Tomorrow night on Showtime (9:00 pm ET), Danny Garcia and Jarrett Hurd make returns in matchups thought to be tune-ups, while Stephen Fulton and Arnold Khegai square off in a meeting of unbeaten 122-pounders.
Our staffers make their picks for the show. BLH will have live coverage tomorrow evening, starting at 7:00 pm ET with the streaming prelims.
Stephen Fulton vs Arnold Khegai
I like this matchup, as I’ve said. This is a fight that would’ve headlined a good ShoBox back when ShoBox was consistently good. And I think style-wise it could be fun. Fulton is the better boxer, I’m certain of that, but he’s also someone who can be, as best I’ve seen so far, drawn into closer quarters, and that’s where Khegai thrives. I don’t see either of these guys as blue chip, A+ prospects or anything, but the winner is plenty good enough to reasonably challenge for a world title, particularly given the general standards of world title challengers. I mean, the fight’s an eliminator for the belt held by Emanuel Navarrete, who is so OLD SCHOOL! that he fights every couple months against some hapless schlub or other. The winner here would be a legitimate step up from the likes of the guys he’s been fighting.
This is one where I’m itching to pick the upset, but if Fulton is smart and fights the way he should against this guy, I think he wins a clear decision. Khegai is a decent puncher, but not exactly a brutal one-shot dude, and I’ve seen him drop some rounds against worse guys than Cool Boy Steph. I like Khegai fine, I just think Fulton’s a better fighter. Fulton UD-12
Khegai is a pretty stout fighter, but he’s not very elusive. Khegai likes to fight behind a tight guard and hold his ground a lot so I expect Fulton, who’s better on his feet, to pick him off by boxing and using lateral movement. Fulton has good craft and some defensive slickness, but he’s not a devastating puncher and doesn’t always seem to throw with authority. If Khegai can simply press through and work inside on Fulton, I think Fulton has a tough night, but I don’t think Khegai will consistently be able to get to Fulton so long as his feet aren’t stuck in mud. I’ve got Fulton taking a decision over the distance. Fulton UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg
Distance is the deciding factor here. Khegai is an absolute menace on the inside with his rapid-fire hooks and uppercuts, while Fulton works brilliantly behind his jab and movement. Whoever does the better job of dictating the nature of their exchanges will get the win, and that’ll be Fulton. “Cool Boy Steph” did an excellent job of defusing Isaac Avelar’s come-forward offense with good lateral movement and well-timed clinching when Avelar managed to close his escape routes. Fulton also showed a willingness and ability to get mean on the inside, so he won’t be lost should he find himself in Khegai’s world.
Khegai hits hard enough to be an upset threat, especially if Fulton elects to meet him in the pocket or gets sloppy when trying to clinch, but odds are that Fulton’s outboxing and range management carry him to a clear, if occasionally hairy, decision win. Fulton UD-12
This Philly-derby, of sorts, is gathering a lot of attention. Two guys with their 0s intact looking to make a step up amongst the 122-pounders with differing styles posing a few interesting questions. The bookies don’t see it that way making Fulton a wide, wide favourite, and as much as I agree with the overall narrative of which way this fight will go, Khegai’s price doesn’t represent his chance of an upset in this fight.
“Arni” will plough forward in this fight attempting to bring the heat to Fulton in aggressive pockets of fire. Avelar got picked off from a southpaw stance in his attempt to do the same last August, but there’s a sense that Khegai has more power, more poised thought to offer. Fulton’s work off the back foot looks clean and effective, but he may have do engage in the dirty work to get Khegai out of there, or at least to stem the pressure.
I’m picking Fulton, but he shouldn’t be as wide of a favourite as he is. Fulton UD-12
And the staff winner is...
Stephen Fulton (4-0)!
Jarrett Hurd vs Francisco Santana
Santana is a perfectly respectable fighter. He usually loses in steps up, but he’s won a couple to stay relevant as a gatekeeper sort, and he also gave Jose Benavidez Jr a tough fight back in 2016, which was reflected on Kermit Bayless’ 96-94 Benavidez card, but not so much Adalaide Byrd’s absurd 100-90 Benavidez card. He’s a capable boxer, a little tricky, a scrappy sort, and tough.
He’s also a welterweight, which is going to suck against Hurd, who is a huge junior middleweight. I think Santana could have some early success here; Hurd has a new trainer and is coming off his first career loss, and may try to make adjustments that frankly don’t fit his style or natural instincts. If he does that and Santana gives him some fits in the first few rounds, though, Hurd can always just revert to the stalk-and-maul style that has served him well in the past, and that should be enough to overpower Santana. The minor upset I’m picking here is that this goes the distance, as “Chia” is a veteran survivor in there, and Hurd’s not actually that huge a puncher, he just breaks guys down. But it’ll be a comfortable Hurd win. Hurd UD-10
I really don’t know where Hurd’s head is at right now. After taking a beating from Julian Williams in his last outing and losing his world titles, Hurd wasn’t looking to get right back in with Williams for a chance to win his belts back. I’m not saying that seeking an immediate rematch is always the smartest thing to do, so that’s no condemnation of Hurd, but it does suggest the fighter at least acknowledges they’ve got some work to do. In the meanwhile I don’t know if Hurd’s confidence has been shaken, but I suppose this is where the work to rebound begins.
