Armed with a revamped team and renewed purpose, the super welterweight contender is inching toward another world title shot as he takes on the dangerous Nathaniel Gallimore in a 154-pound showdown Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
By now, most anyone who follows boxing knows the cautionary tale of “The Hammer.”
It goes something like this: On the day he turns 18, Erickson “The Hammer” Lubin, the top U.S. Olympic boxing prospect out of Orlando, Florida, abandons his gold medal dreams to sign a professional contract with legendary heavyweight champ-turned promoter Mike Tyson, leaving USA Boxing in an uproar and smarting from what they considered all but theft of Olympic property.
Lubin instantly becomes one of the hottest prospects in the pro game, winning his first 18 fights, mostly in easy, if not spectacular fashion. Then, barely 22, he finds himself in The Big Apple, fighting undefeated champion Jermell Charlo for the world super welterweight title.
Only two and a half minutes into the nationally televised bout, Lubin eats a Charlo right uppercut from close range that drops him and stuns not only Lubin and his corner but, well, everyone. He is called out by the count of six as he flails on the canvas.
Goodbye title dreams, hello reality nightmare.
Fast forward to the present day. Tyson’s company, Iron Mike Productions, is long defunct. The Hammer, a few weeks into his 24th year, has fought three times since the stunning loss, winning all by stoppage, including being the first to stop aging former champion Ishe Smith in February.
None of the three fights – the others were Mexican journeyman Silverio Ortiz and France’s Zakaria Attou – made it beyond the fourth round.
“Those are the fights I needed before Charlo,” the charismatic Lubin said by phone recently.
Well, it’s Hammer time again. Lubin (21-1, 16 KOs) takes another step in his journey back up the mountain on Saturday when he headlines against the always dangerous Nathaniel Gallimore (21-3-1, 17 KOs) in a scheduled 12-round bout on a Premier Boxing Champions card on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), live from Santander Arena in Reading, Pa.
Gallimore is a late replacement for former U.S. Olympian, Terrell Gausha, who suffered a hand injury during training camp.
This is no longer the Lubin who was KO’d by Charlo, OK? This is a more matured, though no less confident Lubin, thanks in large part to a crucial decision he made a little more than a year ago: bringing in a new head trainer.
Out with Jason Galarza, who had mentored Lubin since he was 13 and remains as an assistant trainer. In with Kevin Cunningham, the former St. Louis cop who has guided a handful of lefties to multiple titles. You might call him a southpaw whisperer. Lubin calls him the best decision he’s made.
“He’s a southpaw specialist,” says Lubin, who fights out of a left-handed stance but is actually a natural righty. “He took Devon Alexander from the amateurs (to champion) and took Cory Spinks from the amateurs to the mountaintop. That goes to show you what he can do for a fighter when he’s all in. And I know for a fact he’s all in with me.
“I feel like my IQ level has grown just being around Kevin. He makes sure when he talks, you listen. He’s taken my game to a whole other level. He has got me feeling like a veteran hall of fame fighter.”
Cunningham had been a commentator on a few of Lubin’s fights and knew what he was getting. This will be his third fight with his young charge.
“One of the first things I did when I got him, after having him in the gym for a couple of months, was get some of the toughest sparring partners we could find,” Cunningham said, referencing PBC stablemates Justin DeLoach and Kyrone Davis. “I needed to see if there were any ill effects from that KO and if he had any gun-shyness. He showed none of that. He’s fine and full of vigor and fire.
“ [Trainer Kevin Cunningham] has got me feeling like a veteran hall of fame fighter. ” Super Welterweight Contender - Erickson Lubin
“It wasn’t like he was in a fight where he took a vicious beating. He was caught with one shot. He’s bounced back tremendously. He learned from that fight and I think he’s going to be a better fighter because of it.”
Cunningham says Lubin was unready for Charlo.
“He was a young kid with huge potential and I just saw that he wasn’t prepared to take on a fight like that. He hadn’t fought any previous guys that would prepare him for a guy like Charlo,” Cunningham explained. “I would have liked to see him fight a couple of older former world champions just so he could get a little more championship experience.”
Lubin believes if Cunningham had been with him B.C. (before Charlo) things would have easier for all concerned.
“When I came up from the amateurs to the pros, I kind of, well, I didn’t underestimate it, but everyone they were putting in front of me were kind of easy pickings, and I felt like my job was to get everyone out of there,” Lubin recalled. “Even when I fought Charlo, I was like, I got to make a statement. I didn’t really go in there with a solid game plan.
“I had a big buzz behind me, so everyone just wanted me to knock him out. And I believed the hype of just knocking everyone out. I kind of had that Mike Tyson mind-set to where [that was] the only way I could get the respect and become the biggest face of boxing. So, I didn’t go in with a game plan, didn’t even get a good, solid warmup. And I paid for it.”
Lubin’s maturity came through not only in his hiring of Cunningham, but also in his decision to leave his hometown for West Palm Beach, some 170 miles to the southeast. The drawback, perhaps, is that he won’t get to see his two-year-old son, Malachi, as much, but that may be a moot point anyway since Malachi and his mother recently moved to Philadelphia.
“I made the moves myself,” Lubin said proudly. “I just felt like it was best for me to go with someone who has been there before, that’s been on the [biggest] stage. Kevin was definitely my first and only option. Being over here in West Palm, I’m away from home, I’m not in the hot scene of Miami, and it’s great to be here with a great trainer who keeps me focused and level-headed and constantly working hard.”
Lubin understands he can’t take his eye off the prize which, for now at least, is Gallimore.
“I feel like he’s going to come in hungry, he’s got an opportunity in front of him he’s trying to take advantage of, and it’s my job to go in there and shut all that down. I’m just going to stay smart, follow the game plan, utilize my jab and do everything I can to win.”
Cunningham is more cautious about what to expect from the 31-year-old Jamaican.
“He’s a big puncher and anytime you’re dealing with a puncher, there’s more danger there. The Gausha fight would have been more tactical, but with Gallimore, we know we’re dealing with a guy that’s coming to try to KO his opponent. You gotta be a little tougher when you’re dealing with a big puncher. This fight has all the makings of a war.”
And after the war?
“I’m looking to take over boxing, so for me, a Charlo rematch would be really big. That’s what I want right now, so people can forget about the first one,” Lubin said. “But whatever my trainer wants. If it was up to me, I’d fight anyone. I’ll fight Godzilla.
“But I got to follow the game plan for my career.”
For a closer look at Erickson Lubin, check out his fighter page.