For boxing enthusiasts, it doesn't get much better than the International Boxing Hall Of Fame weekend that starts this Friday and runs through Sunday in the small town of Canastota in upstate New York.
Helping celebrate the sport of boxing to kick-start the highly anticipated three-day occasion will be a ShoBox: The New Generation doubleheader live on Showtime on Friday, June 7 at 10 p.m. ET/PT delayed on the West Coast from the Turning Stone Casino in nearby Verona.
Numerous former and future Hall of Famers may partake in the fights, including one that will be inducted during Sunday’s ceremonies, longtime Showtime ring announcer, Jimmy Lennon Jr., who will work the fights on Friday and will be interviewed ringside on the telecast.
“This is a great setting for a ShoBox show because Canastota is so close to Verona (about 10 miles apart),’’ said ShoBox pro analyst and boxing historian Steve Farhood. “Canastota is boxing heaven for fight fans and the Hall of Fame weekend is the greatest weekend of the year for them.’’
In the ShoBox main event, exciting world-ranked junior middleweight KO specialist Jorge "Destroyer" Melendez (26-2-1, 25 KO's), of Bayamon, P.R., faces former amateur standout Nick “The Machine Gun” Brinson (14-1-2, 6 KO’s), of Rochester, N.Y. , in a 10-round middleweight match.
World-ranked Jonathan “Pitbull” Vidal (16-0, 8 KO's), of San Juan , P.R., and Mario “Yayo” Muñoz (13-0-1, 1 NC, 10 KO's), of Guadalajara, Mexico, clash in a battle of unbeaten bantamweights in the eight rd co-feature. The fight card is presented by Miguel Cotto Promotions and H2 Entertainment.
The streaking Melendez is not known for putting in a full night’s work. Only two of his 29 fights have gone the distance, and he has gone more than six full rounds only one time. One of the most prolific knockout artists in boxing today, the 5-foot-11, 24-year-old has won 13 in a row, 12 by knockout, and has not lost since July 2010.
Melendez has registered 10 knockdowns in his last five fights. In his last start the WBO Junior Middleweight Latino champion and current WBO No. 4-ranked contender put the deep and talented 154-pound division on notice, delivering a highlight-reel knockout of Ryan Davis on March 2 in Las Vegas on Showtime Extreme.
Melendez dropped Davis in the third round and finished him with a single right uppercut 13 seconds into the fourth.
Melendez’ four previous bouts went a total of 13 rounds. The only times the aggressive-minded Melendez went the distance came on a four-round draw in his pro debut in May 2007 and on Oct. 29, 2011, when he took a close, unanimous 10-round decision over veteran Eric Mitchell. That was also the last time he failed to score a knockdown.
Like many huge punchers, Melendez is susceptible to a big punch himself. He was stopped in both his defeats – against fighters with sub .500 records.
He lost by TKO 6 to Doel Carrisquillo (12-15-1) in July 2010 and by TKO 5 to Clarence Taylor (13-22-4) in July 2009. Melendez went down three times against Taylor .
“The main event features a very exciting fighter from Puerto Rico in Jorge Melendez, exciting not just because he can punch but because he’s an all or nothing fighter,’’ Farhood said.
“He’s a puncher in the truest sense; he tries to knock you out with every punch and he is very right-hand happy. But his two losses both came by knockout.’’
Melendez will be making his second start this year. He fought four times in 2012 and six times in 2011. This will be his sixth scheduled 10-rounder.
"I've been training very hard, knowing that I'm going to a higher level regarding my opponents,’’ said Melendez, who is making his ShoBox debut, third consecutive start in the U,S. and sixth overall in the states.
“I'm more of a brawler and a knockout artist. I am not a great technical fighter, but I'm working on my technique.
“I've been doing new exercises in training camp and I'm feeling a lot stronger, faster and more fit. I don't know who my opponent is but we'll be ready for anything he brings."
One of nine children, Melendez was born in Manati, P.R., and raised in Vega Baja. He turned to boxing at the age of 12. “I had a lot of problems in the streets when I was growing up, so my grandfather told me I should learn to fight in the ring. That way I wouldn't get into trouble,’’ said Melendez, who went 42-6 in the amateurs.
Brinson took this fight on a week’s notice, but he’s sharp, been active and never been knocked down. The 5-foot-11, 25-year-old is unbeaten in his last eight outings (7-0-1) since suffering his lone loss in November 2010, and will be making his fourth start this year.
