January 11: Steven Nelson-Cem Kilic
Set for Hart / Smith Jr. Co-Feature Live on ESPN!
(December 10th) Steven “So Cold” Nelson and Cem “Champ” Kilic were set to tangle Saturday evening in a battle of unbeaten super middleweights on Terence Crawford’s undercard, but an unexpected injury changed their plans.
Nelson and Kilic will now fight in a 10-rounder for the vacant NABO title Saturday, Jan. 11 as the co-feature to the Jesse Hart-Joe Smith Jr. main event at Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena (ESPN & streaming on the ESPN App (Spanish), 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT). The co-feature slot became available after Rob “Bravo” Brant, who was set to fight Habib “Wild Hurricane” Ahmed, suffered a torn biceps.
“This is one of those moments. When this opportunity presented itself, I knew I had to take it,” Nelson said. “I compare this to when Terence Crawford got the late call to fight Breidis Prescott on HBO. He took advantage of that opportunity, and I am going to take advantage of the ESPN spotlight.”
“While I’m disappointed not to fight on the Dec. 14 card, I am beyond excited to showcase my talent to an even bigger audience just four weeks later on ESPN,” Kilic said. “I have been working hard in Florida with Buddy McGirt so all sports fans can see the best Cem Kilic on fight night!”
Nelson (15-0, 12 KOs), from Omaha, Neb., is part of one of boxing’s great stables, the Brian “BoMac” McIntyre-trained crew that also includes Crawford and junior lightweight world champion Jamel Herring. A 2012 U.S. Olympic team alternate and a U.S. Army veteran, Nelson took up the sport in 2010. He won the first 14 bouts of his career as a light heavyweight before moving down to super middleweight. In his super middleweight debut, Sept. 1 in Omaha, Nelson blew away Derrick Findley in four rounds. Kilic (14-0, 9 KOs) is a Los Angeles-based native of Germany who has won four of his last five by stoppage, most recently stopping Martez McGregor June 15 on the Tyson Fury-Tom Schwarz undercard.
The winner of this battle of world-ranked 168-pounders will position himself for a shot at one of the world titles. Nelson and Kilic have to wait four more weeks for the fight of their lives.
The ESPN+ undercard stream, which begins at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, will include the following bouts: The fighting Adorno brothers will once again appear on the same undercard. Older brother Joseph “Blessed Hands” Adorno (14-0, 12 KOs) will face Hector Garcia (14-7-3, 8 KOs) in an eight-round lightweight bout, while 18-year-old Jeremy “Magic Hands” Adorno (3-0, 1 KO) will battle Artrimus Sartor (4-3, 1 KO) in a four-rounder at super bantamweight.
South Jersey native Chris “Sandman” Thomas (13-1-1, 8 KOs) will fight for the sixth time as a pro in Atlantic City versus Samir Barbosa (37-16-3, 26 KOs) in a six-rounder at super middleweight.
Shinard Bunch (4-1, 4 KOs), the fighting pride of Trenton, N.J., will take on Dennis Okoth (4-2-1, 2 KOs) in a six-round welterweight tilt. Bunch’s only defeat came via close decision in August to unbeaten prospect Paul Kroll.
Heavyweight prospect Sonny “The Bronco” Conto (5-0, 4 KOs), who hails from South Philadelphia, will make his Atlantic City debut in a four-rounder against an opponent to be named.
Xander Zayas (2-0, 2 KOs), the 17-year-old welterweight fresh off a first-round TKO Nov. 30 in Las Vegas, will see action in a four-rounder against Antonio Duarte (2-2, 0 KOs). Zayas, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, won 11 national amateur titles before signing a pro contract with Top Rank at the age of 16.
About Top Rank
Innovation has been the standard at Top Rank since it was established in 1966 by Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. The boxing industry’s leading promotional company, Top Rank has shaped, developed, and promoted the careers of top international pay-per-view superstars and Hall of Famers, including Muhammad Ali, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Aaron Pryor, Alexis Arguello, Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto, Erik Morales, Terence Crawford, and Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Top Rank has promoted some of the most memorable fights in the sport’s history, including 26 Ali events, Leonard vs. Hearns, Pryor vs. Arguello, Duran vs. Leonard, Hagler vs. Hearns, Leonard vs. Hagler, Foreman vs. Holyfield, Morales vs. Barrera, De La Hoya vs. Trinidad, and the most lucrative fight in boxing history, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. In addition to the previously mentioned super fights, Top Rank possesses one of the largest sports libraries, which includes nearly 10,000 fights.
