Maryland native—who says he wants to make his own mark on the sport, but more importantly, leave a lasting legacy for his former trainer—faces fellow champion Erislandy Lara this Saturday in a 154-pound title unification bout on Showtime.
Mike Tyson said, “Champions, the most successful ones, have one thing in common: They all come from poverty.”
Apparently, “Swift” Jarrett Hurd grew up on the wrong side of Tyson’s tracks.
Hurd is the undefeated IBF super welterweight champion. He was born and raised in Accokeek, Maryland. The small town of 10,573 has a median household yearly income of $126,000—over two times the national average.
Accokeek isn’t exactly a boxing haven, but the 27-year-old Hurd is a pacesetter, in and out of the ring. He’ll attempt to unify the 154-pound titles against WBA counterpart Erislandy Lara this Saturday, April 7 on the Showtime-televised card (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The last time a super welterweight unified these two belts was in 2000, when Felix Trinidad KO’d Fernando Vargas. Trinidad was born near a Puerto Rican rainforest to farmer parents. Hurd grew up in a five-bedroom house with his parents and two brothers.
Jarrett’s mother, Brenda, is a VP at a Credit Union. His retired father, Fred Sr., was a long-time mail clerk at the Washington Post. A huge fight fan, he introduced his sons to boxing, keeping them up late to watch fights and holding up his hands like mitts for practice.
Middle child Jarrett was the meek one, the least likely to dish out beatdowns.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I was bullied in middle school, but I didn’t stand up for myself,” Hurd said. “If something happened, I would probably walk away. My parents told me that kids were going to keep bullying me if I kept doing that.”
Fred brought his sons to Hillcrest Boxing Gym so they’d learn how to protect themselves. Tom Browner, a local trainer who guided Tony Thompson to heavyweight contention, recognized Jarrett’s talent and took the 15-year-old under his wing. Together, they won the 2008 Nationals. Hurd’s reputation spread quickly. Former middle school bullies now wanted to be Hurd’s high school bestie.
“I got a little popular, so I kind of gave up boxing because I wanted to hang out with my friends,” he said. “I wasn’t dedicated. I’d try to fight in tournaments training only one week for it, because I knew I had natural talent.”
Hurd’s amateur career was short-lived. Fred Sr. used to drive him to the gym daily. Once Jarrett got his own car at 18, he would go sparingly. He took a part-time job working in the deli department at Safeway, briefly studying at the College of Southern Maryland with plans to become a firefighter.
Browner was disheartened. The veteran trainer often implored Fred Sr. to tell his son not to give up on boxing. Then one day, Jarrett received a call while at work.
“It was my older brother saying that Tom had passed,” Hurd said. “The news hit me real hard. After that, all I could think about was how much he called and said I needed to go back to the gym. That thought wouldn’t leave my mind.”
Jarrett was a pallbearer at the funeral, along with coach Ernesto Rodriguez, one of Browner’s colleagues.
“I told ‘Nesto I wanted to come back to boxing and asked him to train me. He said, ‘Jarrett, you can get hurt in the sport. If you come back, you got to take it serious. You’re going to turn professional and you’re going to see it all the way through.’ That’s what I did.”
“ It’s a small goal of mine, but I always wanted people to look me up on YouTube after my career is done and still talk about me. I want to make a mark on the sport where, I wasn’t like anyone else. ” IBF Super Welterweight World Champion Jarrett Hurd
Hurd turned pro at 22. Fred Sr. and Brenda agreed to support him financially until he was 25.
“I was lucky to have parents who backed me so all I had to do was box,” he said. “I saw a lot fighters struggling to focus on boxing because they had to provide for their kids or whatever the case was. I didn’t have a big amateur career and Ernesto hadn’t trained anyone professionally, so we didn’t get much respect at first. But once we got on local fight cards, people loved me.”
Hurd rose quickly through the ranks. On November 14, 2015, Hurd with a record of 16-0 defeated Frank Galarza in his first nationally televised bout—coincidently at the Hard Rock. Undefeated Galarza was a strong favorite. Hurd stopped him in six.
After two more KO wins, Hurd was to face Tony Harrison on February 25, 2017, in a world title eliminator. But when champion Jermall Charlo vacated the title less than two weeks before the fight, Hurd-Harrison was transformed into a world championship bout. Hurd won via ninth-round TKO.
Just like in high school, Hurd was a local celebrity again. Hangout spots were now photo ops for proud Accokeek residents. Hurd isn’t the type to allow his opponents to rest in the ring. And he wasn’t going to do that to himself outside the ring, having nearly walked away from the sport before. Eight months after winning the world title, he became the first man to stop former world champion Austin Trout.
Despite the success, little has changed in the Hurd household. Oldest son Fred Jr. works at Kaiser Permanente. Youngest son “Slick” Justin Hurd turned pro and is now 3-0. And two years after he promised he would leave, the new champion still lives at home.
“Man, I’ve been talking about moving out since that Frank Galarza fight,” he laughs. “I really have no choice after this fight. They allowed me to stay, but now they’re like, ‘It’s time for you to go.’ I haven’t been home that much anyway.”
Jarrett’s camp for the Lara fight has been intense. Lara, the longest reigning 154-pound champ, is cavalier when discussing his opponent. He was unimpressed by Hurd’s win over Trout and is predicting a KO victory.
“I know for a fact that Lara is worried,” Hurd says. “His saying he’s going to knock me out is just him trying to give himself confidence. Lara is much smaller than me so I don’t see him standing toe-to-toe with me. He doesn’t usually stay in the pocket anyway so, now that he’s fighting a much bigger, stronger guy, he’s definitely not going to do that.”
A win over Lara moves Hurd one step closer to becoming the first undisputed super welterweight champion since Ronald “Winky” Wright in 2004 — and perhaps the first athlete with a statue in Accokeek.
“You know, it’s a small goal of mine, but I always wanted people to look me up on YouTube after my career is done and still talk about me,” Hurd says. “I want to make a mark on the sport where, I wasn’t like anyone else. I guess I already have, because I feel like I beat all the odds. I showed that it doesn’t matter where you come from. All that matters is how bad you want it.”
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