Preview: Garcia and Hurd return, but Fulton-Khegai is the fight on Saturday
mvpboxing |  January 22, 2020, 07:00 PM

Danny Garcia v Ivan Redkach - Press Conference Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Danny Garcia and Jarrett Hurd are back in what should be tune-ups, and there’s an interesting 122-pound opener this Saturday night in Brooklyn.

Saturday night’s Showtime tripleheader isn’t the most fascinating card on paper, if we’re all being honest, but we do have some notable names returning to the ring, and a legitimately intriguing opener will kick off the show.

Let’s run down what we’ll see this weekend.

Danny Garcia vs Ivan Redkach

The 31-year-old Garcia, a former titleholder at 140 and 147, was supposed to be in a much bigger fight on this date, and we were all supposed to be hyped up for a much bigger event. After Errol Spence Jr defeated Shawn Porter in a grueling 12-round battle last September, Garcia entered the ring to announce he would be next to face the unbeaten, newly unified WBC and IBF welterweight ruler.

But that fell apart just weeks later when Spence was involved in a one-car accident, scuttling the plans for a January return. With Spence shelved and another possible target, Manny Pacquiao, not ready to go by January, Garcia (35-2, 21 KO) wanted to keep busy instead of sitting around.

He sought out a southpaw and found one in the PBC stable in Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KO), a fierce warrior but not someone considered to be a threat at this level.

Garcia was the odd man out in 2019 for the top PBC welterweights, fighting just once, but looking good in that outing, a seventh round stoppage of the usually very tough Adrian Granados in April. Even that fight flew under the radar, as the FOX broadcast went head-to-head with the more attention-grabbing Crawford-Khan pay-per-view from Top Rank and ESPN.

Danny Garcia v Adrian Granados Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

So it’s been a while, perhaps, since a lot of people have seen Danny in action. He’s not exactly a youngster anymore, but he remains a legitimate contender, now a good veteran fighter who should still be in his prime. His two losses — to Keith Thurman in 2017 and Shawn Porter in 2018 — were both really competitive, and he’s long since defied any skeptics who felt he was due to be found lacking.

That’s not to say Danny’s never had a rough outing, mind you. After his big 2013 win over Lucas Matthysse, he returned in early 2014 and had sincere struggles with the crafty Mauricio Herrera, winning a disputed decision. He was also in tight about a year later in a catchweight bout against Lamont Peterson, another fight many felt should have gone the other way.

Style-wise, Redkach doesn’t seem a huge threat. A natural lightweight, the Ukrainian had some buzz as a prospect before getting smashed in four by Dejan Zlaticanin in 2015, and all the buzz evaporated in 2016 after a draw with Luis Cruz and a loss to Tevin Farmer. 2017 saw him drop a decision to Argenis Mendez and lose a war with John Molina Jr in a move up to 140.

PBC on ESPN: Ivan Redkach v Erick Martinez Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Redkach seemed to have settled into a gatekeeper role, but one where he’s always someone you wouldn’t mind seeing pop up on a TV card, because he’s reckless and comes to bang. Then last June, he fought north of welterweight against former two-division titleholder Devon Alexander and pulled a pretty notable upset, dropping Alexander three times and stopping him in the sixth round.

That fight gave Redkach something of a new lease on his career, and while Garcia will be a deserved heavy favorite and Redkach has fallen short repeatedly against fighters who aren’t on Danny’s level, Garcia also can’t afford to totally overlook a guy like this, because Redkach will come out swinging. He’s got nothing to lose and the world to gain here; if Ivan Redkach scores this upset, he very well could figure his way into a title fight at 147. In fact, he’d be kind of a perfect comeback opponent in the spring for Errol Spence Jr if he wins. He’d come in with some recent big wins but still be a huge underdog once more.

Garcia, meanwhile, will come out of this fight, if he wins, possibly still in a bit of a holding pattern, which has to be getting a little frustrating. He won’t be facing Spence in the spring, more likely than not, as PBC will surely try to get Errol something of a softer touch to test where he’s at. Pacquiao is possible, sure, but Manny and his team seem fixated on the idea of potentially fighting Conor McGregor, too. There’s a lot more money in a novelty with the UFC superstar than there is in a regular ol’ good boxing matchup with Garcia, so it’s understandable.

Jarrett Hurd vs Francisco Santana

The co-feature will see former unified 154-pound titleholder Hurd (23-1, 16 KO) return with a new corner against veteran Santana (25-7-1, 12 KO), a naturally smaller man who’s never been a contender.

The 29-year-old Hurd hasn’t fought since last May, when he was upset at home by Julian Williams, and there was some hope that a win in this fight would set him up for the rematch, which was discussed but fell apart when Hurd’s trainer left following the loss. But with Williams losing his own shocker to Jeison Rosario last weekend, that’s off the table.

Hurd says he’s happy with new trainer Kay Koroma, and has been pleased with his camp. He’s not looking at this fight as any sort of statement to make, but an outing to get back to himself, display some improvements he says he’s made with the new team, and then perhaps go after a bigger fight again at 154.

Hurd’s a big junior middleweight, and will have significant physical advantages against the 33-year-old “Chia” Santana, whose most notable outings have mostly been losses, other than what was thought at the time to be an upset of prospect Eddie Gomez in 2014, and a win in 2018 over former Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz, who never quite panned out as a pro.

If Hurd tries to box more, there’s a chance Santana could give him some early fits, but if that’s the plan and it fails to any degree, Hurd also has the ability to stalk and pummel his way to victory here. If he just goes back to Jarrett Hurd as usual, he should be fine.

Stephen Fulton vs Arnold Khegai

The best matchup on Saturday’s card is the Showtime opener, pitting unbeaten 122-pounders Fulton (17-0, 8 KO) and Khegai (16-0-1, 10 KO) against one another in a WBO eliminator. (The WBO junior featherweight belt is currently held by Top Rank’s Emanuel Navarrete, and all things considered, the Fulton-Khegai winner would be a step up from the mediocrities he’s been fighting in his title reign.)

Fulton, 25, is sort of stereotypically “modern Philly,” a craftsman who doesn’t have a huge punch but can box quite effectively. The lack of power may limit him at some point, and he’s yet to prove himself at a really high level. But last year he totally outclassed veteran Paulus Ambunda on that Williams-Hurd show, and scored a solid August win over Isaac Avelar.

The latter fight seemed to be potentially setting Fulton up for a fight with fellow PBC prospect Brandon Figueroa, but those plans fizzled. Still, Fulton has an opportunity here that’s plenty good.

Khegai, 27, is originally from Ukraine and now based in Philadelphia himself. He’s much more an aggressive, offense-first fighter than Fulton, more powerful, likes to get in close and do that nasty work. That said, Fulton’s not a bad inside fighter himself, and he’s no creampuff; he’s shown willingness to engage and throw down, too, even if it’s not his preferred method.

Style-wise, this could be a hell of a good fight if Khegai can force his tempo, and it’s a chance for both to get to that next major step in their careers. It’s time for both of them to take this sort of risk, and they’re doing it. Can’t ask for much more of a fighter or their team than that.

 

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