It’s been two days since Mental Health Awareness Month ended, but junior middleweight contender Erickson Lubin won’t stop doing his part to get the word out about an important topic.

“I think it's important that we shine light on it,” said Lubin, nearly two months removed from his Fight of the Year candidate against Sebastian Fundora on April 9. “I talked to my peers, I talked to my family about it, and they like what I'm doing. They look at me as I'm doing something not just in boxing, but for the community.”

But coming from a boxer, Lubin’s work towards awareness has a little more weight. Remember, this is a sport where showing vulnerability or admitting you need help is seen as weakness. Lubin is here to say that it’s not.

“You could see Ryan Garcia, he had to take a few months off from boxing because of his mental health, and you just don't want to go into something that you love and go into the ring with stuff on your mind that's negative or things that's putting you down,” he said. “It's important to go into the ring with a clear head. And I'm not just speaking about boxing. I think in life, it's hard to do things when you're battling mental health issues.”

The physical part of boxing is what the public sees on fight night. The mental part, that’s for the boxer to figure out, and to get to the point where he’s willing to trade blows with an opponent trained to beat him, it’s a struggle, one that forces every fighter who laces up the gloves to lie to himself.

“That punch didn’t hurt.”

“This roadwork isn’t pushing me beyond my limits.”

“I can get those last few pounds off, no problem.”

“I’ve got another round in me.”

Lubin asks if I think he’s lying to me. I tell him not now, but he probably did in the past. He laughs.

“It's a mind game,” he admits. “A lot of it is mental and you're telling yourself it doesn't hurt just so you can get through that punch. You're telling yourself certain things so you can get through it, and when it does come, it's nothing to you.”

That’s how someone gets through 26 pro fights. Not that some watching from the outside can appreciate and respect what it takes to even step through the ropes. And with social media, that lack of respect is almost constant.

“Social media is gonna be what it's gonna be,” Lubin said. “I know how social media is, especially with boxers. One minute they love you, the next minute they don't, so I just take all that with a grain of salt. I don't really pay attention to social media like that. I got close ones that keep me leveled.”

At 26, he knows that. At 22, when he brought an 18-0 record into a 154-pound title fight against Jermell Charlo in October 2017, he didn’t, or at least he didn’t have to. Going into that bout at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the Floridian was the greatest thing since pizza, and if he didn’t beat Charlo, at least the fight was going to be one to remember and maybe even the start of an epic rivalry.

Two minutes and 41 seconds after the opening bell sounded, Lubin had his first pro loss, and the bandwagon of “The Hammer” emptied as fast as it filled up. Lesson learned.

“I definitely needed to learn that and that came after the Charlo fight,” he said. “At first, they loved me. This is when Instagram was at its peak. Even today, I can post something, and there are still trolls that will make comments and talk about the Charlo fight. And now they'll obviously be talking about Fundora, but everybody that gets in that ring, you gotta give your respect to them.”

Correct, in theory, but in practice, easier said than done. That’s unfortunate, especially if you’re the one on the receiving end.

“It played on my mind for a while during that time because I just wasn't used to losing,” Lubin said. “It was my first L as a professional, so it was a little weird for me after having all the hype behind me and all the buzz around me. I was looking to be a star immediately at a young age. So it played on my mental state a little bit, especially the days after the fight. But I know how strong mentally I am, so I just went back to the drawing board. I knew for a fact I'd be back at the top at 154 pounds, so I kept working. I just changed up a few things outside of the ring that benefitted me inside of the ring.”

Lubin returned six months later with a fourth-round TKO of Silverio Ortiz, and then added five more wins, landing him an interim WBC junior middleweight title fight against Fundora in Las Vegas. When it was over, Lubin was stopped after the ninth round, but there were no losers in that ring after a back-and-forth scrap that saw both fighters hit the deck. Lubin was ahead 85-84 on two of the three scorecards and even on the third, but after taking enough punishment to where his face was unrecognizable, his coach Kevin Cunningham pulled him from the fight before round ten.

“Man, we were rumblin',” laughed Lubin when I asked him his thoughts on the fight. That’s an accurate assessment, and while the loss stung, Lubin proved that in a dogfight, he’s more than willing to bite down on his mouthpiece and dig deep.

“Honestly, I knew that before the fight,” he said. “That's just always been me. I've always been that warrior type of dude. I'm very competitive. All my friends and my family know that about me. There's no quit in me.”

Oddly enough, the same fans who dumped on him after the Charlo fight sung his praises when he went to war with Fundora. 

“It's weird,” he said. “I don't like losses and losses don't sit well with me, but it's crazy to see how satisfied people were after the fight. I felt the love way more after this fight than a bunch of fights, maybe all of my fights.”

That’s boxing. Then again, that’s probably the case in all sports. Yet whether it’s praise or ridicule, Erickson Lubin isn’t letting it get to his head. Once his separated shoulder heals, he’s ready to resume his belt chasing.

“Once I'm able to throw punches, I'm back in the gym,” he said. “I'm looking to leave a mark in this sport and this division, so I'm definitely trying to get in there and I'm not looking to fight any tune-ups. I want the best guys out there.”