Mike Tyson is bringing Pittsburgh boxing back to national television.
Tyson's new promotion company, Iron Mike Productions, and Showtime television are presenting the "ShoBox: The New Generation" fight card tonight at the Monroeville Convention Center.
The main event, dubbed "Pittsburgh Power," is a lightweight contest between Bunola native Rod Salka (18-3, 3 KOs) and undefeated prospect Alexei Collado (18-0, 16 KOs). Salka, who grew up 30 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, signed with Golden Boy Promotions in early November 2013. Salka was excited to join the company.
"It's a good feeling," he said. "They are the biggest name in boxing."
A month after signing the deal, he faced Ricardo Alvarez, brother of world champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, in a nationally televised fight, which he lost by majority decision.
That loss makes the stakes even higher for Salka. "If I win this fight there is a good chance I will be in a world title fight. So, this is make or break for me."
Collado, a Cuban boxer promoted by Tyson's company, had an illustrious amateur career with 198 amateur fights. He defected from Cuba to Ireland, where he has fought most of his professional bouts.
Monessen native Sammy Vasquez Jr. (13-0, 9 KOs) also will be on the card. He started boxing at the age of 9 and competed in more than 200 amateur fights before turning pro in April 2012. He is on a four-fight knockout streak and will face Juan Rodriguez Jr. (11-0, 5 KOs) in an eight-round welterweight bout for the WBC Fecarbox title.
Vasquez will not be affected by the television cameras because he has "been in bigger situations in my life." He put his boxing career aside to join the National Guard and served two tours in Iraq. He said his military career helped him grow up.
"If I didn't join the military I would still be an immature, typical 20-something-year-old," he said. "They instill you with honor, dignity and selfless service."
Vasquez knows how important this event is for Pittsburgh.
"I remember going to a Paul Spadafora fight when he was fighting on TV. After that there was nothing for Pittsburgh," he said. "To be able to help bring back Pittsburgh in the boxing eye, I am honored to do that and I am happy to be a part of that."
The co-main event features highly touted prospect Felix Diaz (14-0, 8 KOs), who will face Emmanuel Lartey (15-1-1, 7 KOs) in an eight-round welterweight fight. This fight along with the Salka main event and the Vasquez fight will be televised. The supporting undercard will have five more fights featuring a few of Tyson's other fighters.
Saul Berrios-Thomas is a freelance writer.