Fistic trainers and coaches frequently utter “Box a fighter, Fight a boxer”, but what’s the prescribed pearl of wisdom for when a traditional boxer squares off against an unadulterated, in the trenches, free swinging fighter? What style wins out and does either man adjust or simply stay the course? We’ll get answers this Saturday, April 7th, when WBA Jr. Middleweight champion, Erislandy Lara, unifies with IBF titlist Jarrett “Swift” Hurd. Premier Boxing Champions presents this event live on Showtime Championship Boxing (9PM CST), from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In a lot of ways, Erislandy Lara (25-2-2, 14 KO’s) is the prototypical Cuban prizefighter; amateur stardom, defection from his country seeking a better life, southpaw, upper echelon skills and a style not easily digested by fans. With a documented ammy record of 310-10, 3 national titles and captaincy on the Cuban team, Lara’s pugilistic proficiency speaks for itself. As a pro, he’s firmly established himself as arguably the best in the world at 154 pounds and the most avoided man of his era.
Since losing a disputed decision to Canelo Alvarez in 2014, Lara’s persistently demanded a rematch, to no avail. The thought isn’t even entertained by Team Alvarez or Golden Boy Promotions. When Gennady Golovkin’s brain-trust complained of difficulties getting dates, Lara suggested they meet; again, to no avail. Reason being, Lara’s deemed a high risk, low reward opponent. In other words, the likelihood of him winning outweighs the amount of money to be made. And the money for facing him isn’t where it should be because his way of fighting generally equates to a low number of asses in seats. Lara’s as good a counterpuncher as you’ll find, he has pop on his punches and he’s one of the harder guys to track down and hit. The Cuban’s a stylistic nightmare for the vast majority, and quickly takes ownership of the pace and ring generalship just about every single time he steps in the squared circle.
Trainer, Ronnie Shields, has gotten Lara to sit on his shots more, without sacrificing defense. As recent as his last bout, a unanimous decision over 2012 U.S. Olympian, Terrell Gausha, Lara was in the pocket more than we’re accustomed to seeing. His upcoming foe certainly hopes this trend carries over to Saturday, April 7th.
After a brief, non-descript amateur career, Jarrett Hurd (21-0, 15 KO’s) turned professional in 2012, with little to no fanfare outside of the Washington D.C. Metro area. Possessing a record of 32-8, one could see why he wasn’t flooded with promotional offers. Nonetheless, by 2015, Hurd was appearing on Showtime’s SHOBOX, accumulating wins. He won the vacant IBF Jr. Middleweight title February 2017 and hasn’t looked back, appearing more confident and self-assured, each time since.
Hurd’s most noteworthy performance was against former world champion, Austin Trout, who was stopped after 10 exciting rounds. A fellow southpaw, Trout was used as a teaser to acclimate Hurd to the task of throwing hands with lefty Lara. No glossy amateur pedigree to fall back on, Hurd relies on will over skill. He’s there to be hit, lacks polish and likens himself to Deontay Wilder in regards to perpetual awkwardness. At 6’1, he’s a big 154-pounder (looking to move up to ’60 by the middle of 2019) and seeks to impose his size in an almost George Foremanesque way. In his own words, Hurd’s “bringing the storm, so get your umbrellas ready”.
Hurd will dwarf the 5’9 Lara and durability is the key to his success. Hurd openly points to Lara’s close call with Alfredo Angulo in 2013 as his blueprint for winning, his ray of hope to overcome the disparity in talent and nuance. Angulo pursued Lara hungrily, ripped the body when opportunities presented themselves and eventually wore Lara down enough to land hurtful head shots. Lara was on the canvas twice that night and it took all he could muster to come out victorious. Hurd’s strategy is “Angulo times 10”.
With his Odell Beckham flavored, dyed hairstyle and fan-friendly manner of fighting, it’s better for television ratings and the growth of the sport if Hurd wins. Lara’s been around seemingly forever and just doesn’t move the proverbial “needle” in that way. Also, this hasn’t been a good time of late for Cuban fighters, with Guillermo Rigondeaux, Luis Ortiz, Rances Barthelemy and Yuriorkis Gamboa all losing fairly recently.
Lara’s the safe pick to come out as unified Jr. Middleweight champion of the world though. Not only is Hurd big, he’s a big ass target; one that Lara will repeatedly find with ease. The size and pressure could definitely break Lara down and props to Hurd if that’s how things transpire, but Pugilism Company likes Lara by unanimous decision with two or three nervous moments, possibly even a knockdown, along the way.