Two former Trainers of the Year will lead their young and undefeated fighters into the first SHOBOX: The New Generation card of 2023 as James “Buddy” McGirt’s promising super middleweight prospect Sean Hemphill faces off against Ronnie Shields-trained prodigy David Stevens in a tripleheader set for Friday, January 20 at 9 p.m. ET/PT live on SHOWTIME from Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem, Pa.
The three undefeated matchups include fighters with a combined record of 61-0-1 and 43 knockouts. This marks the second consecutive year SHOBOX will open the new year featuring a tripleheader in which all six fighters enter fight night without a loss.
Four of the six fighters hail from the state of Pennsylvania with Hemphill (14-0, 8 KOs) of New Orleans, La., set to make his highly anticipated SHOBOX debut when he faces nearby Reading native, Stevens (11-0, 8 KOs), in an eight-round super middleweight bout. In the co-main event, Atif Oberlton (7-0, 6 KOs) of Philadelphia takes on Artem Brusov (12-0, 11 KOs) of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in an eight-round light heavyweight bout. The telecast opener pits two up-and-coming Pennsylvania fighters as Reading’s Julian Gonzalez (8-0-1, 8 KOs) and Rosalindo Morales (9-0, 2 KOs), from Ellwood City, put their unbeaten streaks to the test in an eight-round super featherweight bout.
In 2002, McGirt – who worked the corner for such greats as Arturo Gatti, Antonio Tarver, Hasim Rahman and Sergey Kovalev – was named the Boxing Writers Association of America Trainer of the Year. A year later, in 2003, Shields – who has previously worked with such greats as Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield – was named Trainer of the Year by the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
The 27-year-old Hemphill was all set to make his SHOBOX debut last February against Joe George before suffering an injury in training forcing the cancelation of the fight. In October, the Hemphill-Stevens fight was called off as well during fight week because of injury.
The three-fight telecast is promoted by Marshall Kauffman’s Kings Promotions.
“We enter our 22nd year of SHOBOX with a card that features six undefeated boxers who all had solid amateur backgrounds,” said Gordon Hall, executive producer for SHOBOX: The New Generation. “To have two young American standouts in our main event with Sean Hemphill and David Stevens facing each other this young in their careers just shows their yearning to take that step up. It’s the goal and desire of all these young fighters to turn from prospect to contender and we give them that chance and set the stage on SHOBOX.”
Here is more on each of the three bouts:
Hemphill vs. Stevens – Eight-Round Super Middleweight Main Event
Hemphill made his pro debut in 2019 and has already reeled off 14 consecutive wins after a standout amateur career. In his last bout nearly a year ago in January, Hemphill scored an eight-round unanimous decision over Jeyson Minda in front of his hometown New Orleans fans. The 27-year-old known as “Silky” fought three times in 2021, four times in 2020 and six times in 2019. Stevens will be the first undefeated opponent of Hemphill’s career with multiple wins. Hemphill is managed by Adam Glenn, son of the late Jimmy Glenn, who owned the beloved Jimmy’s Corner bar in Midtown Manhattan and was a well-known, iconic figure in boxing circles. Hemphill was a member of Team USA during a stellar amateur career (55-12) that saw him rise to become one of the top light heavyweights in the country. His nickname “Silky” is an amalgamation of his dad’s nickname from his kickboxing days (“Spyder”) and his smooth fighting style – spiders produce silk.
“I am excited for the opportunity to fight on a big platform like SHOWTIME,” Hemphill said. “I have envisioned this for a long time, and it’s unfortunate I wasn’t able to make my SHOBOX debut in 2022. I have been hungrier than ever to display my skills and talent. I don't know much about Stevens, but I am focused on what I have to do and handling business. A win will elevate me in every way possible. It is going to open people's eyes and open the door for bigger fights and opportunities.”