His opponent, Santana, isn’t world level and really shouldn’t have much of a shot here. I expect Hurd to try to regain his past form by coming forward and letting his hands go, and unless he’s been badly compromised from the Williams loss, he still should have plenty enough to deal with a fighter like Santana. I’ll take Hurd to win by mid-rounds stoppage by an accumulation of punishment. Hurd TKO-6
Patrick L. Stumberg
Santana deserves credit for his aggression and toughness, but credit ain’t worth much. This is a natural welterweight against a super welterweight whose profound hugeness brings to mind some of the kidney-destroying goliaths endemic to MMA. Hurd’s taller by four inches, has nearly five inches of reach on him, and will probably outweigh him by at least 10 pounds on fight night.
“Chia’s” mission, then, is to make his pressure style work in the face of all these obstacles. You’ll forgive me for being skeptical of his chances. He cannot win this fight by trading leather on the inside and he can’t stop Hurd from walking him down should Santana try his hand at boxing him. So long as the Williams fight didn’t shatter Hurd’s confidence, he drops his customary round or two before knuckling down and battering his man into submission. Hurd TKO-6
Hurd’s decision to stick around with the 154-pounders speaks volumes of the confidence he has in reclaiming a strap amongst the mess which is junior middleweight. A new trainer, fresh trim and potentially a new approach from “Swift” will be put under the microscope against veteran Santana in a real must-win.
Santana has the blueprint to trouble Hurd – last May’s version of Hurd, sure – but with 33 years and 33 bruising fights under his belt, it’s hard to see the Californian offering the same relentless pace in the pocket that could see Hurd buckle. This could be watchable for the opening 2-3 rounds until Hurd solves the limited puzzle.
Santana’s gotta give us his heart, make it real, or else forget about.
I hate myself. Hurd TKO–5
And the staff winner is...
Jarrett Hurd (4-0)!
Danny Garcia vs Ivan Redkach
“I coulda been at a barbecue!” Will Smith screams at a downed invading alien in the 1996 summer blockbuster Independence Day. We coulda been gearing up for Spence-Garcia this weekend. But we’re not. We’re doing this.
Redkach is a warrior, someone I’m always happy to see on a card, comes to fight and fights without fear. That’ll get him knocked out by Garcia. Danny has been knocked for in-prime mismatches many times, but one thing you can say is that he doesn’t play with his food in fights like this. He has dominated guys like Adrian Granados, Samuel Vargas, and the esteemed Rod Salka. Brandon Rios had a bit more success than those guys, but he got wiped out in the end, too. And it’s hard to blame Garcia for Spence’s troubles, which led us to this fight where Danny looked for a southpaw to fight in preparation for either Errol or Manny Pacquiao later this year. Redkach has the very remote hope of doing something shocking because he’s a decent puncher and he fights like a madman, but the latter will also line him up directly in the crosshairs for Garcia’s effective counters, and should make this a short night. Garcia TKO-5
I just see this as a favorable matchup for Garcia, honestly. Redkach comes to fight and likes to bang but Garcia also loves to plant his feet and throw hard counters, which I think will work in his favor. There’s no real way these fighters won’t end up exchanging at some point and I just see Garcia ducking his head and loading up on power shots that will eventually get to Redkach. Redkach might certainly touch Garcia too, but Garcia has proven to have a really solid chin while Redkach has been knocked out twice. So, if you ask me, Garcia is definitely more likely to hold up in these skirmishes as I think his physical strength will play a factor. I’m going to take Garcia to force a late stoppage. Garcia TKO-10
Patrick L. Stumberg
I get that Redkach’s upset of Devon Alexander gave him a bit of credibility as a contender, but what exactly does he do here? He’s an undersized, chinny bruiser going up against a guy who walked through heat from a prime Lucas Matthysse without faltering. Redkach doesn’t have the firepower to put Garcia down and lacks the temperament to box his way to victory without overcommitting and getting his face peeled off by a left hook.
This fight lasts as long as Garcia wants it to. If he takes it slow, Redkach could make it into the later rounds before inevitably succumbing. If Garcia comes out with murder on the mind like he did against Granados, it’ll be brief. “Swift” makes it 3-0 against guys nicknamed “El Terrible” with a quick mauling. Garcia TKO-4
I can’t really get up for this one, especially after the appealing dangling fruit of Spence–Garcia was stolen from us. That potential fight was far from the fight to be made at 147, but it worked just fine as a start of the year buffer. Redkach is a blown-up lightweight who can’t even hang his hat on a set of durable whiskers – Garcia is by no means the fighter he was back in 2013, but there is plenty left in the tank to springboard off a comfortable victory here.
Redkach is a come-forward, aggressor who showed everything good and bad about his game in defeat to John Molina Jr a couple of years back. His southpaw stance leads him open to right hooks which an on-form Danny Garcia will capitalise on. “El Terrible” doesn’t possess the most fluid footwork and will be caught square too many times. Garcia TKO-7