NEW YORK – Francisco Santana was heavier than Jarrett Hurd when they took turns Friday stepping on the New York State Athletic Commission’s scale.
Santana still thinks Hurd will out-weigh him by a significant amount by the time they set foot in the ring Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The 6-feet-1 Hurd is notoriously enormous for the 154-pound division and has habitually overwhelmed opponents with his sheer size.
At 5-feet-9, Santana stands four inches shorter than Hurd. The 33-year-old veteran hasn’t boxed at or near the junior middleweight limit in 6½ years, either.
“He is big, but size isn’t always everything,” Santana told BoxingScene.com following a press conference Thursday in Brooklyn. “It’s called the sweet science, so I’ve gotta be clever in there and use my brain, use my ring IQ. A lot of people just expect me to come forward and throw punches, but I know it’s also a chess game. You’ve gotta set some traps, see if those traps work and see what happens. But size isn’t always everything. He is a big boy, but I used to be a big boy at welterweight, and I came up short at that weight a couple times when I was the bigger man. So, that just proves the point that it’s about skills.”
When Santana campaigned as a 154-pounder, he drew with Julian Williams in a six-rounder and dropped an eight-round unanimous decision to Jermell Charlo in back-to-back bouts in 2011. Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs) and Williams (27-2-1, 16 KOs, 1 NC) went on to win world titles, whereas Santana dropped down to welterweight.
Santana (25-7-1, 12 KOs), of Santa Barbara, California, is 1-3 in his past four fights. He jumped at the opportunity, though, to face Hurd in the former IBF/IBO/WBA champion’s first fight since Williams upset him to win those three titles May 11 in Fairfax, Virginia.
The contracted maximum for their 10-round fight was 156 pounds. Santana weighed in Friday at 155 pounds, slightly heavier than Hurd, who came in at 154½ pounds.
Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs), who’s listed as a 50-1 favorite, has indicated he wants to rely more on his skill than size under new trainer Kay Koroma. Hurd hired Koroma after parting ways with longtime trainer Ernesto Rodriguez.
“I’m expecting for [Hurd] to come out popping the jab,” said Santana, who has been stopped just once in 33 professional fights. “Everybody that sees me fight says, ‘Oh, he has trouble with the jab.’ I’m expecting for him to do that, to try and box. But I feel that when a fighter has had one style their entire career, it’s hard for them to just switch right away, in one fight. He might do a couple things, maybe one or two things that they’re working on, but in order to change a style it takes some time.
“But I’ve been working in the gym on my flaws, not necessarily on fighting Jarrett Hurd. What do I struggle with? We worked on that and we got the adequate sparring to help me work on my flaws. I think I’ve gotten better at those, and we’re still working and we’re still learning.”
The Hurd-Santana fight will air just before Showtime televises its main event – former two-division champion Danny Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) against Ivan Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs) in a 12-round welterweight bout. Philadelphia’s Garcia is a 25-1 favorite to defeat Ukraine’s Redkach.
The telecast is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT with a 12-round, 122-pound championship bout between Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton (17-0, 8 KOs), the IBO super bantamweight champion, and Ukraine’s Arnold Khagei (16-0-1, 10 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.