A 154-pound title unification between a Cuban master boxer and one of the sport's most powerful knockout artists should provide plenty of intrigue this Saturday night on Showtime.
Three men sit at the very top of the super welterweight division—WBA champion Erislandy Lara, WBC titleholder Jermell Charlo, and IBF champ Jarrett Hurd. This Saturday, April 7, two of them meet in the Fight Capital of the World—to try and claim superiority of the stacked 154-pound division.
Lara versus Hurd on the Showtime-televised card (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) from at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, very well could be the most intriguing of all possible pairings in this makeshift round-robin tourney. It’s science vs. violence in this matchup of apparent opposites—as each fighter’s weaknesses play into the other’s strengths.
“The American Dream” Lara (25-2-2, with 14 KOs)—the Longest reigning 154-pound titlist—is a wizard. The Cuban master boxer pokes and prods with shots while utilizing off-putting angles to control both time and distance in the ring. And when his opponent is confused, off-balance, and tentative—he strikes.
Sharp and accurate, his punching power is underrated and, for his foe, it’s utterly jarring—like a bolt of lightning through thick fog. Then there’s a tactical retreat, throwing the other fighter off-kilter again and setting the stage for a return to the Cuban’s high-level games of pace and space.
Ironically enough, however, nothing has come easy in the life of the man who makes boxing mastery look simple. From his life of poverty in Cuba to his eventual defection to America, Lara has always had to struggle. Even once in the United States, making a living as a prizefighter, Lara found resistance in the form of avoidance from other top fighters.
A high-risk/low-reward proposition, Lara had to face other fighters in his same predicament. He took on crafty spoilers like Carlos Molina, Paul Williams, Vanes Martirosyan, Austin Trout, and Ishe Smith as he went from contender to champion.
Since winning the interim WBA 154-pound title in an all-out war against Alfredo Angulo in 2013, and then being named full-time champ shortly after, Lara has gone 6-0 in world title fights and, even at 34 years of age, has shown no signs of slowing down.
One could also argue that Lara should be undefeated right now as his majority decision loss to Paul Williams in 2011 was highly questionable and the close split decision loss he suffered to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2014 could easily have gone his way. But, again, playing to the narrative of his life, Lara has had to take some bad along with the good.
“ I've fought better and taller fighters than him and you've seen me dominate them. It's going to be nothing different on Saturday night. ” Super Welterweight World Champion Erislandy Lara
The 27-year-old Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs), on the other hand, has travelled a different, but no less difficult road to his world title. Late to boxing and with very limited amateur experience, the Maryland native, who goes by the nickname “Swift” had to learn on the job as he climbed the ranks.
From a cautious prodder to his current status as KO artist with seven straight wins inside the distance, Hurd has leaned on his size and physical strength to make up for technical flaws as he develops into a full-on pressure fighter.
Given the juxtaposition of Lara’s well-honed class against Hurd’s rough-around-the-edges self-crafted style, it might be tempting to give the Cuban a serious edge in this upcoming title unification bout.
"Everyone knows I love to fight his style. I've fought better and taller fighters than him and you've seen me dominate them," Lara said. "It's going to be nothing different on Saturday night."
But analysis on paper is just that—paper analysis.
Old-school boxing logic says that the best weapon against a southpaw is a long, strong right hand. And Hurd is practically a living, breathing right-hand machine.
Whether via long-range delivery or sharp uppercut, Hurd’s right hand is one of the most potent weapons in all of boxing. It’s no coincidence that his most brutal and impressive wins to date—against Jo Jo Dan, Austin Trout, and the switch-hitting Tony Harrison—have come against those in the southpaw stance.
On top of his right-hand power, Hurd has the type of herky-jerky unorthodox style that tends to throw off methodical masters who rely on predictability in their opposition.
If a fighter were to be genetically engineered to beat Lara, it might be Hurd, who is a big, strong, aggressive, and unorthodox right-hand bomber brimming with confidence.
"Lara is a guy who can't take pressure fighters well. I have some of the best pressure in the game," a confident Hurd said. "I'm younger, stronger, taller and longer. He's not going to be able to run for 12 rounds."
But Lara, as a master of the craft, excels in finding ways to win. The Cuban could exploit any number of lapses in his younger opponent’s game. Hurd has problems cutting off the ring and in adjusting to the issues of space and range that come against foes with high-end footwork. Hurd’s habit of lunging in against those who create distance could cost him dearly against Lara.
There’s also the fact that Lara, when pushed hard enough, can be a tenacious, mean-spirited battler, as seen in his clash with Angulo.
But, then again, Lara could be doing everything right for the entire fight, Hurd could be doing everything wrong, and Lara might still run into a fight-ending killer right.
That’s why this fight is so intriguing and why it’s must-see TV.
For a complete look at Lara vs Hurd, check out our fight page.