AS one of only four unified world champions today, Jarrett Hurd has earned the right to brush dirt off his shoulders, or even money bop his way to the ring if he so desires.
But Hurd, 27, is tempering his ebullience. That can wait until he’s secured both the bag and the one belt he covets: The WBC title, held by Jermell Charlo, another unbeaten American with hair dyed in colors Wiz Khalifa popularized.
Charlo-Hurd is one of the best potential matchups in boxing today, but it probably won’t occur until 2019. Boxing fans hate the term “marinate,” typically because the powers that be usually overdo it. In this case, however, a few more months of seasoning won’t sour the fans or the fight.
Besides, there are legitimate reasons for the delay. Hurd is coming off two grueling bouts. He’s also on the mend due to rotator cuff surgery last month.
“I’m looking to fight in November or December,” he told Boxing News. “I fought two straight really good southpaws and spent a lot of time preparing for them. I want to get a right-handed fighter in. After that, maybe I’ll fulfill my mandatory and then we can unify.”
One or two fights before Charlo doesn’t seem appropriate for a boxer dubbed “Swift.” But according to Hurd’s long-time trainer, Ernesto “Nesto” Rodriguez, it’s the sensible thing to do.
“Jarrett is progressing well,” he says. “Due to his limited amateur experience, we had to pick the right fights and step up at the right time. I think the progression really shows. A tune-up after a surgery makes sense. We prepared well for Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara. We want to do the same for Charlo.”
Hurd learned the importance of focus and preparation the hard way. After winning the Washington D.C Golden Gloves three times and reaching the semi-final of the 2008 National Golden Gloves tournament, the 18-year-old chose swag over the sweet science.
“I got a little popular, so I kind of gave up boxing because I wanted to hang out with my friends,” he says. “I wasn’t dedicated. I’d try to fight in tournaments training only one week for it, because I knew I had natural talent.”
The results were mixed. Hurd soon quit boxing altogether. It was the death of Tom Browner, the trainer who introduced him to boxing and took him under his wing, that brought him back.
“After the funeral, Jarrett approached me and said he wanted to come back to boxing and asked me to train him,” says Rodriguez, who worked alongside Browner. “I told him, ‘Jarrett, you can get hurt in the sport. If you come back, you got to take it seriously. You’re going to turn professional and you’re going to see it all the way through.’ That’s what he did.”
Hurd, now 22-0 (15 KOs), turned pro in 2012. He won the vacant IBF title in February 2017 with a ninth-round TKO over Tony Harrison. Eight months later, he became the only man to stop former world champion Austin Trout. Then this April, Hurd rallied against WBA titlist Lara, scoring a 12th round knockdown that proved to be the difference in a split decision win.
The wins are impressive; the number of shots he ate in doing so, alarming.
“I would agree with that sentiment to a certain point,” Rodriguez says. “When you’re fighting the cream of the crop, you’re going to get hit. Lara seldom does but look at how Jarrett rearranged his face. He wasn’t going to outbox Lara or Trout, so he had to press the fight. Jarrett is still growing and those are things we’re working on.”
Nonetheless, some question whether he can walk through shots from the murderous-punching Charlo. Hurd has a message for those who think he’s simply Maryland’s Margarito:
“They’re overlooking my versatility. Lately, I have been using pressure because fighters like Trout and Lara are movers. These are the fights people tuned in the most so that’s what everyone sees. In the gym I don’t fight that way and if you look at my fights before that you’ll see my versatility.”
“Styles make fights,” he continued. “If it’s necessary for me to pressure Charlo then I’m going to walk him down. If I have to move around and use my range and match him skill for skill, I can switch it up. So, it all depends on what type of style he needs to see from me that night.”
“One thing Jarrett doesn’t get any credit for is that he knows how to fight off his backfoot, as a counterpuncher,” Rodriguez points out. “We can fight, we can box. Jarrett is a very good inside fighter. He can start off boxing and once you get a little tired, he can pick it up and bang you out.”
Hurd isn’t the only one in need of some burnish. Charlo looked unbeatable after near decapitations of Charles Hatley and Erickson Lubin. That perception changed following a sluggish decision win over Trout last month.
“I think he should’ve won the fight unanimously, not by majority decision,” Hurd says. “But I don’t think he looked good getting the win. I always said that when you put some real competition in front of Jermell, someone who isn’t just going to fall apart when hit, he’s not going to look as good as he has been looking. I think he was trying a little too hard to get the KO. I also think he wanted to make a huge statement and outdo my performance.”
Rodriguez believes Charlo’s issues run deeper than simply trying too hard.
“Jermell is a very good fighter—very strong, technical, and can box. But I think I see some doubt, psychologically. He breaks down and panics when things don’t go his way. I think we can take advantage of that, because when the mind goes, the body follows.
“If you watch Jarrett, he stays cool under pressure, even when things aren’t going his way. Doing that allows you to preserve energy. Jermell is the opposite. You can see it in his personality. You say something and he don’t want to hear it, he’ll go off. That’s just his character and we plan on exploiting it.”
But first thing’s first. Hurd’s sling was removed only a couple weeks ago. He’s currently in physical therapy—it’ll be at least another month before he’s cleared to do anything boxing-related.
“I don’t like the down time for Jarrett, because I want him to stay active,” Rodriguez says. “He’s still young, still growing and he likes to eat. So, he blows up to 185lbs. sometimes. But we have a very good way of cutting weight. Still, I want him between 170-175lbs. because that’s probably around what he’ll weigh on fight night.”
Hurd says he’s currently at 178lbs. An opponent hasn’t been named for his next bout, but IBF number one contender Julian Williams may get a crack at him before Charlo does.
“Charlo’s time will come,” Rodriguez says. “We’re not here to disrespect any fighter and we think he’s an excellent one. But we have to keep it 100. Trout moved, clinched and used veteran tactics and Charlo’s mental game broke down. He couldn’t finish Trout. He got tired. And if he fights like that against us, he ain’t seeing the end of the fight, I guarantee you that.”