By Lem Satterfield
Ukrainian Arnold Khegai overcame a bleeding, third-round head-butt induced slit over his left eye and scored a sixth-round knockdown during an eight-round unanimous decision over Jorge Diaz in Friday night’s super bantamweight bout on ShoBox: The New Generation on Showtime.
In his second fight on American soil in as many appearances at Philadelphia’s 2300 Arena, the 26-year-old “Arni” Khegai (14-0-1, 9 KOs) hammered Diaz (19-6-1, 10 KOs) of New Brunswick, New Jersey on the ropes over the final 13 seconds but couldn’t register his second straight knockout.
Khegai was coming off a second-round stoppage of Mudd Robinson Ntambi in August, and returned to the site of his American debut, a unanimous decision over Adam Lopez in May. Before facing Lopez, Khegai had fought all of his battles in Moscow with the lone blemish being a draw in April 2016 with then-unbeaten Yerzhan Zalilov, whose current record stands at 11-1-1 with five knockouts.
Diaz had gone 1-4-1 in his previous six fights prior to winning his last bout in November 2017 against Lopez, whose very next bout was against Khegai.
Khegai spent the first two rounds patiently chasing, measuring and timing Diaz with quality overhand rights and straight lefts from a counter-attack stature against his rival’s jab and lateral movement.
A third-round accidental head butt opened a slit on Khegai’s left eyelid as Diaz began to get off first and out-work him. A frustrated Khegai pushed Diaz to the canvas and rabbit-punched him at one point, being warned by referee Gary Rosato.
Diaz’s continually froze Khegai and was more elusive in the fourth, doubling- and tripling-up on his jab, but was twice wobbled by fifth-round left hands – following the first with a head-swiveling right -- although Khegai couldn’t finish him.
Khegai ‘s right-left, right combination dropped Diaz midway through the sixth, and battered his wilting yet game opponent throughout the last two.
Khegai-Diaz appeared on the undercard of a main event featuring 21-year-old switch-hitter Jaron “Boots” Ennis (21-0, 19 KOs) of Philadelphia pursuing his 12th straight knockout against 29-year-old welterweight rival Raymond Serrano (24-5, 10 KOs).
Ennis is coming off a third-round TKO victory in July over previously unbeaten Armando Alvarez, who entered their matchup at 18-0 (12 KOs).
The co-main event has Samuel Teah (14-2-1, 7 KOs) going after his third straight knockout against Kenneth Sims Jr. A 31-year-old Liberian who yields a two-inch advantage in height to the 24-year-old Sims (13-1-1, 4 KOs) of Chicago, the 5-foot-8 Teah (14-2-1, 7 KOs) is nicknamed, “Tsunami.”
Teah is fighting for the fourth time this year, his previous bouts being first-round knockouts of Orlando Rizo and Zack Ramsey in March and August to rebound from a majority decision loss to then-unbeaten Montana Love in February.