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Hearn wants Josh Kelly to fight Brandon Rios or Victor Ortiz next

By Tim Royner: Eddie Hearn is targeting former world champions Brandon Rios or Jessie Vargas as two guys that he’d like to match welterweight prospect Josh Kelly (7-0, 5 KOs) for his next fight following his 7th round stoppage victory over Commonwealth welterweight champion Kris George (14-2, 8 KOs) last Saturday night at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, UK.

The 2016 Olympian Kelly outclassed George through seven rounds in stopping him after he was pulled out by his corner due to injuries to both hands and a potential broken jaw. George hurt his hands hitting Kelly with hard shots on the top of his head as he would come forward.

“Josh Kelly is a genius and he’s a star,” Hearn said to Boxing Social. “He’s levels above the Commonwealth title, and he showed that tonight. The way that he dealt with the guy suggests he’s beyond even the British and European level.”

The only way Kelly is going to be able to become a star is if Hearn puts him in with better opposition. It’s doubtful that he’s going to be able to get former lightweight world champion Brandon ‘Bam Bam’ Rios (34-4-1, 25 KOs) or former two division world champion Jessie ‘The Pride of Las Vegas’ Vargas (28-2-1, 10 KOs) to face Kelly is if they’re given big offers. Vargas, 29, just finished getting a good payday in fighting to a controversial 12 round draw against former four division world champion Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner last April on Showtime Boxing. Not surprisingly, there’s already talk about a potential rematch between them.


If Hearn is going to get Vargas to face Kelly next, he’s going to need to pay him more than the fight will generate. That means Hearn will need to dip into his pockets to come up with the needed bread to make it worthwhile for Vargas to agree to the fight. But Hearn needs to know that it’s not a fight that does anything for Vargas. He’s already highly ranked by the IBF, WBA and WBC at 147, so he doesn’t need to face Kelly. Moreover, Kelly is a defensive artist, and those types of fighters aren’t in demand by other promoters to match against their fighters. Defensive fighters are avoided typically. The only times they’re able to get fights is if it’s a situation where they’re the mandatory or if they hold a world title. If they’re lucky, they’ll become popular like Floyd Mayweather Jr. so they can get the top fighters to face them. That’s not the case with Kelly. He’s not popular worldwide, and he’s not a mandatory or a champion. So what we’re looking at is the need for Hearn to greatly overpay guys like Ortiz and Rios to get them to take the fight.

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”I’d like to see Kelly fight an American name,” Hearn said.” I’d like to see Kelly fight Victor Ortiz or Brandon Rios or someone like that. Again, he’s had seven fights.”

Rios, 32, is absolutely shot at this point. Rios looks like a punching bag with arms now. He’s been stopped in two out of his last three fights to Danny Garcia and Tim Bradley. Whatever hand speed Rios once had is completely gone at this point in his 14-year pro career. Some boxing fans believe that Rios is punch drunk due to the way he slurs when he speaks. Rios still has heavy hands, but his lack of speed and the punishment that he’s absorbed recently is worrisome. Kelly is not going to get much credit for beating a guy like Rio.

Kelly shouldn’t be facing this level of opposition after the amateur career he had. Fighting a domestic level fighter like George was a waste of time. This fight was a mismatch from the moment Hearn put it

together. In looking at how Kelly performed a the amateur level, he’s more than capable of beating top 15 level opposition right off the bat. He’s not another Vasyl Lomachenko, but he’s good enough to take on and beat many of the top fighters without the need of facing weak opposition and have little to show for first few years.


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