Record: 25-2-2 (14 KO) ... Streak: W6 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 8-1-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5’9” / 74” ... Age: 34
Thoughts: Erislandy Lara has had a bumpier road than I think most really consider when we’re talking about him as the top 154-pound fighter in the sport today. Let’s reflect back, starting in 2011.
That year, he opened up beating Delray Raines (KO-1), before running into Carlos Molina two months later. He was lucky to get out with a draw against Molina, a fighter whose awkward craftiness gave Lara some fits in the ESPN2-televised bout.
Then he got matched with Paul Williams, a big opportunity for Lara on HBO. Williams “beat” Lara that night, a decision so outrageously bad that three judges were suspended in New Jersey, though the result wasn’t overturned or anything. It was a bad enough robbery that Lara became something of a cult cause and hero for a bit, and any thought of his own halfway gift draw against Molina was forgotten.
Ronald Hearns (TKO-1) and Freddy Hernandez (UD-10) fell in 2012. He drew that same year against Vanes Martirosyan, a technical draw due to accidental headbutts in a WBC eliminator.
In 2013, Lara rallied from the canvas to beat Alfredo Angulo, stopping him in 10, and then dominated Austin Trout over 12 rounds. 2014 saw him lose a debatable decision to Canelo Alvarez (I thought Alvarez just did enough, or perhaps more accurately, Lara didn’t do enough), and then beat Ishe Smith for the WBA “world” title.
2015 saw him fight Delvin Rodriguez and Jan Zaveck. Both opponents were panned. He fought just once in 2016, beating Martirosyan in a rematch. 2017 was even worse than 2015, maybe, with wins over washed-up Yuri Foreman and pretender not contender Terrell Gausha.
Lara, who now has the “super world” WBA title, has been “a champion” throughout these last few years, and his defenses have come against Delvin Rodriguez, Jan Zaveck, Vanes Martirosyan, Yuri Foreman, and Terrell Gausha. Not exactly what you want to see from a titleholder.
But how much blame can there be? Who was knocking on Lara’s door, wanting to fight a top-notch Cuban southpaw craftsman when there were more flawed, far less tricky fighters in the division also carrying belts? Not only can Lara beat you, but he can make you look bad in the process. It’s not a new story in boxing. Lara is exactly the type of fighter most managers and promoters look to avoid when matching rising stars on the way up, even if it means a title shot.
But now we’ve got a good matchup, as Jarrett Hurd has stepped up to the plate, a fellow titleholder and a definite rising star in the division. Finally, Erislandy Lara brings his talent to a fight with an opponent who can make us want to to tune in. That’s a very good thing.
Record: 21-0 (15 KO) ... Streak: W21 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’1” / 76½” ... Age: 27
Thoughts: Jarrett Hurd wasn’t a super groomed prospect who was always on this track. He’s fought his way here.
When Hurd was matched with Frank Galarza on Showtime in 2015, it was Galarza who was the prospect meant to be showcased. Instead, Hurd stopped him in six. Solid prospect Oscar Molina was next, Hurd stopped him in 10. Veteran Jo Jo Dan went down in six, Tony Harrison in nine, and Austin Trout after 10.
So not only has Hurd been winning as he’s stepped up in competition, but he’s been doing so in style, stopping all of his opponents. The last time he went the distance was a six-rounder in 2014, and it was a majority decision, a fight where you imagine if the cards were legit, Hurd learned something and made some adjustments after a close call.
This is, obviously, the biggest and toughest fight of Hurd’s career on paper. Lara can make good, strong fighters look bad in the ring. But Hurd has youth on his side, he’s never lost, and he’s on a great roll. If he can overcome Erislandy Lara, he no doubt deserves to be called the top junior middleweight in the sport, and he might be someone you need to keep an eye on as a potential legitimate star, too.
Matchup Grade: A-. The way I look at it, you’ve got the top junior middleweight in Lara against a guy with a great claim to be No. 2 right now in Hurd. At worst, we’re talking about 1 vs 3 in the division, with Jermell Charlo as the other potential No. 2. It’s as competitive a matchup on paper as Lara can get at 154 pounds, and a chance for Hurd to prove that a new generation of junior middleweights is taking over. I’m intrigued, and I’m ready for this one.
- Caleb Truax vs James DeGale: The first fight in December was a pins-and-needles bout where Truax fought as the major underdog, on the road in England, in what was supposed to be a tune-up title defense return for DeGale. Instead, Truax (29-3-2, 18 KO) out-fought DeGale (23-2-1, 14 KO), and lifted the IBF super middleweight title. Now, Truax has to do it again, and that’s a big ask. But I’m going to say this now: it’s not as big an ask as diehard DeGale supporters might believe. It’s not like the Truax fight was the first time we saw DeGale make a fight harder than it needed to be, and it won’t be the last. He’s got some bad habits in the ring that aren’t explained away just by saying he rushed back from injury. When DeGale is at his best, he’s one of the top 168-pounders in the sport. When he’s not, he’s very beatable. This is huge for DeGale’s career. He cannot afford a second loss to Truax — his career could continue on and maybe even bounce back, but he might not be able to afford it mentally. Grade: B
- Julian Williams vs Nathaniel Gallimore: Williams (24-1-1, 15 KO) was trucked by Jermall Charlo a year and a half ago, but has come back with wins over Joshua Conley and Ishe Smith, though the win over Smith was not as easy as the scores make it seem, which is credit to Smith’s wily veteranness, and probably worth questioning just how good Williams really is, honestly. Gallimore (20-1-1, 17 KO) is looking for a breakout party after a mild upset over Justin DeLoach last July. A win for either man puts them right in the title mix at 154, and on paper, this is well-matched if not marquee. Grade: B-