By Lyle Fitzsimmons
It was nearly five years ago.
But be sure, the closer Jarrett Hurd gets to meeting Erislandy Lara in Las Vegas the more he'll be relying on what happened to the southpaw stylist in California back in 2013.
On a late spring night at what was then the Home Depot Center, the former amateur world champion had one of his most difficult outings as a pro – hitting the deck twice and trailing on a scorecard before stopping rugged gatekeeper Alfredo Angulo in round 10 of a scheduled 12.
They remain the only two knockdowns of Lara's decade-long career, and, though he's lost two fights – by disputed decisions to Paul WIlliams in 2011 and again to Canelo Alvarez in 2014 – the scrap with Angulo remains the one in which he's come closest to losing by anything resembling abrupt violence.
Which is why it's such an important resource to Hurd.
The date with Lara seems sure to be the most competitive hurdle for the 27-year-old, who'll be putting his once-defended IBF 154-pound title up against the Cuban's dual claims as IBO and WBA champion.
The fight is set for April 7 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
And because a plodding Angulo – at 5-foot-9½ with a 69-inch reach – was able to inflict at least an intermittent level of damage on the oft-unhittable Lara, the taller (6-foot-1), longer (76½-inch reach) and more athletic Hurd is confident he'll see the Mexican's success and raise it.
"The Angulo fight is something we've watched. Definitely," he said. "I'm much bigger than Angulo, much faster than Angulo and I feel I'm much stronger than Angulo. With my long arms and the angles I punch at, I'm a little more awkward than Angulo, too. This is a fight we've been getting ready for long before the date was set. You're going to see the outcome and how hard we've been working."
Lara's controversial loss to Alvarez came 13 months after the fight with Angulo and saw the Cuban go to great lengths to avoid prolonged exchanges. He earned a 115-113 verdict on the card of judge Jerry Roth but was overruled by the tabs of 115-113 and 117-111 from Dave Moretti and Levi Martinez.
Hurd's assessment: Canelo didn't punch in enough volume.
"Canelo was loading up on one or two shots. But the first one or two shots are not going to land on someone like Lara," he said. "It's the third or fourth shot. You've got to put more punches together. He started doing it toward the end of the fight. He looked better as he did it.
"But loading up on the first two shots, Lara's going to see those. It's the third or fourth that'll be able to land on him. He's going to get out of the way of the first two. You've got to put more punches in your arsenal when you're throwing your combinations."
Hurd will arrive in Las Vegas six months off his own career-defining win, a 10th-round TKO of Austin Trout in which the older fighter started quickly but wilted under Hurd's persistence and power.
One fight earlier, Hurd again overcame an early deficit to win the vacant IBF belt via ninth-round stoppage of Tony Harrison on the Wilder-Washington undercard in Birmingham, Alabama.
Those two fights – even in victory – left Hurd determined to improve.
"I was kind of careless in my defense, especially when I went back and looked at (the Trout fight)," he said. "There was no power there, so I was stalking him not moving my head to get out of the way of the punches. This fight, we're going to try to especially – because Lara has a little more power than Austin Trout – take a little less punishment from him and use more balance with our footwork.
"Lara's not going to stand toe to toe with me. That's not what his mark is. I'm not going to sit there and try to outbox Lara because that's not going to be smart on my part. It's no secret how this fight will play out. He needs to be able to outbox me and move around, use angles, or I'm going to have to be able to walk him down and be in his face and eventually the pressure is going to get to him.
If he does leave the desert with three junior middleweight/super welterweight belts in hand, Hurd will presumably be much closer to the 154-pound quarry he claimed will keep him in the weight class until a fight is signed, sealed and delivered – fellow unbeaten 27-year-old Jermell Charlo.
The Houston resident defended his WBC title for the second time on the same show as Hurd-Trout and blasted out highly-touted prospect Erickson Lubin with a single right hand in the opening round.
The Independent World Boxing Rankings list Lara, Charlo and Hurd at Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the division, while the remaining significant belt-holder – WBO champ Sadam Ali – is a spot behind in fourth.
"I don't plan on moving up any time soon," Hurd said. "Making weight is still fairly easy. I'm not struggling with it at all. I think I can stay here for another year or year and a half. One thing's for sure, I don't plan on moving up until I get that fight with Charlo. Whenever that happens, I'm not moving up until it happens."
The neighborhood between welterweight and middleweight also includes a holdover in the form of ex-WBO champ Liam Smith – a KO loser to Alvarez in 2016 – and a newcomer in Kell Brook, who weighed 153¼ for a second-round KO win earlier this month after losing consecutive fights to Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence Jr. while weighing 159½ and 146½, respectively.
The IWBR has the two Englishmen fifth (Brook) and eighth (Smith) at 154.
"In between fights I am gaining a little more weight than I usually have been. Maybe it's with the age. I'm getting older," Hurd said. "It depends on how soon (a Charlo fight) happens, and there are other fights I'll stay at 154 for, too. Especially a fight with Kell Brook. I could get some fans from over in his country with that fight, or with Liam Smith."
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This week's title-fight schedule:
Vacant WBC super lightweight title – New York, New York
Amir Imam (No. 1 WBC/No. 35 IWBR) vs. Jose Carlos Ramirez (No. 3 WBC/No. 23 IWBR)
Imam (21-1, 18 KO): First title fight; First-round KO in only other New York fight
Ramirez (21-0, 16 KO): First title fight; Four straight wins by KO/TKO (14 total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: The Granados loss put a big X on Imam's resume and remains a warning. He's won three straight since, though, and that'll get me to pick him once more. Buyer beware. Imam by decision
WBO mini-flyweight title – Kobe, Japan
Ryuya Yamanaka (champion/No. 8 IWBR) vs. Moises Calleros (No. 4 WBO/Unranked IWBR)
Yamanaka (15-2, 4 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten since 2014 (8-0, 2 KO)
Calleros (28-7-1, 16 KO): First title fight; Lost only other fight outside Mexico (SD 12, 2017)
Fitzbitz says: Yamanaka started 7-2 and was hardly dazzling, but he's won eight in a row since and seems comfortable against a guy who's not separated himself either. Yamanaka by decision
Last week's picks: 2-0 (WIN: Freshmart, Garcia; LOSS: Barthelemy, Quigg)
2018 picks record: 22-7 (75.8 percent)
Overall picks record: 943-311 (75.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.