Stevens fought three times in 2022. His busy schedule includes a second-round stoppage of Loris Barberio on July 23 and a first-round TKO of veteran Colby Courter on May 28. The 22-year-old Stevens of Reading, Pa., has stopped four of his last five opponents, relying on a polished skillset and aggressive, hard-punching style. He started boxing when he was 11 and went 60-8 in the amateurs. Among his amateur highlights, he is a two-time Junior Olympic gold medalist, a Silver Gloves champion, Ringside champion, USA Boxing Youth national champion and a Youth World Championships qualifier.
“I am excited and anxious and ready to fight and show my talent to the world. When the fight was cancelled, I was disappointed because we could not get another opponent on short notice. I think Hemphill is decent. He is not better than me. A win will elevate me and open more doors for other opportunities. Fighting on SHOBOX is very motivating and it makes me push harder in camp.”
Oberlton vs. Brusov – Eight-Round Light Heavyweight Bout
The 24-year-old Oberlton has picked up three wins in 2022, most recently a second-round TKO over Christian Thomas. An active amateur, Oberlton competed in approximately 100 amateur fights where he won many tournaments, including the U.S. National Junior Olympics and was a two-time National Golden Gloves champion. Oberlton placed second at the United States Olympic Trials and was a favorite to be part of the Olympic team in 2020 before deciding to turn pro instead.
“This is a great opportunity that I’ve been waiting for,” Oberlton said. “I am just ready to go in there and prove myself. This is more about what I do rather than what he can do. This will be my official launch to ascend into the light heavyweight division.”
The 31-year-old Brusov is a native of Russia currently training in South Florida. He made his United States debut in late 2021 making fast work of Courtney McCleave with a first-round TKO in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He had a 101-22 amateur record and received bronze, silver and gold medals in national and international competitions.
“I am excited, and this is a good fight and opportunity for me,” Brusov said. “I don’t know too much about my opponent. I know he is a tall southpaw, and I am ready to fight to show everyone what I can do in the ring. I know he was a good amateur, but so was I. I will win this fight. SHOBOX is a famous series, and this is a good chance for me to show people who I am.”
Gonzalez vs. Morales – Eight-Round Super Featherweight Bout
Gonzalez, from Reading, Pa., just over 40 miles from Bethlehem, will feel right at home on January 20. The 21-year-old has fought twice at Wind Creek Events Center, scoring first and second-round stoppages. All eight of the power-punching Gonzalez’s wins have come by way of knockout, and each stoppage has come inside of two rounds. Gonzalez fought five times in 2021, the year he turned pro, and most recently scored a second-round TKO over Eric Manriquez on December 10. The lone blemish on Gonzalez’s record is a six-round draw against Cuban prospect Ivan Jimenez. Going by the ring moniker “Gifted”, Gonzalez has sparred with Philadelphia’s unified 122-pound world champion Stephen Fulton Jr.
“This will be my first fight on national television, and I am thankful for this opportunity to showcase my skills to the world and show what I am all about,” Gonzalez said. “Morales is a tough fighter. He is a southpaw, awkward. I don't think he is anything too special, but he is tough. A win will take me to the next level as people will see the type of skills that I have.”
The 29-year-old Morales was born in San Antonio but currently resides in Ellwood City, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. A crafty southpaw, Morales has relied mostly on his boxing ability to build his perfect 9-0 record but has shown off his power with recent back-to-back first-round KOs in March and June of this year. Morales stepped up to eight rounds for the first time in his most recent fight in October, a unanimous decision over 30-fight veteran Jesus Ramon Perez. Morales has two unanimous decision wins over previously undefeated fighters and will look to take another opponent’s ‘0’ on January 20. Morales, a former Marine, won the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves at 141 pounds in 2016 and turned pro the following year.
“This fight has been a long time coming,” said Morales. “I have worked very hard for this, and I look forward to showing off my complete skillset on January 20th. I don’t know much about Gonzalez, but I do know that I plan on taking it to him and getting this win. I have been working hard my whole life for an opportunity like this and getting a win on this platform would mean everything to me.”