A sizable conglomerate of 154-pound Pugilistic talent was on display Saturday, October 14th, replete with former Olympians, burgeoning superstars, long reigning titlists, young upstarts and seasoned veterans, all looking to maintain their spots within the current ranks. SHOWTIME showcased and Premier Boxing Champions produced, literally, the full gamut of what Boxing can offer in the Super Welterweight division.
If you weren’t in front of your television, Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY. was the place to be. Questions were asked and answered, titles were defended, feelings were hurt, and egos were knocked from pedestals, all conspiring to clear the muddied picture of the weight class, just a bit.
Jermell Charlo vs. Erickson Lubin
No, Charlo-Lubin wasn’t the main event, but it was the most debated, discussed and disagreed upon bout on the card, by a mile. A true 50-50 fight, per the game’s most knowledgeable prognosticators; featuring two ambitious, unblemished, ultra-confident young men, looking to violently build their brands against the other. Jermell “Iron Man” Charlo doesn’t stand out, necessarily, in any particular regard, but he’s well-rounded and very, very good in just about every fistic regard, across the board. Jab, punch variety, combinations, athleticism, defense, you name it; Charlo isn’t lacking in these areas. If there’s been anything to complain about, it’s that Jermell hasn’t packed as much wallop as twin brother, Jermall, former IBF Super Welterweight champion and mandatory challenger at Middleweight.
Erickson “The Hammer” Lubin possessed a championship aura prior to turning pro. All but slotted for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, the impressively impatient Lubin wanted to realize his professional dreams sooner rather than later, so in 2013, the 18-year-old made his professional debut. After having his way with everyone placed in his path, Lubin was anointed “2016 Prospect of the Year” by most esteemed prizefighting entities. March of 2017, Lubin became the mandatory challenger for Charlo’s WBC title, and was treated as champion in waiting, up to and including fight night.
Both fighters were confident and eager to put hands on one another, at the opening bell. Neither gave ground, hovering around ring center, with Charlo throwing probing jabs and Lubin feinting, firing lead lefts and southpaw jabs. With 19 seconds left in round 1, Charlo launched a double jab and punctuated it with a fully loaded, wound up, quasi-bolo uppercut. Lubin was in the process of ducking and his eyes were looking down at the canvas, as the punch thudded off his jaw. Legs instantly crumbled from under Lubin, who was stretched out on his side, short circuited and stiffened, as his body fought against the availability of his senses, trying to get up.
In what was universally accepted as the most competitive pairing of a stacked fight bill, Charlo not only stole the show, but wiped his ass with a guy who a large percentage suspected was already the best of the televised lot. As SHOWTIME broadcaster, Mauro Renalo, put it, “the Iron Man just dropped the Hammer’. Not known for his power, this was the fourth consecutive KO for Charlo, and keeps his streak at 100% under recently acquired trainer, Derrick James.
The serious, emotional Charlo (30-0 15 KO’s), 27, is as interested as anybody else in becoming undisputed Super Welterweight champion, but highlighted IBF belt-holder, Jarrett Hurd, as the desired next opponent. The 22-year-old Lubin (18-1, 13 KO’s) can undoubtedly bounce back from this. His chin will rightfully come under a degree of scrutiny, but it’d be premature to say he for sure cannot take a punch, all the same.
Erislandy Lara vs. Terrell Gausha
Occasionally, Erislandy Lara (25-2-2, 14 KO’s) can be his own worst enemy. Historically, he’s too mobile for his own good, fans become disinterested and “Boo” the lack of sustained action that accompanies his fights. There were “Boo’s” Saturday night as well, but Lara is absolved a blame this time. Takes two to make a compelling boxing match, and 2012 U.S. Olympian, Terrell Gausha (20-1, 9 KO’s), failed to hold up his end of the bargain.
From the outset, it was apparent Lara left his bicycle at home; controlling the proceedings behind a southpaw jab and a left cross hard enough to keep you honest. Sure, he evaded incoming shots, but it was via pivots and head/upper body movement, as opposed to flat-out disengaging. Just as things started to get monotonous and the Barclay’s crowd vocalized their displeasure, Lara decked Gausha with a right hook-left uppercut combo. But from that point on, Gausha was virtually allergic to contact and fought to survive. The urgency you’d expect from a man vying for the WBA Super Welterweight title was lacking. “He’s reacting instead of acting”, as SHOWTIME color-commentator, Paulie Malignaggi opined, meaning Gausha was waiting instead of forcing the issue.
To entertain themselves, those in attendance counted down the final seconds of the latter rounds, and sarcastically cheered at the ding of each bell. The verdict was academic and Lara won unanimously by scores of 116-111 and 117-110 twice. The was the sixth defense for the former captain of the Cuban National team, and his goal is to break the record of eleven, set by Gianfranco Rosi. After copying and pasting the “I’ll fight anybody” mantra, Lara spoke most notably of clashing with Charlo, who he used to spar with when both were trained by Ronnie Shields.
Jarret Hurd vs. Austin Trout
They say you’re not a true champion until you defend your title; winning it is only half the battle, validation comes with a title defense. “Swift” Jarrett Hurd (21-0, 15 KO’s) is now officially a champion, and a fan friendly one, at that. Hurd just acquired the IBF Super Welterweight title eight months ago, and his reward was an inaugural defense against former champion, Austin “No Doubt” Trout (30-4, 17 KO’s). If you hadn’t seen or heard of Hurd previously, he left the Boxing masses wanting more.
A big reason Hurd’s fights are entertaining is he’s very hittable; the antithesis of Erislandy Lara. And Trout, a grizzled veteran, took full advantage of Hurd’s defensive shortcomings early, beating Hurd to the punch, jabbing him at will, walking him into shots, finding a home for uppercuts, etc. Unquestionably, Trout was the more polished, educated fighter and he couldn’t miss. By the 3rd, Hurd threw caution to the wind and aggressively stalked Trout, unloading with both hands. Trout still countered beautifully, but it was becoming apparent Hurd’s youth, pressure and superior size was starting to wear him down.
In the 5th, a right cross snapped Trout’s head, as did a follow up 1-2, which knocked him to the ropes. Bravely, Trout planted his feet, seeking retribution, but his shots weren’t deterring Hurd anymore. Round 6 featured toe-to-toe exchanges, eliciting applause from the audience, but Trout looked fatigued and his technique became increasingly sloppy. A clash of heads opened a cut over Hurd’s left eye in the 7th, but even that couldn’t stop his momentum, as he defiantly pursued Trout, with body hands at his sides. By the 10th, Trout’s right eye was nearly closed, and his body language suggested defeat. Smelling blood, Hurd switched to southpaw, landed a 1-2 which forced Trout to retreat and flurried on him until the bell. Seconds later, Trout’s corner and the ringside physician mutually agreed the fighter had enough. At the time of the stoppage, Hurd was up 97-93 and 96-94 twice for Hurd.
All three reigning champions successfully defended their straps, but there was no clear consensus on their ensuing moves. Hurd said he preferred Lara next, who preferred Charlo next, who preferred Hurd next. All that really matters is discussions are being had, all parties are in favor of unification and between Premier Boxing Champions and/or SHOWTIME, the best will continue to fight the best.
Kudos to a thrilling, dramatic, unpredictable, edge-of-your-seat night of fights! If our sport continues to get it right, as was the case here, naysayers will be forced into finding a new pastime.