This Friday night at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime, Mayweather Promotions will present a four-fight edition of ShoBox: The New Generation, with two cruiserweight bouts topping the bill, both legitimate prospect vs prospect matchups.
Here's a look at all four matchups and the eight fighters involved.
Andrew Tabiti vs Keith Tapia
Record: 12-0 (11 KO) ... Streak: W12 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 6'1" / 76½" ...Age: 26
Thoughts: Tabiti, originally from Chicago and now fighting out of Las Vegas, "The Beast" has only gone past the second round in four fights, and has only gone to the scorecards once, a shutout eight-round decision over Roberto Santos last July.
Generally speaking, you'll see cruiserweights weighing in at or very near the 200-pound limit, around 198 or so, and early in their career they'll often float a bit above that into the low 200s, to keep busy without cutting those last few pounds. But Tabiti has never weighed in over 196½ pounds on the scales, and early in his career fought as low as 188¼, indicating a potential flirting with the idea of going down to 175. But he's firmly settled in as a cruiserweight now, at 195 and above in his last five outings. It's not a massive issue or a flag or anything, just kind of interesting to me.
This is a clear step up for Tabiti, a classic ShoBox fight, prospect on prospect violence, two guys who have talent and hope, but haven't yet been tested, and they're not going to get those tests against journeymen veterans or gatekeepers, they're going at each other.
Tabiti says his main influences as a fighter were Floyd Mayweather, Roy Jones Jr, James Toney, and Evander Holyfield. That's a diverse bunch of styles to draw from. He went 32-6 as an amateur.
Record: 17-0 (11 KO) ... Streak: W17 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 6'2" / 80" ...Age: 25
Thoughts: On the topic of cruiserweight weights, Tapia is more a "normal" cruiserweight than Tabiti. In 13 of his 17 fights, he's weighed in a bit above 200. A few of those fights were legitimate heavyweight bouts, as he fought much heavier men just to keep busy. His highest weight was 214 for a bout in 2013; his heaviest opponent, Earl Ladson, came in at 255½ for a fight in 2014, where Tapia weighed 209½. Again, not a major thing, just kind of an interesting side note. To me, anyway.
Tapia, nicknamed "Machine Gun," beat veteran Garrett "The Ultimate Warrior" Wilson in his last outing, going a full 10 rounds and winning a clear decision in New Jersey. Wilson is not necessarily a tough out, because when he loses, he tends to lose clearly, but he's known for giving guys rounds, and he gave Tapia rounds. You have to work to beat Garrett Wilson. Between he and Tabiti, that's probably the best win on either record.
Tapia is a little taller, has a few inches of reach on Tabiti. Born in the Bronx, he now lives in Puerto Rico, where both of his parents were born. He fought for Puerto Rico in AIBA competitions, and was 58-4 as an amateur. Tapia's influences were Wilfredo Gomez and Muhammad Ali.
Tapia has the slight advantage in experience, and his higher level amateur work could be the difference. He's a more measured fighter, while Tabiti has thus far been able to shine on natural gifts, good hand speed and athleticism. Tapia, meanwhile, is the more polished boxer.
Matchup Grade: B. Nothing to dislike here, a ShoBox-style main event where two young fighters on the way up are taking their first real risk, against one another. These matchups have a tendency to expose someone at the same time as put someone in a position to move forward. That could be the case here. This is a good matchup.
Michael Hunter vs Isiah Thomas
Record: 11-0 (8 KO) ... Streak: W11 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 6'2" / 79½" ...Age: 27
Thoughts: Hunter competed at the 2012 Olympics for Team USA as its heavyweight (201 lbs). He started as a super heavyweight, fighting at 215 pounds against often bigger guys, doing pretty well thanks to his speed and pedigree, as he's a second generation fighter, the son of Mike "The Bounty" Hunter, who fought professionally from 1985-96, who defeated a young Oliver McCall in 1988, and a past prime Dwight Muhammad Qawi in 1990.
