In 2016, Jason Welborn lost back-to-back fights against William Warburton and Craig Cunningham and his dream of one day winning a British title, let alone anything beyond that, appeared as good as over.
Fast forward two-and-a-half years, however, and Welborn, now the British middleweight champion, has somehow landed a shot against WBA and IBF junior-middleweight king Jarrett Hurd at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, on December 1.
— Jason welborn (@welborn12) October 31, 2018
It’s a Cinderella story only a sport as unpredictable as boxing could muster and one that will result either in the upset of the year or a timely reminder of the importance of world rankings and the need to adhere them.
Because Welborn, 24-6 (7), according to rankings and form, doesn’t deserve the fight. Not even close. There are, in fact, not one but two Brits – Kell Brook and Ted Cheeseman – rated above him in the WBA rankings, both of whom Hurd would be favoured to beat, and Welborn, for all his positive recent results, is yet to venture beyond domestic level. That’s a worry. A perfectly good reason for Hurd vs. Welborn not to happen.
Indeed, the 32-year-old’s standout wins to date are a couple against Tommy Langford, from whom he wrested the Lonsdale title, and upset victories over unbeaten prospects Marcus Morrison, in 2017, and Ryan Aston, in 2016. Each highlighted the danger Welborn possesses – his doggedness, his fortitude – but are, for now, only relevant when assessing the Midlander in fights against opposition of similar ilk.
Moreover, defeats to Matthew Macklin, Frankie Gavin and Liam Smith, much less the others, have shown just how far off Welborn is from those on the periphery of a world-class level. This, despite the fairy tale potential of his looming world title shot, cannot be ignored.
Nor can the fact Hurd, 22-0 (15), is at least two or three leagues above the aforementioned. As a reigning double-world champion, he is chopping up junior-middleweights of all shapes and sizes; he takes apart the punchers, those who choose to stand and fight, and suffocates and outworks the boxers, those men, like Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout, who have previously given bigger names problems with their movement and intelligence.
At 28, the American, with seven of his last eight fights finished inside schedule, is probably at the peak of his powers right now and a champion few would voluntarily choose to face. He’s not just good in a technical sense; he’s also good in a hurtful, violent, merciless sense. He won’t just outpoint and outclass you; he’ll look to do damage and finish you inside schedule. Is that scary enough for you this Halloween morning?
Well, that’s the reality of the situation facing poor Jason Welborn in Los Angeles on December 1.
There’s little point dressing it up. Truth is, Hurd vs Welborn could be horribly one-sided. It could see Welborn go the way of Howard Clarke the night he ambitiously challenged Fernando Vargas in 1999. Clarke, remember, a Midlands-based journeyman with a 26-10-2 record, was chewed up and spat out in four rounds, and was only awarded his IBF junior-middleweight title shot following a shock eight-round points win over another American, Jason Papillon, in his previous fight. There was some logic to it, sure, just not a lot. He got paid. He also paid the price.
The same could be said for Welborn on December 1. It could be similarly ugly, similarly stupid. You might even say it’s potentially dangerous; the type of mismatch we will one day live to regret.
Then again, it could all turn out fine. Welborn might pull off the unthinkable, shock the world, and he might, in six weeks’ time, be awarded our ‘Upset of the Year’ award for 2019. Stranger things have happened – I think.
What’s more, even if this doesn’t happen, and there are very few reasons to believe it will, Jason Welborn at least has his moment – his world title shot. It’s a tough one, no doubt, as hard as any you could imagine, but it’s an opportunity all the same, and on the night Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury will have the eyes of the world on their WBC world heavyweight title showdown in LA, a determined man from Tividale, the darling of Walsall’s Town Hall, will be trying with everything he’s got to steal some thunder on the undercard.
And who can begrudge Jason Welborn that?