Known for creating strategic collaborations between athletes, sponsors, and television networks, Top Rank has been an architect of boxing’s global growth by staging high-profile events in landmark settings around the world, including Madison Square Garden, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Staples Center, Wembley Arena, Araneta Coliseum, The Venetian Macao, Yankee Stadium, Radio City Music Hall, The “Fabulous” Forum, and AT&T Stadium. Top Rank has also been the leader within the boxing industry in creating unforgettable in-arena experiences for fans and embracing 21st century technological advancements to distribute world-class fights and shoulder programming across a variety of platforms.
ESPN+ is the multi-sport, direct-to-consumer video service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment and ESPN. It reached 2 million subscribers in less than a year and offers fans thousands of live events, on-demand content and original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks, along with premium editorial content.
Programming on ESPN+ includes hundreds of MLB and NHL games, exclusive UFC, Top Rank boxing and PFL fights and events, top domestic and international soccer (Serie A, MLS, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredivisie, and more), thousands of college sports events (including football, basketball and other sports), Grand Slam tennis, international and domestic rugby and cricket, new and exclusive series, acclaimed studio shows and the full library of ESPN’s award-winning 30 for 30 films. Fans subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) and can cancel at any time.
ESPN+ is available as an integrated part of the ESPN App (on mobile and connected devices) and ESPN.com.
Grudge Match: Jesse Hart-Joe Smith Jr.
to Clash In Light Heavyweight Showdown
Jan 11th at Live on ESPN from the Hard Rock Atlantic City!
(November 20th) This one is personal. Jesse “Hollywood” Hart, born and bred in Philadelphia, will take on Joe Smith Jr. Saturday, Jan. 11 from Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena in the 10-round main event, which will kick off the 2020 Top Rank on ESPN schedule.
It was Smith, the union construction worker from Long Island, who knocked Philadelphia legend Bernard Hopkins through the ropes and into retirement in December 2016. For Hart, who considers Hopkins a mentor, this fight is more than a step towards a world title shot.
ESPN and ESPN Deportes will televise Hart-Smith Jr. and a co-feature beginning at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT, with undercard action slated for ESPN+ beginning at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Star Boxing, tickets priced at $100, $60, $40 and $25 (not including applicable fees) go on sale Friday, Nov. 22 at 10 a.m. ET and can be purchased by visiting www.ticketmaster.com and www.hardrockhotelatlanticcity.com.
“When you have two fighters who can punch like heck, anything can happen,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “We believe Jesse Hart has everything it takes to become a world champion, but Joe Smith Jr. can turn the lights out at any moment. This is a sensational main event to kick off the Top Rank schedule in 2020.”
“This is personal. Bernard inspired me to be what I became,” Hart said. “I wouldn’t be right if didn’t avenge that defeat. I can’t move forward unless I beat him. This is a Philly thing. It’s more personal than business for me. I want a world title shot at light heavyweight, but I have to get through this guy first.”
“I am back in the gym and feel great,” Smith said. “I am focused and ready to bring everything I have. Jesse Hart might want to make this personal, but I didn’t even know who he was before this fight was brought up. I am ready for this. It is going to be a great night."
"I look forward to a thrilling, fan-friendly fight in Atlantic City on ESPN Jan. 11,” said Star Boxing CEO Joe DeGuardia, Smith’s promoter. “Jesse Hart is Philly tough, but I love watching Joe Smith Jr. fight as his amazing punching power always puts him 10 seconds away from a KO win. It will be a rocking night at the Hard Rock Hotel."
Hart (26-2, 21 KOs) is making his triumphant return to Atlantic City, where he is 7-0 with 7 knockouts. He twice challenged for the super middleweight world title previously held by Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, but he came up short via a pair of close decision defeats. Following the second Ramirez loss in December 2018, Hart moved up to the light heavyweight ranks and announced his arrival with a 10-round decision victory over Sullivan Barrera on the Tyson Fury-Tom Schwarz undercard.
Smith (24-3, 20 KOs) was boxing’s “Cinderella Man” in 2016, upsetting Andrzej Fonfara via first-round TKO to earn the shot at Hopkins. He proved the Fonfara win was no fluke, as he bullied Hopkins around the ring before a combination knocked him through the ropes. Smith is coming off a decision loss to WBA light heavyweight world champion Dmitry Bivol, although he buzzed Bivol on several occasions in the championship rounds.