Two of Don King’s most promising, undefeated young prospects, lightweight Angelo “The Cobra” Santana and super lightweight Amir “Young Master” Imam will compete in featured fights this Friday, April 12, on ShoBox: The New Generation live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).
Both boxers, highly regarded and packed with potential, are in tough.
A former amateur standout and the current WBA No. 3-ranked 135-pound contender, southpaw Santana (14-0, 11 KOs), of Miami, Fla., faces fellow lefthander Bahodir “Baha” Mamadjonov (11-1, 7 KOs), of Houston, Texas by way of Uzbekistan, in the 10-round the main event at Treasure Island Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev. Mamadjonov is a substitute for the injured Carlos Cardenas, who withdrew with a shoulder injury last week.
In his toughest fight to date, Imam (8-0, 7 KOs), of Albany, N.Y., will be opposed by Jeremy “Hollywood” Bryan (16-2, 7 KOs) of Paterson, N.J., in the eight-round co-feature. Imam has won his last seven fights by knockout, all inside four rounds.
Tickets, all priced at $100 each plus tax and fees, are on sale at Treasure Island box office or by calling (866) 712-9308 or (702) 894-7723. Doors open at 3 p.m. PT. The first live undercard fight is at 4 p.m.
The 5-foot-8 Santana, who turns 25 on April 19, will be making his second consecutive start on ShoBox. In a career-best performance last Nov. 16, he registered one of the most devastating knockouts in 2012 – a brutal fifth-round stoppage over previously unbeaten Johnny Garcia (13-0) in Hallandale, Fla.
Taking his first significant step up in class, the aggressive-minded, heavy-handed Santana scored three knockdowns, one from a left hand in the second and two more from massive left hands in the fifth. The last left rendered Garcia unconscious, and the referee halted the proceedings without a count at 1:41.
“He was very tough but I was able to knock him out and that was my intention,’’ Santana said. “That performance said it all. It proved I’m ready. I was nervous at the beginning; this was my first national TV appearance and I needed a round to gain my composure. (But) I was waiting for him to gain confidence and attack. Once he did that I was able to unload my left hand.’’
Said ShoBox expert analyst and boxing historian Steve Farhood regarding the vicious KO win: “Santana gave us the impression that he’s special by the power he showed in his ShoBox debut. The knockout he scored over Garcia was undeniably one of the most spectacular knockouts of the year, and at first glance Santana gives the impression of being able to steamroll anybody he hits with that left hand.’’
This will be the third scheduled 10-round bout for the Cuban-born Santana, a two-time national amateur champion and pro since 2008. He’s only been six full rounds one time, however, and that was over three years ago. The majority of his fights have been wipeouts – four of his knockouts came in the first round, three in the second and two in the third. He’s flattened his last seven opponents in five rounds or less.
Mamadjonov, a skilled and determined boxer, doesn’t figure to go as swiftly.
“Baha presents a difficult challenge for Santana for a couple of reasons,’’ Farhood said. “First, he’s a late substitute and Santana had been preparing for other fighters. Secondly, he’s a southpaw and Santana’s prior opponents for this show were all right-handed. Baha was in a very close fight with Darley Perez and Perez is one of the best lightweight prospects in the world. So this should be a real test for Santana.’’
Armando Alvarez, a longtime sports producer at Telemundo, has seen several of Santana’s scraps in and around Miami and has high praise for the crowd-pleasing slugger.
“In my opinion Santana is as good as any active Cuban fighter and that’s including Yuriorkis Gamboa, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara,’’ Alvarez said. “He’s extremely disciplined, has fast hands, and superb power. He’s a treat to watch, and I believe this bout will catapult him to a world title shot.’’
Santana, who’s appearing before a Las Vegas crowd for a third time, is looking forward to another eye-opening performance. “I’ve been preparing for this for over three months in Hialeah, Fla., and I’ve been sparring three times a week although it’s difficult to find guys who want to spar with me,’’ he said.
“I don’t know anything about my opponent. I just make sure that I prepare myself the best I can.’’
In the summer of 2007, Santana defected from Cuba on a makeshift boat to re-unite with his childhood sweetheart, Anay, in the United States. Ten days after his arrival on Sept. 1, 2007, he signed with Don King Productions.
Mamadjonov (pronounced Mama-John-ov) is a 5-foot-6, 25-year-old who’d won all 11 of his fights until losing his 10-round debut on a split decision to Perez in a competitive contest on Aug. 10, 2012.
