Jarrett Hurd’s first world title fight started with a whimper. Thankfully for him, it ended with a bang.
After a slow start that included him being beaten to the punch on multiple occasions, Jarrett Hurd (20-0, 14 KOs) became the second man to finish Tony Harrison (24-2, 20 KOs) in shocking fashion, earning a sudden ninth-round TKO Saturday night. With the win at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, Hurd claimed a vacant 154-pound world title.
Despite appearing to have been outboxed for much of the fight, Hurd entered the decisive round actually leading on two of the three official cards. Then the 26-year-old native of Accokeek, Maryland—who claimed after the fight that he fought with blurred vision after getting tagged in the left eye by a punch in Round 6—put an end to any suspense by smashing a straight right to Harrison’s jaw, a devastating shot that left the Detroit native lying flat on his back.
Referee Jim Korb reached the count of nine as Harrison struggled unsteadily to his feet. As he did so, Harrison appeared to inform Korb that he was OK to resume fighting before spitting out his mouthpiece. That led Korb to end matters at the 2:24 mark, which led Hurd to drop to his knees in exhausted jubilation.
“It was a right hand right over the jab,” Hurd said of the punch that put Harrison on the deck. “As he threw the jab, I slipped it and threw the right hand right over the top.
"It feels great to be a champion. I’ve never had a feeling this great before. … I can finally pull my pants up now. My pants were falling down, but I finally got my belt."
By scoring his sixth straight technical knockout, Hurd earned the crown vacated two weeks ago by unbeaten Jermall Charlo. He did so with an ending that resembled Harrison's ninth-round knockout loss to Willie Nelson in July 2015—a bout Harrison appeared to have well in hand before getting careless and paying the price for it.
Against Hurd, Harrison controlled the first three rounds, effectively targeting timely right hands to the head over a piston jab while using lateral movement to stay out of harm’s way. Harrison’s counter shots included a jarring third-round hook followed by a round-ending, six-punch sequence, all to the head.
Although Hurd connected on a hard left hook midway through the fourth, his fellow 26-year-old foe kept his composure, fighting off his back foot while pounding home four consecutive right hands in Round 5.
In the sixth, Hurd got popped with a jab that hampered his vision. He saw well enough, though, to wobble Harrison with a head-lifting, late-round right uppercut that seemed to flip the momentum.
“In the sixth round he caught me with a jab in my left eye that messed up my vision,” Hurd said. “I tried to shake it off. I came back out and fought, but it was blurry for the rest of the fight.”
Good news for Hurd, there wouldn’t be much of a fight left.
Harrison—much to his detriment—chose to stand toe-to-toe and exchange with the heavy-hitting Hurd in the seventh and eighth rounds. While he dazed his fellow 6-foot-1 opponent into retreat with a pair of hard jabs midway through the seventh, Harrison too often retreated to the ropes over the latter stages of the final two rounds, a tactic that left himself open for the finishing blow.
Harrison left the ring distraught over the loss and was unavailable for comment.
“Tony’s a great boxer, and we knew he’d have a great jab. But just like in the Willie Nelson fight, he got caught,” Hurd said. “Over the course of the fight, we knew pressure from walking him down would be the deciding factor."
For complete coverage of Harrison vs Hurd, visit our fight page.
Breazeale stops Ugonoh in knockout-filled brawl; Plant, Nyambayar stay unbeaten
In other televised action, Dominic Breazeale (18-1, 16 KOs) bounced back from his first defeat with a fifth-round TKO of previously undefeated Izuagbe Ugonoh (17-1, 14 KOs) in a thrilling all-action brawl.
Both big men came out firing big shots from the opening bell, with the 6-foot-7 Breazeale scoring the first knockdown in Round 3 and the 6-foot-6 Ugonoh answering with a knockdown in Round 4.
By the time the fourth ended, it was clear the scheduled 10-round bout wasn’t going the distance as both fighters were running out of gas. But it was the 31-year-old Breazeale who got off first early in Round 5, dropping Ugonoh a second time with a big right hand.
Ugonoh, a 30-year-old Poland native of Nigerian descent, beat referee Jim Korb’s count, but Breazeale immediately went on the attack and quickly sent Ugonoh to the canvas for a third time. With Ugonoh lying under the bottom rope, Korb immediately waved an end to the contest at the 50-second mark.
The victory for Breazeale followed a seventh-round stoppage loss to British heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in July.
In a 168-pound bout, rising prospect Caleb Plant (15-0, 10 KOs) rolled to a near-shutout unanimous decision victory over Thomas Awimbono (25-7-1, 21 KOs) of Brooklyn, New York, a native of Ghana who lost his third consecutive bout.
Plant, who was born and raised in Ashland City, Tennessee, but currently fights out of Las Vegas, has now earned consecutive lopsided 10-round unanimous decisions, following a victory over Juan De Angel on August 23.
Also, Mongolian prospect Tugstsogt Nyambayar (8-0, 8 KOs), a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, continued his stoppage run by scoring four knockdowns during his 10th-round stoppage of 130-pound rival Jhon Gemino (15-8-1, 7 KOs) of the Philippines.