Arnold Khegai resorted to every trick in the book to earn his latest victory.

A strangely scored split decision landed in favor of Khegai over former title challenger Eduardo Baez in their ten-round featherweight contest that struggled to deliver on the entertainment front. Baez won 95-94 on one scorecard, overruled by tallies of 95-94 and 96-93 for Khegai as part of a BLK Prime Pay-Per-View event Saturday evening at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Khegai established an aggressive—if uneven—pace early in the night and resumed the role of bully throughout their awkward ten-round affair. Baez presented himself as the more polished boxer, on the heels of a strong showing prior to getting stopped in the sixth round of his WBO featherweight challenge of Emanuel Navarrete just four months ago. The Mexicali native was unable to put his four-inch height and reach advantage to proper use as Khegai was repeatedly able to work his way inside.

Baez turned to referee Kirk Drake for assistance after complaining of being hit behind the head. Khegai acknowledged the infraction on his own, touching gloves with the former title challenger as action went uninterrupted.

A hard warning was issued to Khegai at the end of round three, moments after driving his shoulder into the chest of Baez and forcing him to the canvas. The Philadelphia-based Ukrainian boxer of Korean descent was effective with his overhand right, winging the shot as he lowered his head and charged inside. Baez was able to avoid most of the incoming but not able—and at times seemed unwilling—to counter.

Momentum shifted ever so slightly in Baez’s favor in round five. The 27-year-old contender was successful when he punched in combination and beat Khegai to the punch, though the moments weren’t frequent enough to discourage his free-swinging opponent.

Khegal was issued a warning midway through round six for a rabbit punch. Baez turned away as he pawed at the back of his head but was only given minimal time to recover before action resumed. Khegai lowered his head and pushed him into the ropes as he threw looping shots to the body. Baez threw a jab and a cupping left hook, neither of which had any impact.

Swelling developed under the left eye of Baez, as the result of a headbutt. Yet another warning was dealt to Khegai for a separate infraction during round seven, though Baez slowly began to take matters into his own hands through increased work rate. Khegai flirted with the threat of a point deduction after pushing down on the back of Baez’s head but was abie to avoid further discipline.

Khegai’s luck and referee Drake’s patience ran out in round nine. A long overdue point deduction was taken after Khegai was guilty of holding and hitting. Baez failed to take advantage, as it was Khegai who picked up the pace and finished the round with an overhand right as Bez was trapped in a corner.

Baez turned to his right uppercut throughout the tenth and final round. Khegai took the shot well, though the weapon was effective in forcing him out of a low-onrushing stance. It was enough to close the gap for Baez and win on one scorecard, but who otherwise blew a golden opportunity to return to contention just four months after his first career title challenge.

Khegai advanced to 19-1-1 (11KOs), winning his third straight victory. His lone defeat came in a January 2020 decision to Stephen Fulton, who went on to win and unify the WBC/WBO junior featherweight titles.

Baez fell to 21-4-2 (7KOs), suffering his second straight defeat and third within his past four fights.

Headlining the show, local hero and three-division champ Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford (38-0, 29KOs) defends his WBO welterweight title versus streaking contender David Avanesyan (29-3-1, 17KOs).

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox