By Keith Idec
When it came time to make a 154-pound championship unification fight earlier this year, Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza had several appealing options.
Erislandy Lara-Jarrett Hurd, the bout the network will televise April 7, Lara-Jermell Charlo and Hurd-Charlo all are fights fans want to see.
Those three champions were showcased as part of Showtime tripleheader October 14 at Barclays Center, but Lara-Hurd became the pick to start this unofficial super welterweight championship tournament.
“I think it was really the style matchup,” Espinoza, Showtime’s president of sports and event programming, said Thursday during a conference call. “When we sat down and looked at them, they’re three exciting fighters, three great champions. But the matchup that was really intriguing because of the styles was Lara versus Hurd.
“Erislandy has never shied away from any challenge. Jarrett was very vocal about wanting to unify. And the culmination of their styles, where they are in their careers, it seemed like an intriguing matchup.”
Espinoza expects the winner between Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs) and Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs) to battle Charlo later this year.
Houston’s Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs), the WBC 154-pound champion, is slated to return to the ring against an undetermined opponent June 9 on the Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares undercard in Los Angeles. Charlo won’t fight the Lara-Hurd winner that night because it’d be too quick of a turnaround following what figures to be a taxing clash April 7.
“Jermell is game,” Espinoza said. “He’s on board for it. You saw him recently on Showtime. He has indicated he wants the winner and he wants the winner next [after June 9].”
Hurd reiterated during Thursday’s conference call that he prefers fighting Lara first because the Accokeek, Maryland, native considers the Cuban southpaw the top champion at 154 pounds.
“I feel both fights will eventually happen, with me and Charlo and Lara,” Hurd said. “But I feel like this fight with Erislandy Lara will give me more credibility and put me in position at No. 1. I want to be the top guy in my division and I feel like I am the top guy in my division.
“And this fight, I wanted over Jermell Charlo, even though the fight with Jermell Charlo is more anticipated – people wanna see that more, between us, because of our styles. But I wanted this fight because I feel like it would put me in a better position in our division.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.