Hunter made it to the finals of the National Golden Gloves at age 18 in 2006, and aimed to make the 2008 Olympic team. He lost to word-ranked No. 1 Islam Timurziev of Russia at the 2007 Worlds in Chicago (Timurziev won bronze there and lost to David Price in his first fight in Beijing). Hunter ultimately failed to qualify for the Beijing Games, then moved down to heavyweight and qualified for the London Olympics. He lost to Artur Beterbiev of Russia in the first round, a fight that went to countback after a 10-10 draw over three rounds. Beterbiev is now a top prospect/contender in the light heavyweight division. It was really one of the better showings for the American men's team in London, as he went neck-and-neck with a very good fighter.
So Hunter has talent. He's always had talent. But as a pro, there has been some question of his ceiling. He fought as a heavyweight early, but cruiserweight has always been the destination, and now he's worked his way there. He has't faced real competition thus far, but he's done as he should, for the most part, and handled fighters who frankly are largely not as good as the guys Hunter was fighting as an amateur.
Record: 15-0 (6 KO) ... Streak: NC1 ... Last 5: 4-0 (1 NC) ... Last 10: 9-0 (1 NC) ... Stance: Southpaw ...Height/Reach: 6'4" / 80" ...Age: 27
Thoughts: Detroit's Isiah Thomas (the boxer) is an interesting prospect. He's tall, long reach, a southpaw, a very good athlete, a fighter who so impressed Emanuel Steward that the late, great trainer once said he hadn't seen "anyone as good" since Bernard "Superbad" Mays, the legendary Kronk talent whose life was destroyed by alcoholism, and is one of boxing's saddest "what could've been?" stories.
"Emanuel always assured me years ago that he thought I was going to be a world champion. He said I was a special talent and would praise me on my natural ability," Thomas told Premier Boxing Champions last year.
Thomas said that before his fight with Jordan Shimmell, a wide 10-round decision win in July. Five months later, he was matched up with Murat Gassiev, another top cruiserweight prospect. The fight ended a no-contest after three rounds, when Thomas was hit after the bell and couldn't continue.
Shimmell is now facing Gassiev on May 17 in an IBF eliminator. Thomas could understandably feel a bit slighted by that, but he's got a chance here to throw himself back into the conversation if he can beat Hunter.
Matchup Grade: B. We've got four cruiserweight prospects on this show, and it's really anyone's guess as to whom the best of the lot is. Both matchups are intriguing on paper, both what should be the toughest test of each man's career to date, both with the potential to alert us to a rising contender and/or a falling pretender. Hunter is a good boxer, but the dimensions of Thomas and his southpaw stance could be tricky. This is a pick'em on paper.
Ronald Gavril vs Juan Camilo Novoa
Record: 15-1 (11 KO) ... Streak: W4 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 6'2" / N/A ...Age: 29
Thoughts: Gavril, a tall super middleweight prospect from Romania, is nicknamed "The Thrill," in part because he can be an exciting fighter, in part because that rhymes with "Gavril."
Gavril's lone career loss came in March 2015, a trip up against veteran Elvin Ayala over eight rounds. Ayala's superior experience -- he'd faced the likes of Arthur Abraham, David Lemieux, and Sergio Mora, among others -- played a big role in that fight, and the hope for Gavril coming out of that was that the loss would be a learning experience.
So far, that seems to be the case. He got right back into the ring four weeks later, then fought again in June, September, and December, closing the year with four straight wins, including victories over familiar club names Jessie Nicklow and Scott Sigmon. His last two wins have come via stoppage.
Juan Camilo Novoa
Record: 26-6-1 (24 KO) ... Streak: W4 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 5'10" / 70" ...Age: 27
Thoughts: Novoa, a Colombian now living in Miami, started his pro career in 2005 with nine straight wins in his native country, all coming by knockout in the first or second round. He moved his career to the United States, and things got rougher. He was stopped in two minutes by David Toribio in 2007, Novoa's third pro fight on U.S. soil, and Antwone Smith knocked him out in four rounds in 2008. Nilson Julio Tapia stopped him in Panama in 2009.
