By Lem Satterfield 

Jarret Hurd first entered a boxing gym as a 15-year-old—a relatively late start for most boxers who turn professional—at the urging of his father, Fred Sr. But Hurd’s dedication to pugilism was lukewarm as he intermittently engaged in amateur tournaments under then-coach Tom Browner.

Then, after graduating from Gwynn Park High in Brandywine, Maryland, Hurd thought he had left the sport for good in pursuit of becoming a firefighter at a junior college while splitting time as a deli clerk employee at Safeway.

But Browner’s death in 2010 inspired the man nicknamed “Swift” to return to boxing. His parents promised to financially support his early career and trainer Ernesto Rodriguez vowed to make him a formidable pro.

Since then, Hurd’s nickname, “Swift,” is an appropriate description of his rapid ascension and evolution as a sometime sharpshooting boxer-puncher with a propensity to brawl, a towering 6-foot-1 force with a powerfully proficient inside game, and, ultimately, an undefeated unified 154-pound champion.

“I was at home living with my Mom and Dad, working at Safeway after graduating high school, and volunteering at a firehouse. But a dramatic change happened when I got that all that my coach, Tom Browner, had passed away and I saw Ernesto Rodriguez at his funeral,” said Hurd, 28. “Ernesto told me that he really cared about me, and was asking me if I was truly ready to be dedicated and that professional boxing was nothing to play around with. I decided to put my all into it since then."

Hurd (22-0, 15 KOs) will take yet another step in pursuit of his third defense and eighth knockout in nine fights on Saturday’s Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury undercard against Jason Welborn (24-6, 7 KOs) of England at The Staples Center in Los Angeles.

"This has all been a real dream come true," said Hurd, who has 76 ½-inch reach. "But I’m still on my way. I’m still learning, trying to become a complete champion one step at a time.”

Hurd has catapulted himself to the top of the division over his past three victories comprised of an IBF title-winning ninth-round TKO of Tony Harrison (February 2017), a 10th-round stoppage of left-handed former titleholder Austin Trout (October 2017), and a split-decision over Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara (April), a final-round knockdown with 37 seconds adding Lara’s WBA crown to his IBF version.

“Beating Erislandy Lara to gain two titles has earned me a lot of recognition from my city. I’ve had a meeting with the city councilman, I received a plaque of recognition from my city of Accokeek, I was recognized by the 2018 Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C., as Fighter Of The Year," said Hurd, during a recent training session at The Hillcrest Heights Gym in Temple Hills, Maryland.

"The Washington Redskins even invited me to be on the field at one of their games. Coming up as amateur, I didn’t really picture all of this happening for me so soon. I would have liked a fighter like a Floyd Mayweather to come to my gym for me to be able to hold his belt and to ask him questions. So now that I’m in that position, I’m going to be a guy that kids can walk up to and talk to and ask questions. I want to be that role model that kids can look up to." 

Hurd also expects to be ringside at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on December 22, where WBC counterpart Jermell Charlo (31-0, 15 KOs) pursues his fourth defense against Harrison (27-2, 21 KOs), and twin sibling Jermall Charlo (27-0, 21 KOs) his initial defense and fourth straight stoppage against southpaw two-time title challenger Willie Monroe (23-3, 6 KOs).

“I will be in attendance when Jermell Charlo fights Tony Harrison. And listen, if they ask for me to come up into the ring [to challenge the Charlo-Harrison winner,] then I’m coming up,” said Hurd. “After beating Lara, I haven’t had too many people calling me out, so I think I’m finally getting the respect that I think I deserve."