Unbeaten prospects Prograis, Diaz square off on Hall of Fame weekend

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Showtime’s “ShoBox: The New Generation” was built on a singular premise of prospects facing potentially their toughest test in an attempt to take the next step up the boxing ladder.

Rarely in the 16-year history of the series has a fight fit that description any better than the main event of the next card, when junior welterweight Regis Prograis (19-0, 16 KOs) squares off with Joel Diaz Jr. (23-0, 19 KOs) in a 10-round bout on Friday night (Showtime, 10:30 ET/PT) at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.

It’s a special Hall of Fame edition of the series because the International Boxing Hall of Fame is a few minutes away in Canastota, and on Sunday longtime ShoBox broadcasters Barry Tompkins and Steve Farhood will be inducted in the observer category.

Joining them on a tripleheader telecast will be fellow Hall of Famers Al Bernstein, who calls fights for “Showtime Championship Boxing,” and ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr., whose father, Jimmy Lennon Sr., also a world-renowned ring announcer, will be inducted posthumously.

But first they’ll watch as Prograis, who will be in his fourth ShoBox bout, and Diaz, competing in his third, attempt to score their biggest victory and make the jump from prospect status to contender.

The 28-year-old Prograis, a southpaw fighting out of Houston, has knocked out 12 of his past 13 opponents and knows how important the bout is for his career.

“I have worked hard to get here, and I am on a hunt for the title belts,” he said. “Diaz is standing in the way of my ultimate objective and I know that I must defeat him to get where I want to be. He needs to get past me to move onto the next level himself, so I am sure he is equally motivated. That is what makes for great fights.” Diaz, 25, of Palmdale, California, has scored seven knockouts in a row and indeed wants to get to the same place in boxing as Prograis.

“[Friday], I will be more than ready to hand Regis Prograis his first defeat,” Diaz said. “ShoBox fans are in for a treat as this will be a thriller while it lasts. When the smoke clears, I know that I will be the one left standing.”

In the scheduled eight-round co-feature, super middleweight Steve Rolls (15-0, 9 KOs), 33, of Toronto, will face Demond Nicholson (17-1-1, 16 KOs), 24, of Laurel, Maryland.

“I know that Nicholson can fight and I expect him to come prepared,” Rolls said.

Said Nicholson: “My time is now. Any time that I am able to showcase my talent in front of a national audience means a lot. I am very humbled and thankful to be a part of this card. I saw Rolls’ fight against Steed Woodall (a fourth-round knockout win on ShoBox in 2015). I think he has a lot to learn, and I will teach him a lesson. I look forward to victory and continuing to move up the world rankings.”

The eight-round opening bout will feature good-looking junior lightweight prospect Jon Fernandez (12-0, 10 KOs), a 21-year-old from Spain, who is promoted by former middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez’s Maravillabox Promotions. He’ll face Mexico’s Juan Reyes (14-3-3, 2 KOs), 27, who fights out of Bell Gardens, California.

“This is another big opportunity for me to show everybody that I am one of the best [130-pounders] in the world,” said Fernandez, who will be fighting in the United States for the third time. “In my last fight (on April 21), I won the Spanish title, something that I am very proud to have achieved. Now I will travel back to the U.S. to face anybody that my promoter puts in front of me. I am very confident in my skills and my team is doing great work with my career.”

Reyes has won two fights in a row, but it would be a major upset if he wins.

“This is the opportunity I have been waiting for my entire career,” Reyes said. “I make real wars out of my fights because that is my style and it works for me. Jon Fernandez will have his hands full because I am coming to win.”

Martinez says he thinks he has a future world champion on his hands in Fernandez.

” ‘Jonfer’ is a talented and hard-working young man that will archive great things. He’s destined for greatness,” Martinez said. “With his potential and work ethic, I have no doubt he’ll be a world champion one day. I will take it a step further and say that he will become next pound-for-pound champion. He is ready to win this fight by knockout and call out the top names in his weight class.”

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