Money Team Cruiserweights – Cruiserweights born and bred in the United States have been in short supply. By one account, the last cruiserweight champion spawned in the U.S. was Toledo’s Bernard Benton whose brief title reign ended 20 years ago. There isn’t a single cruiserweight listed in the top 10 in the current rankings of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board who was born in North America. Since the turn of the century, the division has been dominated by fighters from Eastern Europe.
Floyd Mayweather, by which we mean Floyd Mayweather the promoter, aims to change that template. There are two American cruiserweights in his Money Team stable with promising futures. They will both be in action on Friday night at Sam’s Town in Las Vegas against undefeated opponents in the next installment of the “Sho Box: The New Generation” series on SHOWTIME. There are four bouts in all on the TV portion of the show.
Andrew Tabiti (12-0, 11 KOs), from Las Vegas by way of Chicago, has been turning heads at the Mayweather Boxing Club gym. He is trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr. who has trained such notables as Chad Dawson, Joan Guzman, Ricky Hatton, and Oscar De La Hoya, not to mention his famous son of the same name. His opponent, Keith Tapia (17-0, 11 KOs) is an American by birth (Bronx, NY) who relocated to Puerto Rico when he was a teenager. Tapia was extended 10 rounds by journeyman Garrett Wilson in his last fight, but he has a habit of starting fast. Eight of his 11 knockouts were scored in the opening round.
The 10-round co-feature finds Money Team cruiserweight Michael Hunter (11-0, 8 KOs) locking horns with Detroit’s Isiah Thomas (15-0, 6 KOs). The son of the late Mike “The Bounty” Hunter, a small heavyweight who was widely avoided because of his confounding herky-jerky style, Michael Hunter is a more orthodox fighter with a strong amateur pedigree. He participated in the 2012 London Olympics where he was eliminated in the first round by Artur Beterbiev.
Hunter is matched tough. Isiah Thomas, a 6’4” southpaw, was a two-time Junior Olympic National Champion. As a pro he owns wins over Richard Hall and previously undefeated Jordan Shimmell. As an amateur, he was tabbed as a future champion by none other than the late, great Emanuel Steward.
The third 10-rounder is a super middleweight contest with an international flavor. It pits Romania’s Ronald Gavril (15-1, 11 KOs) against Columbia’s Juan Camilo Novoa (26-6-1, 24 KOs).
Gavril, currently based in Las Vegas, trains at the Mayweather gym under the tutelage of former light heavyweight champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. Novoa, a 2004 Olympian who has been training in Miami, is a hard puncher but his record is somewhat deceiving as he has defeated only 10 boxers that had winning records at the time that he fought them.
The TV lid-lifter pits Sanjarek Rakhmanov (4-0, 3 KOs) against Alfronso Olvera (7-2, 3 KOs) in a 6-round welterweight contest. Rakhmanov, who hails from Uzbekistan, migrated to Las Vegas in 2014 with hopes of landing a spot on the Mayweather Money Team. He was welcomed aboard in July of last year. Olvera, a 26-year-old father of three from Tucson, has been in with two other hot young prospects, losing on points to Ryan Karl and Ivan Baranchyk.
The full card consists of 10 fights, or at least that is the plan. First bell for the first undercard fight is 4:00 pm PST.