Undefeated rising super lightweight prospect Keith “The Bounty” Hunter and talented Sanjarbek “War” Rakhmanov both made weight a day before their anticipated rematch and ShoBox: The New Generation 10-round main event on Friday, February 28 live on SHOWTIME (10:45 p.m. ET/PT) from Sam’s Town Live in Las Vegas.
(Photo credit: Dave Mandel/SHOWTIME)
Hunter (11-0, 7 KOs) and Rakhmanov (12-2-1, 6 KOs) first met on February 5, 2019, in an eight-round welterweight contest that resulted in a narrow-split decision victory for Hunter. Although Hunter controlled the action in the early rounds and scored a knockdown in the second, Rakhmanov recovered and landed some heavy blows in the later rounds. The scorecards read 77-74, 76-75 and 75-76.
In the ShoBox co-main event, 2016 Olympian and undefeated super lightweight prospect Richardson Hitchins (10-0, 5 KOs) takes on Rhode Island’s Nick DeLomba (16-2, 5 KOs) in a 10-round bout. Once-beaten Las Vegas native Kevin Newman II (11-1-1, 6 KOs) faces Albania’s Genc Pllana (7-1-1, 4 KOs) in a 10-round super middleweight matchup to open the telecast.
Barry Tompkins will call the action from ringside with boxing historian Steve Farhood and former world champion Raul Marquez serving as expert analysts. The executive producer is Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.
Super Lightweight 10-Round Bout
Keith Hunter – 141 ½ lbs.
Sanjarbek Rakhmanov – 143 lbs.
(Contracted weight is 143 pounds)
Referee: Robert Byrd; Judges: Lisa Giampa, Max DeLuca, Tim Cheatham
Super Lightweight 10-Round Bout
Richardson Hitchins – 141 ¼ lbs.
Nick DeLomba – 141 ½ lbs.
Referee: Russell Mora; Judges: Adalaide Byrd, Richard Ocasio, Chris Flores
Super Middleweight 10-Round Bout
Kevin Newman II – 167 ¾ lbs.
Genc Pllana – 168 lbs.
Referee: Jay Nady; Judges: Patricia Morse Jarman, Tim Cheatham, Glenn Trowbridge
Note: All refs and judges are from Nevada
“I think I convincingly beat him the first time. It’s good that I’m getting him a second time because I’m going to show that it’s not even going to be close. I could see how some people thought it was a close fight the first time, but it won’t be close this time. He got some clean shots on me, but he never hurt me. I dropped him early. If I didn’t do that, it could have been a different story.
“I’m going to get him out of there. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight. I had unleaded gas the last time around, but I now have premium gas in the tank.
“He got me with one body shot. But there was really nothing up top that hurt me. With our styles, it’s always going to be the matador vs. the bull. The slugger vs. the boxer. I think this will be a similar fight as the last fight, but I’m going to be more effective this time. I’m going to hunt him. I’m a bounty hunter.
“I don’t really want to leave it to the judges. There will be a time in the fight where I’m going to hurt him. When I do, I have to assess my energy and how he takes it. From there, I will decide to apply pressure or just keep boxing him and beating him.
“I want anybody at 140. I want the top guys: Josh Taylor, Regis Prograis. But now, to be honest, I really want Malik Hawkins. Now it’s personal. He can fight for a tall guy. He can fight in the pocket but Darwin Price was beating him until his leg gave out. I want him next.”
“I heard about the new opponent one week ago. I’ve been wanting this rematch forever. I one hundred percent feel that I won that fight. I was dominating for five or six rounds. I’m so happy that this will be a 10-round fight. The more rounds I have, the better my chance. We had him last time, and I let him off the hook. That was a mistake and I won’t let him off the hook this time.
“I was waiting too much in the first few rounds. I started too slow. This time, I will start fast. I give him respect for taking the rematch. I’m very motivated. I want to avenge the loss. I want to make everybody know that the judges made a mistake the first time. There is a lot on the line and this win will open many doors for me.
“I am more excited for this fight than for the first fight. This is my second time fighting on SHOWTIME and this is the main event. It’s a huge opportunity for me.
“I started so slow in the last fight. It wasn’t until I was knocked down until I woke up and realized that I was in a real fight. That’s when I started fighting my fight and started dominating. But it was really my own fault. The punch didn’t hurt me, but it woke me up. I think Hunter is a good fighter. He can take a punch. I hurt him with a couple of body shots. I can’t wait for Friday night to show the world I am the better fighter.”
“I was pretty disappointed in the last few rounds in my last fight against Kevin Johnson. He capitalized on some mistakes I made, specifically with my left hand being down. I knew if I wanted to get better, that was just something I had to go back home and adjust on. That shouldn’t happen again. I think it was a good learning experience for me. It’s better that it happened early in my career so that I can learn from it.