The New York State Middleweight Champion, Brinson is coming off a clear 10-round unanimous decision over the more experienced Jose Medina in his last outing on April 25.
Before turning pro at the age of 21 in November 2008, Brinson was a skilled amateur. Among those he beat in his 90-or-so-bout amateur career included Olympians Shawn Estrada and Errol Spence.
“I got the call last Saturday (to fight Melendez),’’ Brinson said. “I wish it was more time – but I've been busy. I've only been in the gym about a week and a half but I believe in myself, and I believe that I can still do it.’’
Brinson is a substitute for Lanardo Tyner, who was a replacement for Melendez’ original foe, Luis Grajeda.
"I've seen Melendez' record,’’ said Brinson, a fast-handed boxer who possesses good skills and movement. “He must be a decent puncher. I don't know much about him, I haven't seen much film, but I imagine he's going to come forward and try to take me out. I'll be ready for that. I'll outbox and out-skill him.
"I'm a great counterpuncher, so I'll be expecting that."
Brinson’s lone loss came in his ninth fight on a seventh-round TKO to Lennox Allen. In a good action matchup, Brinson scored a knockdown in the second and Allen was cut over his right eye in the fifth.
But Brinson tired and was staggered by a series of punches in the seventh. He was out on his feet when the referee stopped the fight at 2:59.
“I only lost to Lennox Allen because I ran out of stamina,’’ Brinson said. “I should still be undefeated."
The co-feature matches two up-and-coming 118-pounders in their toughest fights to date. “This is a quintessential ShoBox fight of undefeated prospects, who are both taking leaps in class,’’ Farhood said, “One is from Puerto Rico, the other from Mexico, so we have that great rivalry going.’’
Vidal, a 5-foot-4, 28-year-old, is making his 2013, ShoBox and U.S. debut. This will be the third fight outside Puerto Rico for the WBC’s No. 12-ranked bantamweight, who had one fight in Nicaragua in 2008 and one in the Dominican Republic in 2011. He is coming off a dominant third-round TKO win over Josean “El Tren” Figueroa on Oct. 20, 2012.
"That was a great victory for me,’’ Vidal said. “I felt strong and fast. I look forward to fighting with the best bantamweights. I'm ready for them.”
Vidal, whose idol not surprisingly is Puerto Rican boxing legend Felix “Tito” Trinidad , is an aggressive-minded boxer-puncher. "I want to be smart in the ring, always, cautious,” he said. “But when it's time to put the pressure on my opponent, I definitely know how to do that."
In by far his closest encounter, he won an eight-round split decision over Angel Cruz on June 30, 2012. A tight fight was scored 76-75 twice for Vidal and 76-75 for Cruz.
Vidal hails from a fighting family. Two cousins on his mother’s side, brothers Julian (WBA Bantamweight Champion) and Rafael Solis (a super featherweight world title challenger), were top fighters. Vidal went 69-5 in the amateurs before turning pro in November 2007.
Munoz, who’s making his ShoBox debut, has campaigned exclusively in Mexico since turning pro in October 2012. He is 4-0 with one no-contest since boxing a four-round draw with Eduardo Ramirez in October 2011.
The 5-foot-7, 22-year-old scored two knockdowns en route to a fifth-round knockout over Cecilio Santos in his last outing on Jan. 19 in Guadalajara. Vidal also fought Santos, winning an eight-round decision in May 2011.
“I've been training for this fight for two months in Guadalajara,’’ Munoz said. “I'm an all-around fighter. I have technique. I like to go forward. I think I do a little of everything.
“All I know about my opponent is that he's a very strong fighter and goes forward, and he gives his all in the ring. I'm training hard to put on a great fight, and I don't want anybody to miss it.’’
Munoz’ scheduled 10-round fight with Moises Flores on Nov. 10, 2012, ended in a no-contest after Munoz was cut over his left eye by a clash of heads in the fourth round. Several brawls broke out in the audience after the fight was stopped at 1:12.
A three-time national Junior Olympic Champion, Munoz went 140-10 in the amateurs before going pro at the age of 19 in September 2010. He won his initial nine fights before the draw with Ramirez.
Tickets priced at $75, $45, $35 and $25, plus tax and service charges, are on sale at the box office of the Turning Stone Resort & Casino, by calling (315) 361-SHOW (7469) and also through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com
Barry Tompkins will call the ShoBox action from ringside with Farhood and former World Champion Raul Marquez serving as expert analysts. The executive producer is Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.