By Thomas Gerbasi
Erickson Lubin is a cool customer, the kind of fighter you won’t catch giving away his intentions with his eyes or demeanor. That alone makes him a tough puzzle to crack. Add in the power coming from his southpaw stance, and there’s no surprise that he’s soared into a world title fight against Jermell Charlo after just 18 pro fights
But bring up the chatter that has some wondering if he’s ready to challenge for Charlo’s WBC junior middleweight title on Oct. 14, and you can see the fighter’s fire ignite.
“Who said I'm not ready,” he said after the press conference to officially announce the bout at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
After assuring him that it was somebody else and not me, he smiled, secure that he made the point that if anyone is prepared for this moment, it’s him. He doesn’t care that people look at his age and wonder how a soon to be 22-year-old can handle such a fight this soon. Maybe that confidence comes from the reality that the Floridian has been groomed for this since he was a youngster or from the company he keeps; namely, his former promoter, Mike Tyson, who knows a little something about being a prodigy in this sport.
“I was with Mike Tyson at 18 years old and he taught me how to deal with all the pressure like this and I thank him for it,” Lubin said. “He's still a mentor in my life and he'll probably be here October 14th.”
Owner of a reported 143-7 record as an amateur, Lubin decided against a run for the 2016 Olympics, instead turning pro in 2013 at 18. Being with Tyson’s promotional company only added to the pressure, but being forced to grow up fast was something he was used to as a top-flight boxer.
“You've got to give up a whole lot of things just to be in this sport,” Lubin said. “School, friends, time with your family, holidays. Sometimes you have to be training for a fight or even fighting on Christmas. I sacrificed a whole lot for this sport and I feel like it's all coming back to me with good karma.”
Karma has nothing to do with Lubin’s title shot. That was won with his fists, and in an occurrence so rare that it needs to be mentioned, none of his 18 pro fights have been against an opponent with a losing record. You don’t see that too often from a hot prospect, but Lubin says that’s what he asked for.
“That's the way I wanted to come up,” he said. “When I came out of the amateurs, I was a hopeful for a gold medal, and I told them I wanted to go the fast route and they put me against contenders at just 7-0. I feel like it prepared me for this moment right now. Mike Tyson was just 20 years old when he dared to be great. I'm 21 years old, about to be 22. I'm a little late, but I'm ready to be great.”
I laugh when he says he’s a little late, knowing that if he beats Charlo, he will have plenty of time to get to where he wants to go in the sport. And he wants to go far.
“I'm not just trying to win this title,” Lubin said. “I'm trying to unify the whole division and trying to take over. I feel like there's really nobody that actually stands out. There's a whole bunch of names that everybody keeps throwing out there, and I want to be that name when the 154-pound division is mentioned.”
Maybe he’s aiming too low, because a 22-year-old world champion with charisma and power can go a long way in this sport, far beyond just being a titleholder in a single division. But that’s speculation for another day. First, Erickson Lubin has to win his first title, and that’s exactly what he’ll be returning to Brooklyn for next month.
“Growing up and being a boxer, this is definitely something I wanted for a long time,” he said. “I come from a tough background, I've got Haitian parents, and I had to work for everything. I grew up the tough way, and I can't wait to be champion and show what I'm capable of.”