A step up the boxing ladder is there for the taking Friday night in Atlantic City. Who wants it more, Isaiah Steen or Sena Agbeko?
Their answer will materialize at Bally’s Atlantic City Casino and Resort in the 10-round main event, televised on “SHOBOX: The New Generation” boxing program. The super-middleweights headline the televised portion of the card, which begins at 9:30 p.m.
Doors to the Bally’s Grand Ballroom on the sixth floor open at 6 p.m. The card begins at 7 p.m.
Ticket prices begin at $40 and six fights are scheduled.
More on SHOBOX boxing card
Steen is 16-0 with 12 knockouts, while Agbeko carries a 26-2 mark with 21 knockouts.
The co-feature is an eight-round super welterweight contest between Marquis Taylor (12-1-2, 1 KO) and Marlon Harrington (8-0, 7 KOs). An eight-round battle between undefeated heavyweight prospects Elvis Garcia (12-0, 9 KOs) and Moses Johnson (8-0-1, 7 KOs) opens the televised part of the card.
Atlantic City boxing fans may see the SHOBOX series as a natural fit for the Atlantic City market. Bally’s was the site of the first SHOBOX 21 years ago and has been a staple for excellent boxing attractions over the last four decades.
Bally’s also hosted a SHOBOX card in September.
What is different about SHOBOX shows?
SHOBOX provides a launching-pad niche within the sport. Fighters who win these tough, high-profile bouts will either attain a world ranking or a special distinction amongst promoters, network executives and matchmakers. There are 86 fighters who have appeared on SHOBOX and later garnered world titles. Some were hardly known when they appeared on the series.
The show helped propel several fighters into world-title contention and they later obtained belts.
That list includes:
- Errol Spence
- Deontay Wilder
- Devon Alexander
- Ricky Hatton
- Paulie Malignaggi
Spence is the current welterweight champion.
Kelly Pavlik, who is another member of this group, went on to become a regular Atlantic City headliner at Boardwalk Hall.
The series has a similar impact as boxing’s “HBO’s Boxing After Dark,” which produced Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Famer Arturo Gatti. The string of Gatti’s Boardwalk Hall sellouts in the 2000’s was born from an unforgettable triumph over Wilson Rodriguez on Boxing After Dark in 1996.
AC boxing card could lead to bigger opportunities
Time will tell whether Steen and Agbeko make that progression to the next level. For now, they are worlds away from division champions like Canelo Alvarez, David Benavidez and David Morrell.
But this clash has major implications for both fighters, who are making their Atlantic City boxing debut.
Steen has not fought since July 2021. The Cleveland fighter has the layoff issue to deal with after surviving his last step up. It was a decision victory over Kalvin Henderson, who was undefeated at the time. Steen prevailed by scores of 96-94, 97-93 and 97-93, keeping himself on the fringes of the world rankings.
“I’m grateful for this amazing opportunity,” Steen said. “I am also looking forward to facing a great opponent in Agbeko and showcasing my skills.”
Agbeko, the Ghana native dubbed “The African Assassin,” is now based in Nashville. A 2021 loss to Vladimir Shiskin. That loss had forced him to regroup and vaulted Shiskin to ninth ranking in the WBC.
Agbeko answered with three consecutive victories inside the distance. One of them came in July, when he notched a ninth-round TKO over Winfred Harris.
Agbeko rocked Harris to the head in round 9, scoring a knockdown. Although Harris beat the count, he looked fatigued and an Agbeko uppercut prompted an abrupt end to the contest.
“I’m so excited for this opportunity, ”Agbeko said. “This is what I train for, to fight on the biggest stages. I know [Steen is] hungry and has also been previously featured on the SHOBOX series but it’s not going to be easy for him.”
Who else is fighting at Bally’s Atlantic City?
In the televised opener, there’s a human-interest angle surrounding Garcia for people who follow Mexican heavyweights, because there aren’t many of them. Garcia has a unique link to Andy Ruiz, the first-ever Mexican heavyweight champion.
Garcia, born in Mexico and raised in Oregon. is chasing the American underdog dream. Several years ago, he traveled 10-12 hours round trip to Tacoma, Wash. to obtain boxing instruction. It often meant sleeping in his car.
That morphed into amateur tournaments and a budding professional career.
Garcia eventually relocated, traveled overseas and has sparred with former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. It was Joshua who suffered the shocking upset loss to Ruiz in 2019 in Madison Square Garden.
Johnson, meanwhile, will step into the ring coming off a technical draw versus Robert Simms in March. A left hook by Johnson caught Simms after he’d spun around and thus landed in the back of the head. The punch was ruled an accidental foul.
Friday’s card at Bally’s is promoted by Dmitry Salita, a former New York Golden Gloves amateur champion and professional boxer. He launched a promoting career in 2011 and has managed to secure several television deals.