By Thomas Gerbasi
Fate. A right turn instead of a left, a yes instead of a no, and everything could be different. No one knows this better than junior middleweight contender Jarrett Hurd, a young man who could have been a firefighter in his hometown of Accokeek, Maryland right now if not for the intervention of fate in the form of coach Ernesto Rodriguez.
Hurd, a talented amateur but not one of the highly publicized boxers from the DMV area, was at a crossroads. He knew he hadn’t given boxing his complete dedication, and he was prepared to move in a different direction. Then his first coach, Thomas Browner, passed away, and at the funeral, he ran into Rodriguez, who wondered if he wanted to give the sport another shot.
“I never really gave boxing the best of me, I never put my all into it and I said, ‘Let me just give it this one last shot,’” Hurd said. “I’m glad I did, because look where I’m at today. If I didn’t go back into boxing, I probably would have become a firefighter. I was a volunteer fireman and I was going to school for fire science, so I probably would have been in that field.”
Instead, Hurd is 12 rounds or less from becoming a world champion on Saturday night, when he faces Tony Harrison for the vacant IBF world title. Even that opportunity included a twist of fate, as what was originally scheduled to be a title elimination bout turned into a title fight when Jermall Charlo vacated his crown to move up to 160 pounds.
“We kind of figured he (Charlo) was gonna go up, but we didn’t know for sure, and when we got the call, we were happy,” Hurd said. “I knew this was an opportunity. There’s no more pressure because the title’s on the line, but we’re just happy that we’re finally getting a shot at what we’ve been working hard for all these years.”
But let’s keep this fate theme going. The 19-0 Hurd recalls that when he had just turned pro in 2012, Rodriguez filled his charge in on his road map to the top.
“He (Rodriguez) always mentioned when I was 1-0, 2-0 that in my 20th fight we’re gonna be trying to fight for a world title, so he had to get me in the right fights to get me prepared for that moment. And fight number 20, here I am. We put our faith in God and good things happen.”
Rodriguez got Hurd into those right fights and “Swift” delivered every step of the way. By late 2015, he was matched up with fellow unbeaten prospect Frank Galarza and surprised some folks by stopping the New Yorker in six rounds. But it was in June of last year that Hurd truly felt like he had arrived when he defeated unbeaten Olympian Oscar Molina via 10th round TKO.
“The Galarza fight was my coming out party, but I’d say when I really started thinking that in this 154-pound division I’m someone to look out for is after my fight with Oscar Molina,” Hurd said. “Frank Galarza was a top prospect coming up, like me, but he didn’t have a lot of amateur experience and he was still learning in the pro game just as I was. But when I beat an Olympian in Oscar Molina, that’s when I realized that I really had the skills.”
So did the rest of the boxing world, as Hurd showed off power, strong infighting skills, and the ability to control a fight before halting his opponent. And as the fighter points out, he was also able to make adjustments along the way when the original game plan needed some alterations.
“The main thing that we want to establish in the ring, and we always do it in this order, is distance, rhythm and timing,” he said. “With Molina being the smaller guy and me being a tall, long guy, of course I wanted to stay on the outside. But after the first four rounds of trying that, me and my coach realized that the fight would be a little more technical and I won’t be winning the rounds as convincingly if I stood on the outside. So we wanted to close the distance and I started taking over the fight and winning the rounds more convincingly. He was tough though.”
Last November, Hurd followed up the Molina fight with a sixth-round finish of Jo Jo Dan, and now it’s off to Birmingham, Alabama for a bout that could change his future forever. No more will he be the forgotten fighter from the Maryland area. On Sunday morning, 26-year-old Jarrett Hurd could wake up as a world champion.
“It would mean everything to me,” he said of winning the IBF belt. “We have a history of a lot of fighters in our gym, and this would make me the first fighter ever to come out of Hillcrest Heights Boxing Gym and win the world title. I was the guy back in the amateur days that people would have never chose to fight for the world title, let alone win it. I wasn’t that guy. So this opportunity right here, with my team believing in me and me believing in myself, it allows me to show the world that you can never count “Swift” Jarrett Hurd out. I’m turning a lot of non-believers into believers.”
And he’s just getting started.
“I got three more pairs of pants that don’t fit me, so I need to grab all the other belts.”