By Michael Rosenthal
Jarrett Hurd: To appreciate what Hurd accomplished in his split-decision victory over Erislandy Lara on Saturday night in Las Vegas, one could look at the loser.
Lara is one of the most-gifted active boxers, arguably the best fighter from Cuba since the heyday of Jose Napoles and Luis Rodriguez. He is a former amateur star. He is experienced, having fought professionally for a decade. And, because of his excellent defensive skills, he’s as fresh as any 34-year-old.
In spite of all that, Hurd had his hand raised to unify two major junior middleweight titles. And he earned it.
Hurd might be the most physically imposing fighter pound-for-pound in the world. Lara outboxed him early in the fight but ultimately wilted under Hurd’s incessant pressure and activity. His battered face was evidence of that.
Some will have scored the fight for Lara but Hurd’s victory – 114-113, 114-113 and 113-114 – isn’t comparable to the Cuban’s controversial losses to Paul Williams and Canelo Alvarez. Lara wasn’t cheated.
And the way Hurd (22-0, 15 knockouts) finished the job was particularly impressive, as he put Lara down in the 12th and final round with the fight in the balance. The knockdown determined the outcome, assuming he would’ve won the 12th anyway. Without it, the result would’ve been a draw.
That’s how true champions are made.
Hurd is human. For example, he can be hit, which might be attributed to his limited amateur career and the fact he’s still learning on the job. He has had only 62 fights (amateur and pro) in his life, if he had 40 amateur fights as reported.
That makes his pro accomplishments all the more remarkable but also might make him vulnerable against some opponents.
Jermell Charlo, another 154-pound titleholder, said at ringside after the fight Saturday that he would pose a bigger threat than Lara because he punches a lot harder than the Cuban. That might be true. Let’s hope we see that fight, which is the best possible matchup in the division and would give us a better gauge of Hurd.
The only thing that seems certain at the moment is this: Hurd – tall, powerful and on the rise – is the type of fighter who many fighters will be reluctant to face. After we saw on Saturday, who could blame them?
Erislandy Lara: I hope the boxing world can appreciate Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs) in spite of his setback on Saturday.
Many believe he deserved to have his hand raised in his two previous losses, meaning he could’ve been 27-0-2 with a number of important victories – Williams, Alvarez, Vanes Martirosyan and Austin Trout – going into the Hurd fight. If nothing else, Lara has dominated most opponents and fought on at least even terms with the best of them.
There is no shame in losing a razor-thin decision to a beast like Hurd, especially when it was so close. Again, Lara would’ve emerged with a draw and his belt had he remained on his feet in the final round. As it was, had he won only one more round on the two cards he lost, he would’ve been victorious. That’s about as close as it gets.
And if there were any doubts about Lara’s toughness – which we rarely discuss – they were dispelled on Saturday. He gave a courageous performance under heavy fire.
I don’t know whether Hurd would give Lara a rematch but he earned one given his performance on Saturday and his career accomplishments. He deserves another chance.
No matter what happens, Lara should be considered one of the better fighters of his generation. He probably would be appreciated more than he is if he had a more pleasing fighting style. He was also avoided by a number of potential opponents, as few go out of their way to face a slick, experienced southpaw. That also hindered Lara in his career.
His ability is obvious to those with open eyes, though. The natural gifts, the skillset, the experience and the accomplishments leave no doubt about what he’s capable of doing in the ring.
Hurd would acknowledge that.
James DeGale vs. Caleb Truax: I don’t know where to start.
The fight, on the Hurd-Lara undercard, was physically ugly. Blood everywhere. The fight was ugly in terms of tactics. It seemed DeGale (24-2-1, 14 KOs) and Truax (29-4-2, 18 KOs) held and butted heads as much as they threw punches. Even the performance of referee Robert Byrd was on the ugly side.
The only pretty thing about the fight was the result: The right man got the decision.
I thought DeGale would win handily because I believed what he said going into the fight – that he performed poorly in his first fight with Truax because he returned too early after shoulder surgery and took Truax lightly.
I now believe that DeGale would have trouble with Truax’s constant pressure even under perfect circumstances because he can’t punch hard enough to keep the American at bay.
On Saturday, DeGale had to deal with both that pressure and a cut – the result of one of many accidental head butts – that bled into his eye from the third round on, which required him to rely as much on determination as his unusual skills to win the fight.
In that regard, the Englishman’s unanimous decision victory – 114-113, 114-113 and 117-110 – to reclaim a super middleweight title was impressive.
Is DeGale the fighter many thought he was before his two-fight series with Truax? I don’t know. No one expected him to lose the first fight and then struggle in the second against a limited opponent. The victory was a step in the right direction. After all, he hadn’t won a fight since he outpointed Rogelio Medina almost exactly two years ago.
Byrd took a step in the wrong direction. He missed the butt that caused the cut, ruling it was the result of a punch. And in a fight marred by dozens of fouls he shouldn’t have taken a point from DeGale for using his shoulder to push Truax off of him. Both those decision could’ve cost DeGale the fight.
Everyone has an off night. Byrd is a good referee.
Fighter-turned-promoter Floyd Mayweather spewed more nonsense on the Hurd-Lara Showtime broadcast. He said again that he is considering an MMA fight if the money is right. That’s called self-promotion, at which Mayweather excels. He won’t do it. Mayweather also was asked about former foe Conor McGregor’s recent arrest after he smashed the window of a bus. Said Mayweather: “I feel that when you have reached such high status, you have to carry yourself in a classy way. … Outside the ring you have to carry yourself like a gentleman.” (Scratching my head.) I’ll be kind here: I’m not sure Mayweather has earned the right to lecture anyone on class, although I do hope he practices what he preaches going forward. … Mayweather also said that he wants Gervonta Davis, his fighter, to face Vasyl Lomachenko if each of them wins upcoming fights, Davis against Jesus Cuellar and Lomachenko against Jorge Linares. I love Davis vs. Lomachenko. Davis is a young (23) dynamo and Lomachenko is the best fighter in the world. Lomachenko would win – he’s just better – but it would be fun to watch. … Mike Tyson also was interviewed on the broadcast. I was around during his darkest, most disturbing days. I’m still amazed that he has evolved into a friendly, mellow guy. … I don’t believe Byrd used replay to determine whether DeGale was cut by a punch or a butt – it was a butt, as replays showed – but the rules in Nevada would’ve allowed him to do so after the fight was completed. He didn’t have to because DeGale won. I don’t understand why an official can’t watch replays during the fight and make immediate rulings, similar to the NFL. The action doesn’t need to be stopped. The fighters could tell the corners between rounds whether the initial ruling was confirmed or overturned. Why not get it right? It could affect how the fighters fight.