Agbeko pulls off upset in Atlantic City

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

Ali Izmailov-Radivoje Kalajdzic headline SHOBOX card in Atlantic City

Blue chip prospect and top-ten ranked light heavyweight Ali Izmailov will face the toughest test of his young career when he takes on former world title challenger Radivoje “Hot Rod” Kalajdzic on Friday, October 21 live on SHOWTIME at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT in the latest edition of SHOBOX: The New Generation. The telecast features five undefeated prospects and six fighters with a combined record of 88-2 and returns to Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino, site of the first SHOBOX® 21 years ago for the second show in as many months.

The John David Jackson-trained Izmailov (9-0, 6 KOs) and veteran power-puncher Kalajdzic (27-2, 19 KOs) will square off in a 10-round light heavyweight bout. The co-feature matches a pair of undefeated, aggressive prospects in Isaiah Steen (16-0, 12 KOs) clashing with Elvis Figueroa (11-0, 7 KOs) in an eight-round super middleweight contest. The telecast opens with Sean Hemphill (14-0, 8 KOs) taking on David Stevens (11-0, 8 KOs) in another intriguing eight-round super middleweight matchup between undefeated American prospects. Included in the telecast will be highlights of perennial spoiler and SHOBOX alum Marquis Taylor (12-1-2, 1 KO) taking on undefeated Marlon Harrington (8-0, 7 KOs) in an eight-round super welterweight attraction.

 Here is a closer look at the matchups:

 Izmailov vs. Kalajdzic – 10-Round Light Heavyweihgt Main Event Bout

Ranked No. 7 by the WBC, No. 9 by the IBF and No. 11 by the WBO after just nine fights, Izmailov is a fast-rising force in the light heavyweight division. A former amateur standout having won multiple elite international tournaments, Izmailov, economical and efficient in the ring, has been matched tough throughout his professional career. In his second fight, he cruised to a six-round unanimous decision over 30-fight veteran Dmitry Sukhotskiy and followed that up with a dominant performance against once-beaten Sergei Ekimov. Since making his U.S. debut in October 2021, Izmailov is 4-0 with 3 KOs against competition with a combined record of 51-10. He has back-to-back wins over undefeated opponents, including most recently a unanimous decision over Eric Murguia in August. Originally from Malgobek, Russia, the 29-year-old Izmailov works and resides with trainer Jackson in Florida.

“I am excited to make my debut on SHOBOX against a very experienced and proven fighter like Kalajdzic,” said the Salita-promoted Izmailov. “I will bring my toolbox and put it to work on October 21 and show the world why I’m the future of the light heavyweight division.”

Kalajdzic, currently ranked No. 7 by the WBO, has proven throughout his 29-fight career that he’s a player in the 175-pound division, unafraid to test himself against the very best. A 6-foot-2 native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Hot Rod” turned pro in 2011 and won his first 21 fights before meeting 2012 U.S. Olympian and then-undefeated Marcus Browne in 2016. Kalajdzic, 31, lost a controversial eight-round split decision but rebounded with three straight stoppage victories to earn a world title shot against Artur Beterbiev in 2019. Among those three victories was a 2016 SHOBOX main event fifth-round TKO victory over former amateur standout Travis Peterkin. Against Beterbiev, Kalajdzic suffered a fifth-round loss but has again rebounded with three straight victories as he seeks a shot at redemption and world title glory.

“Not to overlook Ali Izmailov, as he’s a good fighter, but I can affirm that I’m one of the best light heavyweights in the world,” said Kalajdzic, who lives and trains in St. Petersburg, Fla. “This fight will put me in contention for a world title and I’m confident everyone will see that I belong in the conversation with Dmitry Bivol, Gilberto Ramirez, Anthony Yarde, and those guys. I’m grateful for the opportunity DiBella Entertainment and my management were able to put together with this fight. Expect my best performance come October 21.”

“Hot Rod’s only true loss was to Artur Beterbiev. Everyone saw him get robbed against Marcus Browne,” said Lou DiBella, Kalajdzic’s promoter and President of DiBella Entertainment. “He’s a genuine top contender and will prove it against Ali Izmailov on October 21.”

