As junior middleweight titles exchange hands like trading cards, champions winning and losing titles at a breakneck pace, Erickson Lubin has looked on in disbelief, trying to make sense of it all and figuring out where he fits in.
Lubin plans on watching former unified titleholder Jarrett Hurd’s comeback against Francisco Santana on Saturday at the Barclays Center. It’s yet another opportunity in recent weeks for the 24-year-old to scout a possible opponent in a talent-rich division that is teeming with possibilities.
With Julian Williams giving up his titles to Jeison Rosario in a shocking upset last week, Jermell Charlo getting his belt back against Tony Harrison in December and Hurd trying to rebuild his career after he was upset by Williams, Lubin has emerged as another intriguing candidate to restore order to boxing’s craziest, most chaotic and fun division. He’s narrowed his sights on Rosario, a former training partner back in Miami and (if that doesn’t happen) Harrison as a way to make hay at 154 pounds.
“I don’t want to play tag with these belts," Lubin told BoxingScene. "Once I get those belts, I’m hogging them. I’m not giving them back.”
A former blue-chip prospect, Lubin was fast-tracked for success when he suffered a stunning first-round knockout at the hands of Jermell Charlo in 2017. Lubin was favored to win a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics but instead signed with Iron Mike Promotions to chase a title shot. The loss to Charlo dashed those plans and forced the youngster to recalibrate.
“I always wanted to go the Mayweather route and be undefeated and have an unblemished record,” he says. “I knew if we ever took an ‘L,’ we can’t take another one."
He was just 22 at the time of the Charlo bout, but the loss prompted all types of questions about whether he would be able to pick up the pieces and bounce back.
Now, the questions seem silly.
The southpaw has won four straight, including a decisive win against Nathaniel Gallimore in October. What makes that win so impressive is that Gallimore dropped Rosario three times on his way to stopping him in six in 2017.
Gallimore’s win against Rosario suddenly takes on added meaning when you consider what he did last Saturday against 154-pound unified champion Williams. Rosario stopped him in five rounds to emerge as a new player in the suddenly hot and remarkably unpredictable divison.
Now, Lubin’s path toward claiming his status as the top dog at 154 pounds seems clear.
“I want Rosario,” Lubin said in a phone interview. “I hope to get the fight with Rosario to capture the belts and then get my rematch with Charlo for all of the belts. The rematch with him would then be a big fight. But I would box circles around Rosario. He’s too slow and flat-footed but you still have to give him credit.”
In the fickle junior middleweight division, where fighters lose and then win belts, suddenly anything seems possible. Rosario beat Williams, who became a champion after he upset Hurd — after Williams was knocked out in five by Jermall Charlo in 2016.
“I was surprised when Rosario won,” he says. Before hooking up with trainer Kevin Cunningham, Lubin worked out in Miami with Rosario under trainer Herman Caicedo, around four years ago, though the two never sparred. “I thought he was going to be able to out-box him and win a decision,” he said of Williams, “but it’s not crazy what he did. You see how the division is going. We train our whole lives to be rich overnight.”
The division is certainly unpredictable — and loaded with young fighters in their primes who are all hovering around the same talent level.
Lubin (22-1, 16 knockouts) watched in near disbelief back in 2018 as Harrison upset Jermell Charlo for the WBC title. That was a little more than a year after Charlo shocked Lubin with the first-round knockout. Lubin then watched this past December again as Charlo regained his title with an 11th-round knockout of Harrison. It’s all head-spinning stuff, especially if you’re a fighter trying to nudge your way in for another title shot as Lubin is doing.
Now, Lubin, if he can’t get the fight with Rosario, envisions a possible crossroads bout with Harrison to basically eliminate one of the top guys in the division from contention. Cunningham told BoxingScene he hopes Lubin is back in the ring “sometime in April,” but suggested it was too early to start naming possible opponents.
“I’ll fight Harrison,” Lubin said. “It’s an easy fight to make since we’re both (advised by Al Haymon). I’m not ducking anyone. I want to show these dudes once and for all who’s the best.”
At the same time, the cerebral and thoughtful Lubin understands that top fighters won’t exactly be calling him out because of the risk involved.
“I’m one of those dudes — they don’t look at me as a tune-up fight,” he said. “That’s what they tried to do with Rosario and look what happened. They’re going to have to be forced to fight me by me becoming their mandatory. I’m patiently waiting my turn.”
Long-term, though, Lubin hopes to rematch Jermell Charlo and avenge that awful loss. There is no love-lost between Lubin and Charlo, who had a contentious build-up to their fight.
“Charlo is a big puncher but he doesn’t have skill,” Lubin said. “He’s just a live dog with some pop. I’m not going to discredit him. It’s just facts. He’s real athletic and he does move his feet well, and he’s coming with that fire. But he doesn’t have my skills. And I have a different type of mindset now, a different type of preparation.”
And speaking about himself but also perhaps the state of the division and the second chances fighters are getting and capitalising on, he added this:
“When you take a loss now, people write you off,” he said “It’s your job to prove them wrong. That’s what I’m doing.”
In the 154-pound division, he’s not alone.