ATLANTIC CITY — Atlantic City super-middleweight Isiah Seldon threw a torrent of punches at a heavy bag inside the A.C. Police Athletic League boxing gym, grunting with each hook, jab and uppercut.
Before long, sweat was trickling down his forearms and into his gloves.
“I’ve been working so hard,” Seldon said.
On Saturday night, he’s hoping his effort will net the biggest victory of his 10-year career.
Seldon (13-2-1, 4 KOs) is fighting a six-round bout against unbeaten Nikita Ababiy (6-0, 5 KOs), of Brooklyn, New York, on the Gennady Golvkin-Sergiy Derevyanchenko undercard at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“I’m really excited,” Seldon said. “In my opinion, there are three meccas in boxing: (Jim Whelan) Boardwalk Hall, Madison Square Garden and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I’ve fought at Boardwalk Hall, and now I get to fight at the Garden. Hopefully, when I fight in Vegas, it’ll be for a world title.”
In order to get a chance at a championship, however, the 31-year-old son of former World Boxing Association heavyweight champ Bruce Seldon needs to knock off a few contenders.
He came up short in his first attempt, suffering a first-round knockout against unbeaten Tyler Howard (18-0, 11 KOs) in Oklahoma City 11 months ago. He returned to action last April and gained a six-round, unanimous decision over Bryan Goldsby (5-15, 0 KOs).
“No excuses, I got beat (by Howard),” Seldon said. “But I know I’m better than that, and this is my chance to show it.”
Ababiy, 25, has yet to be tested since turning pro a year ago.
A former amateur standout, he’s won five of his six fights by first- or second-round knockout. He went the distance in his last outing, earning a six-round, unanimous decision over Yunier Calzada (6-6-1, 1 KO) in Arlington, Texas.
“Isiah can definitely win this fight if he fights up to his potential,” Seldon’s trainer, Bill Johnson, said. “It’s all up to him.”
No local fighter has overcome as much adversity as Seldon.
The 2006 Mainland Regional High School graduate spent his junior and senior years living in the Covenant House in Atlantic City, which is a shelter for homeless youths. As recently as four years ago, he was back on the streets, living in abandoned cars and under the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Three years ago, he was selling drugs to make ends meet.
With the help of co-managers Jim Kurtz, Joe Thompson and David Dubinsky, he’s made quite a comeback.
He now lives in an apartment on the outskirts of Atlantic City and is planning on going to a vocational school to study heating and air-conditioning.
But he’s not yet given up on his dream to become the second Seldon to win a world title.
“Yeah, it’s been tough,” he said. “But I’m convinced God has a plan for me. If He didn’t, I’d be dead by now. I’m not giving up until I become a champion.”
Notes: Seldon’s fight, as well as the rest of the card, will be streamed on DAZN. ... Another local fighter, Lacey Township super-middleweight Chris Thomas (13-0-1, 8 KOs) is fighting Saturday night for Vineland promoter Diane Fischer-Cristiano at Hockessin PAL in Delaware. Thomas, who’s trained by Lacey’s Shawn Darling, will face Roy King (11-4-1, 6 KOs), of Johnson City, Tennessee, in an eight-round bout.