Steen vs. Figueroa – Eight-Round Super Middleweight Bout

Steen returns to SHOBOX after recording the biggest win of his career against the previously undefeated Kalvin Henderson on July 2021 on SHOBOX (Highlights HERE). An aggressive, come-forward fighter who likes to dig to the body, Steen is the half-brother of super welterweight contender and former U.S. Olympian Charles Conwell. The two shared the same card in August 2020 when Steen of Cleveland, Ohio showed off his power with a first-round TKO of tough Kenneth Council. That was the seventh time Steen stopped his opponent in the first round. Like his half-brother, the 6-2 Steen was a decorated amateur, going 85-15 in the unpaid ranks before he turned pro in 2016. Born in Detroit, Mich., Steen started boxing when he was seven.

“Fighting on SHOWTIME is a huge milestone in my career,” Steen said. “I have stayed in the gym since my last fight on July 23, 2021. My team has made sure that my weight and nutrition are on point. I know I can defeat anyone placed in front of me. Teamwork definitely makes the dream work.”

Figueroa will enter the ring for the third time this year after stopping tough veteran Fidel Monterrosa Munoz in two rounds on August 20. The six-foot New Haven, Conn. product has stopped five of his last six opponents, employing a poised, patient, and hard-punching style. The lone decision was against Ryan Adams on the undercard of a January 7, 2022, edition of SHOBOX in Orlando, Fla. Figueroa, 25, started boxing when he was eight to lose weight and began his amateur career four years later. He is a three-time New England Golden Gloves champion and 2015 USA National Championship silver medalist. Among his amateur victories, he owns a decision win over undefeated super middleweight contender Edgar Berlanga.

Hemphill vs. Stevens – Eight-Round Super Middleweight Bout

 Trained by Hall of Famer James “Buddy” McGirt, Hemphill made his pro debut in 2019 and has already reeled off 14 consecutive wins after a standout amateur career. In his last bout, Hemphill scored an eight-round unanimous decision over Jeyson Minda in front of his hometown New Orleans fans in January. The 26-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.

“This fight means a lot to me,” Hemphill said. “I understand how big of an opportunity fighting on SHOWTIME is for my team and me. This is something I’ve been working towards since I was a kid. I feel like I was born to do this, and I’m ready to show the world why I belong on this stage! Camp is going well with coach Buddy McGirt. He has a lot of knowledge and wisdom that I can use and soak up to help improve my game and skill set.”

Added McGirt, “Sean is a great prospect and a pleasure to work with. He has all the tools to succeed, and I believe, one day, he will become a world champion.”

Stevens, trained by Shields, will enter the ring for the fourth time this year on October 21 when he makes his SHOBOX debut. 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 thrilled to be on SHOBOX in my 12th fight,” Stevens said. “Since training with Ronnie Shields, I have learned so much and will show it on October 21.”

Added Shields, “The thing about David is we don’t know how strong he is yet. I know he’s strong, but I’ve been getting him to focus more on technique than he used to. That makes him very hard to beat. He’s one of those kids who wants to learn everything in the gym. When a kid like him wants to learn everything, every day, I like it because I know I have to bring my A game to the gym all the time. He will go a long way.”

Taylor vs. Harrington – Eight-Round Super Welterweight Bout (Highlights Only)

The 28-year-old Taylor is a nine-year veteran whose toughness and smooth boxing skills have proven to be a puzzle for everyone he’s faced. Taylor fought the undefeated former amateur star Paul Kroll to a controversial split draw on SHOBOX on February 18. He also owns victories over three then-undefeated fighters including Jimmy Williams (14-0-1) and Sanjarbek Rakhmanov (10-0-1), who have both appeared on SHOBOX, and Oscar Torres (8-0). Taylor refined his boxing tools in the amateurs, where he went 130-20.

After turning pro in 2019, Detroit’s Harrington has proven to be a quick study in the ring, knocking out seven of his eight opponents and making quick work with no one advancing past the fourth round. Harrington, who started boxing when he was 19, has worked on his trade through sparring with former champions like Tony Harrison and Cornelius “K9” Bundrage. An aggressive, fan-friendly fighter, Harrington will see action for the fourth time this year on October 21 after last fighting on May 26, knocking out Azael Cosio in the fourth round.