been matched, and see what happens," Farhood told Boxingscene.com on Wednesday evening. "For every champion we've produced, we've exposed two or three undefeated guys who never made it. It's just as much about weeding out the pretenders as it is about making champions. While there have been exceptions, and we've had title fights on occasion, for the most part, we have been true to the mission statement."
Farhood has been ringside for all 199 ShoBox telecasts, including number 200 on Friday night. Farhood called the action at ringside with the late Nick Charles 13 years ago, almost to the day.
On July 21, 2001, Charles and Farhood called two fights on that Saturday afternoon from Ballys Park Place Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.: Leonard Dorin's stoppage over Martin O'Malley and Johnny Molnar technical decision win over Victor Rosado.
From the first show to tonight's broadcast, Farhood gets just as excited with each broadcast, even each fight. Part of the reason he believes is ShoBox has enjoyed its success and longevity since the beginning is because of the quality most shows have given the boxing fans.
Friday night will be no different.
"We knew we had a great idea (when it started)," said Farhood, who has served as editor-in-chief of The Ring and KO Magazine. "But this is television and television is a business. We had no idea whether it was going to catch on or whether it would serve a purpose, which I think it does. Also, we've been able to keep this show going through different regimes at Showtime. First, Jay Larkin, who founded the show. Then, Ken Hershman, and now Steven Espinoza. I think all three executives, to their credit, both appreciate the significance of the show and support it."
"I remain very excited for every show. Part of the reason for that is that we have a bunch of guys, two in particular who intrigue me are Antoine Douglas and Jerry Odom. Are they going to be the next Tim Bradley? Are they going to be the next Robert Guerrero? Are they going to be the next Chad Dawson? Or Ricky Hatton? You don't know. But they know and their handlers know that by fighting on ShoBox and fighting the caliber of opposition you're fighting on ShoBox, it's an opportunity for them to get better."
While not every fighter can make the most of appearing on ShoBox, some fighters embrace those opportunities. And it is those opportunities fighters make a name for themselves.
While a lot of these fighters reap the rewards, some fighters are never heard from again.
Like in the case of Ebo Elder. If there was a moment Farhood could sum up from watching almost 200 shows, it was the Ebo Elder-Courtney Burton fight that took place on December 17, 2004 in Santa Ynez, Calif.
Both fighters went through a war, but Elder looked as though he took the brunt of the punishment, as he his face swelled so bad that it looked as though his head was not symmetrically shaped.
With the fight in the balance and after he was hurt in the 11th and 12th rounds, Elder put together power combinations, dropping Burton twice in the round and getting the eventual technical knockout win. Farhood still vividly remembers that bout as well as others.
"When you do 200 shows, you're gonna have some fights that you forget very quickly and you're going to have some unbelievable fights. The Ebo Elder-Courtney Burton fight was fantastic and the image of Ebo Elder slumping to the ground (canvas) and praying with his face disfigured from swelling is the single most memorable image in 13 years of doing shows."
"There are two or three other fights that are pretty memorable. Recently, John Molina coming back to beat Mickey Bey in the last round when he lost pretty much every round. That was amazing. Also, a world title fight between Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres in (Las) Vegas. I mean, what a round. In one round, both guys were down, there was a foul, and a cut. That was pretty amazing. The other fight I'll never forget is the double knockdown at Foxwoods with Sechew Powell and (Cornelius) K9 Bundrage, way before K9 was a world champ. First punch of the fight, they knocked each other down. The third punch of the fight, Sechel Powell knocks out Bundrage and Bundrage doesn't still doesn't know what happened."
Just as much as fight fans have their favorite fighter that they cheer for or follow throughout their career, some media members are pretty passionate themselves on who they root for.
Farhood admitted he has one particular fighter whom he calls a favorite to watch. Aside from a fighting style and winning a world title, this fighter had to deal with personal problems outside of the ring, something Farhood respects as do many fight fans.
"There's no doubt who my favorite is. That's Ishe Smith. First of all, he's very complimentary to ShoBox and what it did to his career. Ishe fought five times on our show. He fought tough opponents every time, was appreciative of fighting on ShoBox, and never asked who he was going to fight. He always fought tough opposition. David Estrada, Randall Bailey, Fernando Guerrero. He went 4-1 on our show."
"When he won a world title, I have to admit, I was really, really happy for him, because he's a great guy. We're human. We have our favorites. He had his personal demons to overcome. He's acknowledged that he was suicidal at one point in his life. He kept coming back. He's be my favorite ShoBox fighter. He gave us some great moments."
Fighters have come and gone throughout the years. Each ShoBox telecast may not be perfect, but it has remained consistent of what it is meant to be.
With Gordon Hall as its Executive Producer and having longtime friend Barry Thompkins calling the action from ringside, Farhood believes the broadcasts will remain with the boxing world and could set the standard of other networks to emulate.
While practice continues to make perfect, ShoBox is in good hands, according to Farhood.
"I see the same as what we've been doing. The show has a very clear definition. THere are a lot of good boxing shows and there are a lot of good fights on TV. But this show is the one show that has a clear definition: it's about prospects. And it's really the only one that's about prospects being matched tough. So I see ShoBox continuing. I see us unearthing some more world champions and I hope to be there for all of them."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing