In July 2001, ShoBox debuted on Showtime with a main event between Marty O’Malley and Leo Dorin from Ballys Park Place Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Dorin won the entertaining battle to start the series with a bang. Even though it was a succesful show, the question was: Would it last?
Well, 18 1/2 years later, ShoBox, which is designed to feature young prospects, is alive and thriving, with 81 former and current world champions such as Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury and Andre Ward having fought on the series. Its 250th event takes place Friday night (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET) with Shohjahon Ergashev meeting Adrian Estrella in the headliner.
Before the historic show, Sporting News sat down with ShoBox executive producer Gordon Hall to discuss the series, some of the most notable moments and where boxing would be without it.
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(Editor’s Note: This article has been edited for length and clarity.)
SPORTING NEWS: Could you explain the difficulty in trying to make fights for a series like ShoBox?
GORDON HALL: Well, I think you know finding prospects — It takes research. I think dealing with managers and promoters. We were in a position because we are Showtime that the phone does ring, and there are promoters out there have prospects. Getting TV is important for any promoter in order to first to get talented prospects and to sign them. They all want to be on TV.
So, in that case, we have that offer for them. We seek out prospects from various promoters and then a lot of promoters approach us. ShoBox is known as a series for up and coming prospects. So, when you think about a ShoBox fighter, it is a fighter that is a young prospect, but also somebody willing to be matched competitively at a young age, which might be different than what happened in boxing in the past.
SN: Is there a specific criteria that you’re looking for when you’re trying to find fighters?
GH: We’re fortunate to have the Internet. There’s research that’s done on our part here to research prospects and fighters, and seek them out through looking at top prospects to watch lists that are compiled at the end of each year. We pride ourselves on trying to get the top prospects in boxing to fight on this series. And I think the 149 shows that we’ve had 81 world champions — 81 fighters that fought on the series and go on and win world titles. It validates what we try to do as a series. You know, find tomorrow’s champions today.
SN: How much does it mean to you in the fact that out of 249 cards, you’ve been able to have 81 boxers who have become world champions?
GH: We are validating the definition of our series, which is to have young talented prospects matched up competitively and turn from prospects to a contender, and hopefully, world champions. And the fact that in 249 shows that we’ve had 81 champions means that every third ShoBox show you’re going to see a future world champion. The level of prospect we’re putting on because they obviously, must have been talented.
SN: I was looking through the list, and it’s quite an impressive list of the former world champions who have fought on ShoBox such as Andre Ward, Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury and Claressa Shields. Who do you think are some of the best fighters that have competed on ShoBox?
GH: Some certain fighters and moments stand out. The most talked-about fight right now in boxing is Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Both of those fighters fought on ShoBox. It just says to the level of fighter that we had them on as prospects. It’s hard to say who was the most talented. They were all talented because, obviously, they started as prospects on Showtime. They went on to become world champions.
But if I were to talk about a notable world champion and someone that encapsulates everything we stand for on ShoBox, it would be Timothy Bradley. Tim Bradley was a fighter that we had on ShoBox. He had four appearances. He started out as a prospect. And through his development, he turned into a contender and then went on to be a world champion.
The ShoBox crew, we went all the way over to England to televise his fourth appearance on ShoBox when he fought for the title against Junior Witter (on May 10, 2008). And he ended up, of course, winning that. And it just encapsulates everything we try to do turn prospects into contenders and have them go on and win world champions, become world champions. So, Tim Bradley stands out.
Andre Ward stands out because he was a fighter a little earlier in our ShoBox years, where he was everything. We wanted to get the fighter. He was a gold medalist. He was American, and he was a superior boxer. We were lucky and fortunate to have them on the series. That he went on to win a world title and be such a great champion and end his career undefeated … speaks a lot about him.
SN: There have been plenty of great fights on ShoBox. What are some that stand out?
GH: There have been so many great fights. Back in the beginning stages of ShoBox, if you haven’t seen this fight, I would go and try to find it, but it was back in 2004. And it was between Ebo Elder facing Courtney Burton (on Dec. 17, 2004). It was one of the best fights we ever had on ShoBox. It was a war. And it was a very dramatic ending with Elder winning in the final round.
In the last couple of years, we had Ivan Baranchyk vs. Abel Ramos (on February 10, 2017). It was a non-stop rock’em, sock’em robot type of fight that was a tremendous matchup. But we hope that every fight is going to be a memorable fight. We have a lot of memorable knockouts. We have had memorable comebacks. I mean, we had John Molina over Mickey Bey and won in the last round to upset the undefeated Mickey Bey. It was dramatic.
There was another memorable knockout with Derek Edwards and Badou Jack. You had Jack as the favorite undefeated fighter coming into that fight. And he got beat and knocked out. And he went on after that fight to win a world title. It shows that even when you lose, you can still go on to become a world champion. Robert Guerrero fought on ShoBox. He lost on ShoBox and he avenged his loss and then didn’t lose for another 18 fights until he fought Floyd Mayweather. And along the way, won several titles.
ShoBox is a series that has had everything from Olympians like Marcus Browne, Errol Spence Jr., and Dominic Breazeale. They all made their debuts and Spence and Browne have won world titles. So it goes to support the fact that we look for talented fighters with potential. And certainly it fits what we’d like to try to do with all fighters on ShoBox.
SN: Where do you think boxing would be if it weren’t for ShoBox?
GH: Well, it would certainly still exist. But I don’t know if in 2001 anyone would have thought that a series about unknown fighters in the infancy of their careers would take off. But what we did know is that the series would be unique and have a purpose and definition that would be like no other. The fact that we could find top prospects and the fact that we could match them competitively, and that we could create something unique to the point that we could get people to watch. Because tuning in, we hope to have talented fighters. And that’s what you expect as a boxing fan when you turn into ShoBox that you’re going to see — you know, talented fighters and tomorrow’s champions today.