After a 2-4-1 run between Toribio and a six-round split decision loss to Jose Angel Rodriguez in 2009, Novoa went back home to knock out some no-hoper and get himself back in the win column in 2010. He then traveled to Germany to face Mahir Oral three weeks later, and was stopped in 10.
Novoa is 16-0 (16 KO) in Colombia, which includes his current four-fight win streak, which followed a TKO-6 loss in Russia to Dmitry Chudinov in 2013. He is 10-6-1 (8 KO) outside of Colombia. The breakdown there is 6-1 in Panama, 4-3-1 in the United States, 0-1 in Germany, 0-1 in Russia. This will be his first fight in the States since the loss to Rodriguez in 2009.
As an amateur, Novoa competed in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, beating Hungary's Vilmos Balog in the round of 16, before a quarterfinal loss to South Korea's Kim Jung-Joo. But as a pro, long story short is that he has a very Colombian record.
Matchup Grade: D+. Maybe you don't want to say that Gavril is being handed a TV win here, but the proof is in the pudding with Novoa's record. When he faces better opponents, he loses. His last win outside of Colombia or Panama came in 2008, when he beat a fighter whose record was 5-12-1 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This isn't even a case of a Colombian fighter with a gaudy, KO-heavy record coming in and we have the feeling he'll get exposed. Novoa has already been exposed, repeatedly, and it dates back nine years.
Sanjarbek Rakhmanov vs Alfonso Olvera
Record: 4-0 (3 KO) ... Streak: W4 ... Last 5: 4-0 ... Last 10: 4-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 5'7½" / N/A ...Age: 26
Thoughts: Uzbekistan's Rakhmanov made it to the quarterfinals of the 2013 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Kazakhstan before losing to Mongolia's Uranchimegiin Mönkh-Erdene. That run included a win over Abdelkader Chadi, an Algerian who won gold at the All-Africa games in 2007 as a featherweight and 2015 as a junior welterweight, and was also a quarterfinalist at the 2008 Olympics and competed at the 2012 games as a lightweight.
Rakhmanov had a reported 140 amateur fights. "The Terminator" came to Las Vegas in late 2014 hoping to join the Mayweather team, and has done so, turning pro in June of last year. He's been good so far against limited opposition -- his foes have had a combined record of 15-11-2 coming in, which is right about on par for someone this early in their pro run.
Friday's fight isn't a big step up from that, and he'll hope to become the third prospect to beat Alfonso Olvera in the last two years.
Record: 7-2 (3 KO) ... Streak: W3 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 7-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 5'11" / 74" ...Age: 26
Thoughts: Olvera, a Mexican now fighting out of Tucson, Arizona, is a spirited fighter. You can give him that much. If you happened to catch his swing fight last October on a PBC broadcast on FS1, you can gather that much. You could also gather that he was a bit outclassed against Ryan "Cowboy" Karl, an all-action prospect from Texas, as the fight wore on. Olvera had some early success in that one, but was worn down in the last few rounds of the six-round bout.
His other loss came in his second pro fight, when he was matched against Ivan Baranchyk in December 2014. When you're thrown into a fight with someone like Baranchyk in your second pro outing, it's a sign that nobody is exactly looking at you to become a star.
Rakhmanov is being served an opponent here, a tough fighter who isn't hard to hit and hasn't yet been stopped, and did give four decent rounds to Baranchyk and six to Karl.
Matchup Grade: C-. I mean, it is what it is. It's not as bad as the Gavril-Novoa matchup, but it's not much better, either. It's a TV showcase for Rakhmanov so that he can show his skills to the ShoBox audience. Show on the ShoBox showcase on Showtime.