Jarrett Hurd unified boxing's junior middleweight division by knocking down Cuba's Erislandy Lara in the 12th round to earn a stunning spit decision victory on Saturday. The undefeated American is now the WBA, IBF and IBO 154-pound champion as he scored a shocking win over Lara, who suffered his first loss in over three years.
Hurd's final round knockdown proved to be the difference in the fight as all three judges scored it 114-113 with two having it in favour of the American.
"It was a tough one but I went out there and did exactly what I said I was going to do," said Hurd, who improved to 22-0 with 15 KOs. "I felt like I was in control the whole fight. I was putting pressure on him."
Hurd, 27, hit Lara with a right left combination that sent the former Cuban Olympian to the canvas. Fighting in close, he popped Lara's head up with a right uppercut then delivered a vicious left hook that to the right side of Lara's head.
Lara took a standing eight count from the referee before resuming and then barely holding on until the final bell at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The 34-year old Lara dropped to 25-3-2 in his career as he was making his seventh title defence.
Entering the fight, the winner was going to be lined up to fight WBC junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo, who makes a defense of his title in June.
"I'm down. Let's go. We want that work," Charlo said. "I feel Hurd only took the fight with Lara because he realized the harder fight is with Jermell Charlo.
"We've been there before with Lara. I know what he possesses. Hurd has to get his defense together because he cannot get hit like that by me. Lara doesn't move like he used to. If he moves like he used to he wins that fight."