Dalton Smith’s Fast Track to a Title Shot? Eddie Hearn’s Plans Raise Eyebrows

By Daniel Mcglinchey - 03/22/2024 - Comments

Promoter Eddie Hearn is anxious to see what he’s got with #13 fringe 140-lb contender Dalton Smith being fast-tracked with his 12-round headliner against second-tier veteran Jose Zepeda in their fight for the vacant WBC silver light welterweight title on DAZN this Saturday night on March 23rd at the Sheffield Arena in Sheffield, England.

Dalton’s best career win is against domestic-level fighter Sam Maxwell, and he’s not done anything to view him as being worthy of being positioned by Hearn to fight for the WBC 140-lb title.

The Zepeda Test…Or Lack Thereof

Hearn believes that a victory for the 27-year-old Dalton against the 34-year-old Zepeda will push him up to the top five in the WBC’s rankings at 140, positioning him to battle for the title if current champion Devin Haney vacates to move up in weight to 147.

If Dalton defeats Zepeda (37-4, 28 KOs), who has lost two out of his last three fights, Hearn says he can potentially face WBC mandatory Sandor Martin for the vacant 140-lb title.

Under Hearn’s scenario, Dalton would be ahead of many well-known, arguably far more talented fighters in the WBC’s rankings at light welterweight.

It’s disturbing to picture Dalton getting a chance to fight for the WBC 140-lb title if it falls vacant after a win over the 34-year-old Jose Zepeda.

Zepeda is coming off a lopsided 12-round decision loss to Richardson Hitchins last September. In 2022, Regis Prograis knocked Zepeda out in the 11th round.

Hearn’s Blueprint: Victory = Top 5 = Title Shot

“I think Dalton Smith is in right deep, and we’re going to find out what we’ve got, which I believe is a future world champion, but tomorrow will tell us a lot about what we need to know,” said Eddie Hearn to Charlie Parson’s YouTube channel.

“There’s absolutely no one that can deny that Jose Zepeda is top 15 in the world. He beat [Ivan] Baranchyk. I thought he beat Jose Ramirez. He knocked out Josue Vargas, who is Top Rank’s top prospect at MSG. He’s a quality fighter,” said Hearn.

Jose Zepeda is NOT ranked in the top 15 by any of the four sanctioning bodies at 140, so Hearn is being a tad bit disingenuous by saying that “no one can deny that Jose Zepeda is top 15 in the world.” He’s lost two out of his last three fights and looked terrible.

“If you beat him, and obviously with the WBC silver title on the line, you’re going top five with the WBC,” said Hearn. “With that belt [140-lb title] potentially becoming vacant, what an opportunity for Dalton Smith.

It will look like favoritism if Dalton is allowed to leapfrog over the top contenders in the WBC’s rankings and given a #5 ranking if he’s victorious against the veteran Zepeda. In theory, Dalton should beat one or two of the talents to be given a #5 ranking with the WBC:

Gary Antuanne Russell
Richardson Hitchins
Arnold Barboza Jr.
Jose Ramirez
Ryan Garcia
Jamaine Ortiz
Lindolfo Delgado
Regis Prograis

Hearn’s Fantasy Blueprint

“You’ve got Sandor Martin, who is going to fight somebody, and if we can get that fight for the [WBC light welterweight] world title, it would be massive,” said Hearn. “So, big fight. Sometimes, you bring over a name because they’ve got name value, but they’re not very dangerous.

“This guy [Jose Zepeda] is dangerous. He can really punch, and Dalton likes to trade, and he likes to stay switched on. I’m looking forward to seeing him in deep tomorrow night,” said Hearn about Smith.

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