On Saturday night ESPN and FOX go head to head, a troubling trend that tends to take away from both broadcast’s viewership numbers. On ESPN after the UFC prelims, Miguel Berchelt and Francisco Vargas do battle in a rematch bout from around 27 months ago. In the co-feature Emanuel Navarrete and Isaac Dogboe run it back as well from a clean victory by Navarrete in December. On FOX in primetime the unified junior middleweight titlist Jarrett Hurd takes on one-loss Julian Williams in a card featuring rising prospect Mario Barrios and Korobov vs. Akeem. Technically the top of the each card won’t compete directly as the PBC event should be done before the ESPN main event fighters enter the ring. Let’s start by breaking down the Top Rank rematch doubleheader beginning with Emanuel Navarrete vs. Isaac Dogboe 2.
Dogboe stormed on to the world scene right out of the gates in January 2018. Six days into the year Dogboe delivered a resounding stoppage over Cesar Juarez in one of the best bouts of the year. Just short of 4 months later, Dogboe would engage in yet another war, this time with unbeaten contender Jessie Magdaleno in a the super bantamweight contest. Magdaleno drew first blood, sending Dogboe to the canvas in the first round. Even though Dogboe was hurt in the third he still found a way to drop Jessie with a huge right hand in the fifth. Dogboe went on to score a knockout victory in the 11th. Not long after, Dogboe made quick work of Hidebori Otake, setting up a December fight with Navarrete.
Emanuel Navarrete’s length and skill set proved to be too much for Dogboe, who was giving away 8 inches of reach and 5 inches in height. Navarrete stuck to a game plan that would not allow Dogboe inside. Time and time again Dogboe attempted to push forward to force more of a dog fight but was denied access. By the fifth round it was Navarrete charging at Dogboe as the two exchanged punches from time to time. The body attack from Emanuel paid dividends as was evident to see how badly it affected Dogboe.
The adjustments just weren’t there for Dogboe and it’s tough to see a path to victory on Saturday beyond a fight changing punch that hurts Navarrete and swings the momentum. Let’s not forget Navarrete was cut early and sustained a hand injury as well. The action will be fierce at times. Look for this rematch to look like a rerun of sorts but this time Navarrete gets hit a little less and uses his reach more throughout.
On to yet another title bout redo, WBC 130-pound belt-holder Miguel Berchelt looks to pick up where he left off against Francisco Vargas. Their first meeting came in January 2017 and it definitely lived up to the hardcore hype. Vargas came in to that first meeting off the heels of back to back Fights of Year with Orlando Salido and Takashi Muara. Berchelt had only one-loss against Luis Eduardo Florez but hadn’t faced anyone of note on the world level in their prime.
What started out as a two-way barnburner turned into a nightmare scenario for Vargas. Francisco was able to land plenty of return shots on Berchelt until he wasn’t, and that’s when it became a one-sided affair. Vargas was cut in two different areas, legs weakened, and looking completely shopworn by fight’s end. It was a huge misnomer to put Vargas in anything remotely resembling a competitive matchup after the brutality he endured in consecutive fights. Not only did the punishment he received diminish his fighter spirit it also wasn’t enough time to allow his skin to heal as much as possible anyway.
Don’t get this boxing podcaster wrong, I absolutely love a style match like the one Top Rank is giving us, but it’s hard not to be at least a little worried about Vargas’s health. The major issue that will likely hamper Vargas’s chances of winning is those cuts he’s susceptible to. At least Francisco has only two fights in over a two year stretch, one could argue a tune-up could’ve be in order instead of a 13-month lay-off heading into such a challenge.
A boycott is not being called for here, this is boxing after all. Many times over we’ve seen considerably worse or far more dangerous examples of a clear as day slaughter in waiting. This bout Saturday is not that and one can only hope the extended time out of the line of fire has rejuvenated Vargas.
Realistically speaking the actual matchup isn’t a great one for Vargas. Berchelt is by far the fresher of the two and loves to throw in combination. Miguel can use movement and a nice activity rate behind his jab to control most of the action. Francisco will definitely land flush punches and be able to catch Berchelt with hard counters if and when Miguel is careless, which isn’t out of the realm that a still in his prime Berchelt could come in over confident pushing to halt his opponent earlier this time.
And last but surely not least, the PBC offers all-action fighter Jarrett Hurd defending his two 154-pound titles facing a game Julian Williams on FOX. Hurd’s run over the last two years has been impressive to say the least. Hurd established himself as a legitimate prospect to keep an eye on with victories over Frank Galarza, Oscar Molina, and Jo Jo Dan. But it was his comeback knockout of Tony Harrison in 2017 that earned his contendership. It also made him an IBF champion, albeit a vacated trinket.
Next in line came the hardened and still talented Austin Trout in October of that same year. Like Harrison, Trout got up early on the scorecards by boxing smart. As the fight got to the fourth and fifth rounds, Austin was landing some hellish punches like we’ve never seen before out of Trout. He was planting his feet and turning his hips, as he rocked Hurd over and over.
Hurd’s iron-clad chin held up and before long it was Hurd landing the more telling blows. As he did with Tony Harrison, Hurd huffed and puffed until he blew Trout’s house down in the form of retiring on the stool between the 10th and 11th round. Last April, Erislandy Lara was flossing on both offense and defense as he toyed with Hurd during the early frames. We hadn’t seen these type of neck snapping lands out of Lara probably since his war with Alfredo Angelo. Hurd’s 12th round knockdown was the difference in a split-decision win that produced a FOTY.
Julian Williams is on a four-fight winning streak, highlighted by a closely-contested bout versus Nathaniel Gallimore. ‘J-Rock’s’ last title opportunity ended in knockout in an entertaining tussle with the former WBC 154-pound Jermall Charlo. Julian won a few rounds but made a crucial mistake in the trenches. Will ‘J-Rock’ stick to a somewhat conservative game plan of boxing on the outside to keep Hurd on the move thus not allowing him to set up shop in a corner or trapping him on the ropes?
Williams has what it takes to outbox Hurd but the Philly fighter embedded deep in him loves to get into a trade-fest. This matchup will play out pretty much the way the last few outings did for Hurd, with Williams up on the scorecards after say 4-5 rounds. Hurd will get hit too much but will also be able to take the damage. Round after round past the sixth Hurd will wear and tear down Julian’s defense and eventually take his will. When Williams is hurt he will do what comes instinctually, after trading blows ‘J’ will get rocked and Hurd will win coming from behind once again. Time will tell how long Hurd can keep this up, especially when he moves up to 160.
My Official Prediction is Jarrett Hurd by 10th round knockout.
Side Note: Matt Korobov and Immanuwel Aleem could steal the FOX card and don’t forget about Friday’s ShoBox brought to you by Thompson Boxing on Showtime.