Manadjonov wobbled Perez and had him in big trouble in the fourth but was the victim of an unintentional headbutt in the middle rounds that left him “seeing stars.’’ Still, going into the eighth round it was either guy’s fight to win. But Baha went down from a short right uppercut and Perez, a 2008 Colombian Olympian, went on to triumph in a give-and-take scrap by the scores of 95-94, 96-94 and 94-95.
Baha disagreed with the judges. “I felt I won the fight,’’ he said. “The knockdown was a slip. I’m very disappointed with the decision.’’
After nearly 200 amateur fights, the two-time World Military champion and Asian champion in 2005 turned pro in May 2011. He fought seven times that year and five times in 2012. A gym rat, he’s been in training for almost two months in Houston.
“My whole life is boxing,’’ said Baha, who possesses good speed and movement. “I moved to the United States in September 2010 to catch my dreams. I want to be a world champion. Everybody says when they watch my fights, ‘Oh, you’re a classic fighter.’ I just try to make a good, clean fight in the ring.’’
Imam (pronounced E-Mom) is a 5-foot-11, 22-year-old up-and-comer who is making his ShoBox debut and third start in 2013. Like the main event, this fight also doesn’t figure to be a blowout.
“Amir Imam was a top amateur and he’s making a gigantic jump in class by taking on a proven warrior in Jeremy Bryan,” Farhood said. “This will be Imam’s national television debut and I think viewers will be surprised at the poise and skill fight this very young fighter will show.
“In the tradition of ShoBox, both fighters are facing their toughest opponents to date.’’
Imam was an accomplished amateur before turning pro on Nov. 5, 2011 with a four-round decision over Christian Steele in Hollywood, Fla. Imam’s initial five fights took place in Florida; his last two, both this year, were in the Dominican Republic. He’s won by third-round TKO in his last three outings. He defeated Alejandro Lebron in his most recent effort last March 9.
“I was right back in the gym in Deerfield Beach, Fla., after my last fight,’’ Imam said. “We don’t take any days off here. I’ve been sparring with a lot of fighters so I get a lot of work. I’ve worked with people like Richar Abril, Yuriorkis Gamboa, people like that.
Imam was born in Albany, N.Y. He started to box at the age of 12. He went pro shortly after losing in the finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2011. The confident youngster views himself as an entertainer, a puncher-boxer fans should keep a close eye on now and in the future.
“I come to fight and I put on a show,’’ he said. “I take care of business. You don’t get paid for overtime. I can do it all. I can be a pressure fighter, a boxer, I can push it up. You’ve got to adapt to what’s in front of you. I don’t really know anything about Bryan except he’s got a good record under his name.
“The Young Master’s on stage now. I’ll be shining in boxing for a long time, performing to my best. The new kid’s on the block.”
Bryan, a 5-foot-9, 27-year-old, turned pro in November 2007 after a stellar amateur career. A two-time National Golden Gloves Champion (2004-2005), he had impressive amateur victories against current Unified Super Lightweight Champion Danny Garcia and contender Hank Lundy.
A resident of Sumter, S.C., Bryan has won two in a row since returning to the ring in October 2012 after two years off. The layoff came shortly after he’d suffered two knockout losses over a six-month span in 2010. Bryan is coming off the biggest victory of his career, an eight-round majority decision over Yuri Ramanau (aka Romanov) last Jan. 4 in Miami.
An excellent boxer with good speed and movement, Bryan isn’t exactly in awe of Imam.
“There’s one thing about me,’’ Bryan said. “I don’t call out any fighters. I don’t pick fights. I just go in the ring and do what I’ve got to do. I just listen to my coaches. I don’t know a thing about this kid I’m fighting except he was a good amateur. I don’t care about his (pro) record. The record doesn’t mean a thing. You can have three wins and 30 losses and still win a big fight.
“I do what I do in the ring. I adapt to anything. I transform easy in the ring. On Friday, he’ll bring his ‘A’ game, I’ll bring my ‘A’ game, and the best man will win that night.’’
In the top non-televised undercard bout, Ryan “The Irish Outlaw” Coyne (21-0, 9 KOs), of St. Louis, and Marcus Oliveira (24-0-1, 19 KOs), of Lawrence, Kan., collide in a battle of unbeatens in a WBA light heavyweight elimination bout. The winner of the 12-rounder will become the No. 1-ranked 175-pounder by the WBA and mandatory challenger to champion Beibut Shumenov.