Sena “The African Assassin” Agbeko rose to the occasion, scoring a career-defining upset win over previously undefeated top prospect Isaiah Steen in the 10-round super middleweight main event of a SHOBOX: The New Generation telecast from Bally’s Atlantic City Casino & Resort, site of the first ever SHOBOX® more than 21 years ago.
Agbeko (27-2, 21 KOs), who entered the fight claiming he was one of the best 168-pounders in the world and just needed the stage to prove it, capitalized on the opportunity to score the biggest win of his career. He won by convincing scores of 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94.
“To be able to show up and get this done, I’m very happy to get the vindication for all the hard work I’ve put into this sport,” said the 30-year-old Agbeko, who dropped a unanimous decision to undefeated contender Vladimir Shishkin in his only previous SHOBOX appearance in 2021. “My biggest worry coming in on the B-side was that I was going to get robbed. He was better than I expected, and my goal was to just stay loose and let my hands go.”
After winning the first three rounds on all three judges’ scorecards, Agbeko built a lead that he would never surrender. While SHOBOX’s Hall of Fame unofficial scorer Steve Farhood had the fight even at 95-95 on his card, the judges favored Agbeko’s aggression and power punching to Steen’s jabs. Despite taking the fight on less than three weeks’ notice, Agbeko never slowed and won the final two rounds on all three judges’ cards. Overall, Abgeko out-landed Steen 75-73 and held a 45-18 advantage in power punches.
Agbeko, who fights out of Nashville, Tennessee, wasn’t shy about calling out Music City-area native and former Agbeko training partner Caleb Plant after the win.
“I want Caleb Plant! Caleb, let’s do it in Nashville. Let’s sell out Bridgestone Arena,” Agbeko shouted into the camera following his win.
Steen (16-1, 12 KOs), a promising prospect out of Cleveland, missed out on an opportunity to slingshot himself up the super middleweight rankings. Still, he thought he did more than enough to win the fight.
“The scoring was messed up, for real,” said Steen, the half-brother of 2016 U.S. Olympian and SHOBOX alum Charles Conwell. “He wasn’t going to touch me. I was throwing more jabs, connecting and landing more shots. I don’t see what the judges saw, but I definitely won that fight. They were scoring his blocks. His big punches were blocks and weren’t landing. When they said 98-92 I thought that was my score. He wasn’t touching me.”
In the co-feature, perennial spoiler and SHOBOX returnee Marquis Taylor (13-1-2, 1 KO) used his superior conditioning and experience to pull away from Marlon Harrington (8-1, 7 KOs) in the second half of the super welterweight fight, cruising to a unanimous decision victory. The scores were 80-72 and 79-73 twice.
After a cagey and difficult-to-score first three rounds, Harrington, who had never been past four rounds in his career, began to fade. In the eight-round bout, Taylor’s best action came in rounds six through eight. He landed 30 punches in round six, 31 punches in round seven and 33 punches in the final stanza. Overall, Taylor held a 156 to 54 advantage in connected punches.
“I knew I had to stay smart in there,” said Houston’s Taylor. “He had power the whole fight, so I had to stay real smart and not do anything dumb. I wanted the KO but I knew if I started looking for it, that’s his game and he might catch me with something. I had to stay smart the whole fight.”
Harrington became the fourth undefeated fighter that Taylor has defeated in his career and the 218th fighter to lose his undefeated record on SHOBOX.
“I’m not surprised I was so dominant,” continued Taylor. “I’m usually the ring general. I did want to close it out, but I had to keep remembering he was dangerous from round one to round eight. He’s very strong, very awkward and kind of slick, so I had to keep my hands up and not put my chin in the air and stick with the fundamentals.”
Two undefeated and heavy-handed heavyweights put it all on the line in the SHOBOX opener, but it was Moses “Thunderhands” Johnson (9-0-1, 7 KOs) who prevailed over Mexico’s Elvis Garcia (12-1, 9 KOs) in an all-action, entertaining affair that was up for grabs until the final bell. Johnson won via majority decision with scores of 76-76 and 77-75 twice.
In typical SHOBOX fashion, this was a pivotal bout in both fighters’ careers and an opportunity to take a major step forward in the heavyweight division. From the opening bell, the contest was fought at a blistering pace in the center of the ring. Both fighters had their moments, showing will, skill and strong chins.
“It was all heart,” said the 30-year-old Johnson, from Huntington, N.Y. “We still got a lot of work to do. I have to keep working on my range and my distance and my boxing. We’re going to get there. We’ll be back in the gym on Monday.
“I can’t lie, I thought a couple of rounds were close, but I knew I had the gas in me and I knew I had more heart than he did. He’s tough. I feel like it was close, but I definitely took it to him.”
Garcia out-landed Johnson in total punches (209-191), but Johnson impressed the judges with his body work as 82 of his 191 landed punches were body shots. Garcia landed an average of 26 of 67 punches per round and landed 46 percent of his power shots while Johnson landed 24 of 72 punches per round and 39 percent of his power shots.
“I’m really upset with the scoring,” said Garcia. “I thought I did a lot more. The only thing he was doing was sitting on top of me and putting his weight on me and trying to keep me from moving. I hurt him a lot more. I saw his eyes roll a few times and he was stumbling around. I’d love to fight him again and I’ll be back.”
Photo: Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME