Kalvin “Hot Sauce” Henderson never heard of Grand Island prior to this year.
He’d never been anywhere in Nebraska.
But Grand Island suddenly has played a big part in the boxing career of the super middleweight from Fayetteville, Arkansas.
After earning a knockout win in March at the Heartland Events Center, Henderson returns Friday for a much tougher test – and a much bigger opportunity.
Henderson (14-0-1) and Isaiah Steen (15-0) face off in the 10-round main event of the “ShoBox: The New Generation” 20th anniversary card.
Four fights will air on Showtime, while there will be four other non-televised bouts on the card, presented by Kings Promotions. Doors open at 5 p.m., with fights set to begin at 6 p.m. The televised portion begins at 8 p.m.
For the two main event fighters, this is a golden chance to take their careers to the next level.
“It’s a really big opportunity,” Henderson said. “The fight itself is big, and then definitely the platform fighting on the 20th anniversary card of ShoBox is even something more to brag about. I’m just thankful for the opportunity and ready to show up.”
Steen agreed that the stakes are high.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “This is the biggest fight of my career, so I’m really excited for Friday.
“It means a lot with the exposure. I can make my own name and take it to the next level.”
Henderson is happy to return to Grand Island for this type of bout.
“It’s kind of cool,” he said. “The last time I fought there, I was headlining a Double R (Promotions) fight card, and I told them after the fight that I would be back. Sure enough, here it is, four months later, and this time it’s going to be Showtime. It’s exciting, man. I’m ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”
Henderson is thrilled to be in the main event of the 20th anniversary card, especially since the series has helped propel the career of up-and-coming boxers for two decades.
“You see a lot of fighters’ careers who went on the platform and jumped to a new platform by stopping here,” he said. “It has catapulted a lot of fighters like Andre Ward and all those guys.
“We’re ready to show the world what we already know, so it’s kind of cool to do it in front of all the fans who like and love boxing, especially in Nebraska.”
With a combined 30 fights without a loss and 22 knockouts, this stands as the toughest challenge for either man’s career.
“He’s a young, hungry, undefeated guy, and those guys aren’t easy,” Henderson said. “No matter if they are 1-0 or 15-0 like he is, those guys are undefeated for a reason, and I respect that. We train hard for that.
“I expect him to bring it, because I’m going to bring it on Friday night.”
Steen prides himself on his defense, and he said that will be important against Henderson.
“He likes to throw a lot of right hands, so my defense is important,” he said. “He throws a lot of jabs.
“I’ll try to frustrate him and look for a clean counter shot.”
Henderson said he’s prepared for a battle.
“The most important thing is my will, and to stay behind a good jab and then work my game plan to break him down,” he said.
Henderson has been the more active of the two fighters. In addition to his March 27 win in Grand Island, he also defeated Hastings’ Tevin Anderson on June 5.
Steen last fought and earned a technical knockout win over Juan De Angel on Nov. 6, 2020.
“I haven’t been able to get fights,” said Steen, a 24-year-old from Cleveland. “I haven’t fought in eight months, so I hope this ultimately gets me more fights.”
However, Steen said with a great training camp he isn’t concerned about his unwanted layoff being a factor once they touch gloves Friday.
Henderson could be a crowd favorite after his appearance in March.
“I think I won over a lot of new ‘Team Hot Sauce’ fans,” he said. “That was my first time ever in Nebraska – not just Grand Island, the state, period. They showed me mad love there. It was cool, and it’s cool to come back there and do it again. I hope those fans that came to see me in March are there again.”
The co-main event is a welterweight battle between Janelson Figueroa Bocachica (17-0) and Sinard Bunch (15-1) that promotors feel has the potential to be an action-packed, crowd-pleasing battle.
Some boxers with area ties will also step into the ring.
Former Grand Island resident Jose Jacobo (10-1) returns to face veteran Gilbert Venegas (17-30-5).
Jacobo is on a nine-fight winning streak, including a TKO victory at the Heartland Events Center in March. He has won by KO or TKO in four of his last six bouts.
Grand Island Senior High graduate Justin Oregon will take his second pro fight – and second in Grand Island – against John Hunt (3-1-1).
Grand Island native and Fremont resident Edel Gomez is listed for a fight against an opponent to be announced in a light heavyweight contest.