Will ShoBox unveil another future champion on Friday night?
“ShoBox” continues to deliver the best bang for the buck to boxing fans, and they are giving us another bang-up card on Friday night (10 p.m. ET/PT). The main event features the self-dubbed “Mini-Mayweather,” Devin Haney, who is as brash inside the ring as that nickname infers. A ShoBox debut is the first step in delivering on that moniker. When it comes to unearthing exciting new talent, no boxing series measures up to “ShoBox: The New Generation.” The Showtime mainstay is masterful at it, with 74 current and former world champions making their first impressions on the platform. The blueprint is simple: Match top young prospects against each other or put a prospect in against an established veteran, who will test their skills and mettle. That demanding matchmaking has handed a first loss to over 150 prospects! Their roll call of champions presents a mix of styles like Ricky Hatton, Andre Ward, Deontay Wilder, Carl Froch, Errol Spence Jr. and Guillermo Rigondeaux. So the odds are that Friday night’s quadrupleheader will serve up at least one future titleholder and maybe hand two boxers the first career defeats.
Haney, a 19-year-old in his first 10-round test, has won seven national amateur tourneys en route to a 130-8 amateur record. That resume includes a spirited six-fight split, three wins a piece, against current rising junior lightweight star Ryan Garcia. Haney’s ambitions forced him to travel to Mexico, at age 16, to turn pro after not being able to compete at the 2016 Olympics because he was too young. His workaholic tendencies have not relented, since returning to America, registering 18 wins and 12 stoppages in all. The San Diego-raised boxer, now living in Las Vegas to spar as much as possible, will be tested by Mason Menard, 33-2 (24), a 29-year-old veteran who knocked out undefeated prospect Eudy Bernardo on ShoBox two years ago. Since then Menard lost a grueling fight to current WBO champion Raymundo Beltran, stepping in as a last-minute replacement, in an HBO main event. Both say they have been given the time to enter this fight at 100%.
This is the American boxing public’s first chance to see what some are calling a phenom, a gym rat earning plaudits, sparring Jorge Linares, Zab Judah, Shawn Porter, Jessie Vargas and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Haney is a student of himself, to avoid tipping his hand in the ring, “I study myself a lot, to find a flaw to find something that my opponent can capitalize on. I am always trying to get better,” stating matter of factly, without much bluster but plenty of conviction, that he is ready for anyone, “After this fight, I want to fight for a world title. I am not going to stop until I am the face of boxing. I wanna go down with the legends, Sugar Ray Robinson, (Sugar) Ray Leonard, Charley Burley, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather. You can’t deny me.”
After learning valuable lessons fighting 10 of his first 15 fights in Mexico, at various Tijuana venues, which have little rooting interest for American prospects against their countrymen, Haney has boxed exclusively in America for the past year. Despite entering off his longest layoff, nearly seven months, Haney says he has been training the whole time, knowing a big opportunity was in the offing. Haney told THE RING Magazine’s Joseph Santoliquito, “Menard has some power and the world is saying that he’s my toughest test, and I’ll agree with that He’s going to come to fight and he’s no slouch. I want to show the world that I belong with the top guys. I think Mason is a good fighter; I just think I’m on a different level.”
As with most young men, patience is not Haney’s strong suit, even if he has taken his time breaking down opponents inside the ring, “I’m intimidating and I know it. I’ve been calling out all the big game’s names in my weight class. A lot of them have been turning me down.” Not a surprise, given Haney’s current position in boxing’s pecking order, but he can capture the USBA lightweight title, which will give him a Top 15 ranking in the IBF. More importantly, a scintillating TV debut will give Haney a start in building the fan base he craves, “This fight against Menard is very important to me and my brand. I want to show the world that I’m the next big star in boxing. A dominating win against Menard on Showtime will give the fans a taste of what I’m all about.”
Mason Menard may be taking this fight even more seriously than Haney, moving his family six hours from their home in Louisiana to box alongside the world champion Charlo brothers and Errol Spence Jr. in Dallas. The change of scenery and team members (Nathan Pipitone, Maurice James and Aaron Navarro) have served Menard well, “Everything has changed. The way I eat in my off-time, my team, my management, my trainers, the way I train. Everything. I’m in Dallas to better my career. Louisiana just doesn’t have what I need to take it to the next level and compete. I’m working hard here and it’s what I need. I’m pushing the tempo and sharpening my skills.”
It will be a welcome return to ShoBox for Menard, who excels under the bright lights and pressure-filled atmosphere. Menard scored a brutal “Knockout of the Year” candidate over previously undefeated Eudy Bernardo on the series two years ago. One year later, Menard again registered an impressive knockout over Uzbekistani southpaw Bahodir Mamadjonov. Those results directly led to that ill-fated short-notice call from HBO, to fill in for an injured Juan Diaz, in which Menard suffered his only loss since 2008. Menard scored a rebound victory three months later but suffered a serious shoulder injury in the process, that has kept him out of action until now.
There are questions about Menard coming back from an injury against a hot prospect like Haney but Menard did not hesitate when called upon, “I’ll be ready. I had a detached front rotator cuff tendon and partial torn biceps tendon. It gave out on me in my last fight, in the first round. I’ve had surgery on it, and rehabbed it, and now I’m ready to return to the world stage. I’m in with a good, slick boxer but my trainers have a game plan and we have been working on a few things that he does, just to be prepared for what’s to come against him. May 11th can’t come soon enough because I am ready to show the boxing world that Devin Haney is taking too big of a step up, and I am back.”
Devin Haney-Mason Menard is the main event of an intriguing quadrupleheader, with two undefeated American light heavyweights Alvin Varmall Jr. and Charles Foster in the main support. Neither had a blue-chip pedigree out of the amateurs but ShoBox hopes it can repeat its luck and find another Jarrett “Swift” Hurd, who started his title winning trajectory, knocking out Frank Galarza on Showtime. The opening junior featherweight bout marks the American debut of Ukrainian hotshot Arnold Khegai, facing a stiff test from battle-hardened Adam Lopez, who has engaged an unrelenting schedule of top prospects since 2015. Rounding out the show are Maryland’s Glenn Dezurn and Chicago-based Josh “Don’t Blink” Greer, two blue-collar bantamweights who can’t afford a second loss, given the depth of talent in that division.
This is the kind of challenging matchmaking that has propelled the ShoBox series, forging champions in the process, making it a fan favorite since its inception in 2001. They have constructed a boxing legacy spotting raw talents with ambition and giving that genius a stage to express themselves. Haney seems to fit that mold and plans on repaying ShoBox for taking a chance on him, telling David Robinett of FightNews.com, “This will be my coming-out party. I’m going to show the world that Devin Haney was born for these moments and my talent will be on display come fight night.”