“It wasn’t just my hand speed that won me the fight. I think I was smarter than him. I got hit with a couple of right hands but I got the win. I went back and did my homework. Andre Ward is one of my favorite fighters and he got hurt early on in his career. He adjusted from that and that’s what I plan to do.
“I think you’re going to see a different Richardson Hitchins this fight. Based on DeLomba’s style and my studying the sport, I don’t think he has the defense that my last opponent had. His only chance is to come forward and make this a dog fight. It’s hard to make it a dog fight with me. I feel like I’m going to shine tomorrow.
“I think my last fight was a statement. That kid could fight. I may not have been at my best, but I fought a really good fighter. Even Floyd [Mayweather] was surprised that I took that fight because he told me that kid could really fight. After the fight, I asked Floyd what I could do better. He just told me that there were some technical things I could switch up, but he said that both of us could really fight. I give so much respect to Kevin Johnson. I was able to learn a lot from that match. He’s only lost to two Olympians, so that says a lot about him.
“I think I have a good inside game, but in a fight, I’m more comfortable out-boxing you. It fits my skillset more. If I don’t have to get in a brawl, I’m not going to. Eventually, I’m going to have to show that I can do it.”
“I feel good at 140 pounds. I’ve even fought at 137 before. I’m comfortable at lighter weights. I fought tough fights coming out the gates. I beat guys as the ‘B side’ fighter. I’ve taken the tough road. I’ve always wanted to fight on SHOWTIME. I made it to Vegas. I made it to SHOWTIME. It’s an honor to have this opportunity. There’s definitely a sense of urgency with this fight. This is make-or-break.
“I just need to fight my fight. I need to stay busy and give him trouble. Give him different angles. I’m tough to figure out. I just need to be that awkward fighter that he hasn’t seen yet. He’s fought on SHOWTIME before. He’s the prospect. I’m the guy being brought in to fight him. I need to show that I’m more than just a stepping stone for him. He’s never had to dig deep. I want to make him dig deep. I know my role, and I’m here to play spoiler.
“I’m proven. I’m tested. We’re going to test him. I have more fights. I have the experience. I think that is what will give me the advantage Friday night.”
Kevin Newman II
“You guys saw the real me the last time I was on ShoBox. As soon as I came out, I came out stepping to him and popping the jab. It was a totally different fight from the first time and I could tell immediately once he started backing up. Throughout the whole training camp, I knew I had to go and right my wrong. The first time I lost to him, I called Leonard Ellerbe immediately and told him I wanted the rematch. It took a couple years, but I was able to right that wrong.
“To this day, so many people tell me I look like Roy Jones in the way that I fight. I don’t want to be Roy Jones. I want to take certain things from his game and implement them into mine, but I want to be my own fighter. Who better than the man himself to bring in and help me? The same thing with Floyd Mayweather. I always watched him and I took a lot from his game that I liked, especially defensively. I still have more work cut out for me if I want to be mentioned in the same sentence as him. But in terms of talent, people see what they see. I take so much from Roy Jones. Sometimes, when I put the tassels on my boots, I feel like I’m him. He’s my idol. Everything he says to me is gold to me.
“I want to bring back the excitement to boxing. Even if you’re not knocking out everybody like Deontay Wilder or Tank Davis, I still want people to leave saying that I put on a show. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re going to get it done.
“I just need to stay focused and keep winning. I need to keep showing my talent and the skills that I have. I still feel like there’s another 60 percent that people haven’t seen from me. Roy Jones and the rest of my team are bringing that out of me. I just want to keep going out there and putting on a show and everything else will fall into place.
“He has an awkward, unorthodox style. But this is boxing, you have to go out there and be able to adjust. We have a great game plan. We’ve been working on that game plan in the gym so I’m going to go out there and do exactly what my team tells me. There’s not a guy in the division with faster hands than me. He won’t be able to handle that.”
“I had about two weeks’ notice for this fight. But I was ready for a March 14 fight, so I’m in good shape and right on weight. People think that I’m going to be an easy opponent based on my style, but I think I’m a really frustrating guy to fight.
“I’m already a confident fighter, and my last fight against Henderson gave me even more confidence. I think I could have stopped him in my last fight. Honestly, confidence has never been an issue for me. I believe I’ll be the first Albanian world champion. I believe I’d beat Roy Jones in his prime, so that really doesn’t bother me at all. If he thinks that’s going to bother me, he has another thing coming.
“I don’t care who I’m fighting, or who’s in the other guy’s corner. In the ring, it’s me vs. him. That’s all that matters. I think this will be a coming-out party for me. After Friday night, fight fans will be saying that ‘The Sexy Albanian’ really is sexy.”