By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – When it came time for Erickson Lubin and Jermell Charlo to talk Thursday, there was a lot of background noise.
Members of their teams argued about who’ll win their fight Saturday night, threatened each other and didn’t stop until promoter Lou DiBella warned that they’d be removed from a press conference at Highline Ballroom if they didn’t cut it out. As usual, Lubin remained calm and didn’t let those distractions affect his focus.
The only noises coming from that side of the room that resonated with Lubin were the comparatively peaceful noises made by his newborn son, 3-month-old Malachi Lubin. The powerful southpaw’s strong desire to become a world champion by knocking off Charlo is as much about making Malachi Lubin’s life better as anything.
“This is something I dreamed of since I started boxing, and I knew how to box before I knew how to read,” Lubin told BoxingScene.com. “This is definitely something that kept me out of trouble, kept me in the right position. I’ve got a great team behind me and I’ve just been working for this my whole life.
“I’m ready to change the lives of the people around me. I’m ready to change the lives of my parents [Marjorie and Erick]. You know, my son was born in July and I just wanna make sure he’s set for life – for school, for college, for everything.”
Mature beyond his 22 years, Lubin understands just how much is at stake Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Beating Houston’s Charlo (29-0, 14 KOs), the WBC super welterweight champion, in the second of three fights Showtime will televise would lift Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs) into a higher tax bracket and elevate him to another level as one of the youngest world champions in the sport.
“I’ll bring more money, more people noticing me and more people trying to get into my circle,” Lubin said. “I’m definitely gonna keep my circle tight, and keep the people I’ve got around me. But it’s gonna change my life for good. I’ll get a house at just 22 years old, get the cars that I always wanted – just the things that I always wanted, that I never had. I’ll be able to get them now.”
Making more money obviously is important, but a thankful Lubin also wants to make his trainer proud by accomplishing something in which they’ve invested so much together. The bond between Jason Galarza, who has worked with Lubin since he was 13, and the precocious contender extends well beyond boxing and has been instrumental in Lubin becoming one of the best 154-pound fighters in the world.
“He has definitely helped me as a person by teaching me how to be a leader,” Lubin said. “He’s a leader himself and I definitely look up to him. He has taken me in since I was 13 years old. Even when I didn’t have it, he’s been that guy to step up and made sure I got what I wanted when it came to shoes and all the stuff that I couldn’t afford.
“Boxing tournaments, he paid for all those types of things. I forever thank him. Even outside of boxing, he’s like a father to me. We’re definitely gonna carry this relationship outside of boxing, after I retire, just through life in general. I’m real cool with his family and he’s real cool with my family. It’s like a lifelong thing.”
Their relationship has helped keep Lubin focused and out of trouble while growing up in the violence-ravaged Pine Hills section of Orlando, Florida.
One of seven children, Lubin began boxing at just 4 years old. He first went to an Orlando gym with his older brother, Michael Louis, who went 10-1 (9 KOs) as a professional welterweight from 2008-09.
Galarza knew early in their relationship that Lubin would develop into something special.
“He’s been going through some real tough situations throughout his life and boxing is his outlet,” Galarza said. “He goes in the ring and he feels like he’s home. He’s real comfortable. Not to take anything away from Charlo. Charlo’s a great fighter and he’s a great champion, but it’s Erickson Lubin’s time. It’s ‘Hammer’ time.”
Whenever anyone tells Galarza it’s not yet “Hammer Time,” that Lubin is too young and too inexperienced to thrive at the elite level, Galarza reminds them of what he has witnessed throughout Lubin’s development.
“I would respect that if he was an average 21-year-old or 22-year-old, but he’s not,” Galarza said. “He’s so calm that when people see him in the ring, they think he’s older than what he actually is.
“He’s real focused and he’s just ready, man. This is something he’s been dreaming about for a long time, and in two days he’s gonna live his dream. He’s been saying this since he was 13, 14 years old, that he wanted to be a world champion. Dreams do come true. He’s living proof that it does happen, so I’m just happy to be part of it.”
Charlo doesn’t believe Lubin is ready for this step up in competition. The 27-year-old champion has questioned Lubin’s legitimacy as his mandatory challenger, a position Lubin solidified by knocking out Mexico’s Jorge Cota (25-2, 22 KOs) in the fourth round March 4 at Barclays Center.
Lubin likewise considers Charlo an unproven champion, someone who wouldn’t have taken this fight if not forced into it by the WBC.
“He’s still got something to prove because when you mention this weight class, there’s not only one person you mention,” Lubin said. “You mention everyone that’s fighting on the card. So I feel like this card right here is just gonna show who stands alone, who’s set apart from this group. And I feel like I’m set apart from this group. I feel like I stand out in this 154-pound division. I’m the youngest on the card, the youngest in the top five, and come October 14th, I’ll prove that I’m the best, at just 22 years old.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.