The former unified world super welterweight champion is out to prove he is still the man at 154, beginning with a return bout versus Francisco Santana Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
Jarrett Hurd didn’t change his name or join the witness protection program following his upset loss to Julian Williams last May.
But he did keep a low profile after dropping the WBA and IBF Super Welterweight titles, needing time to process his first defeat.
When he emerged from his self-imposed exile, Hurd made some changes— from cutting off his trademark blond locks to hiring a new trainer.
He also rationalised his loss by finding inspiration in the other 154-pound titleholders who have losses on their resumes.
One only has to look at Jeison Rosario’s shocking stoppage of Julian Williams on Saturday to see how the sport affords second chances. Rosario was stopped in 2017. Now he’s a unified champion.
“A loss doesn’t define you,” Hurd said.
Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) will get to see if his new hairdo, outlook and change of trainers all add up to a career-renaissance when he faces veteran Francisco Santana on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the co-feature of Danny Garcia’s title eliminator with Ivan Redkach on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Hurd parted ways with longtime coach Ernesto “Nesto” Rodriguez following the loss and set up camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs with new trainer Kay Koroma, a National Assistant Coach on the USA amateur boxing team.
Together, Hurd and Koroma set about refining Hurd’s offensive engine, which had grown a little rusty and one-dimensional, consisting of walking through punches to land his own.
“It was about time for a change,” Hurd said in a phone interview of the new developments in his life. “I was the guy with the yellow hair that was a big 154-pounder that walked everyone down with relentless pressure. It came to a point to where now people were starting to catch on to it. I think that just using my size and pressure to beat fighters alone wasn’t enough. It was time for a total change.”
One change he’s not crazy about is fighting in Saturday’s co-feature. Hurd is accustomed to main event status, so playing second fiddle to the headliners is a departure. But it was more important for him to return to the ring and work on the things that he and Koroma rehearsed than being the center of attention.
“I didn’t like the thought of it,” he laughed of being in the co-feature, “but it was more of me just trying to get back into the groove of things. Hopefully, after this we’ll go back to the main event. I was more anxious just to get a fight under my belt because I haven’t fought in so long and the Danny Garcia card was the perfect opportunity for me to get back.”
“ You can’t say who’s No. 1 until we face each other and see who is the last man standing. ” Former Unified World Super Welterweight Champion - Jarrett Hurd
Though rumors abounded of Hurd possibly moving up in weight, he never considered jumping to 160, citing unfinished business with Williams. Hurd initially opted to exercise the rematch clause for the first fight, and the two were scheduled to face off again on Dec. 14. But Hurd had second thoughts, realizing he needed to step back to reassess. He put off the rematch and hired a new trainer and pursued the fight with Santana (25-7-1), who has lost three of his last four fights but hasn’t been stopped since 2009.
“I was always going to stay at this weight,” he said. “People were making assumptions because I kind of stepped off the scene and they didn’t hear from me and because I didn’t take the immediate rematch. But people should know better. A guy like me can’t go out like that. I have to get back what’s mine.”
But it won’t come against Williams. Hurd was hoping to face Williams after Santana but boxing is a complicated sport and the best-laid plans can often go awry. Now, it’s anyone’s guess when he will get to avenge his loss to Williams, who is in the position of having to rebuild his career, just as Hurd is doing now.
Hurd says he picked up some tricks from training alongside featherweight titleholder Shakur Stevenson, who is also trained by Koroma. Rather than walking in face-first and relying on his granite chin and toughness, Hurd worked on diversifying his game, fighting behind a jab and setting up his combinations.
“In my previous gym, I was the top guy there and everyone was looking at me to learn,” he said. “And here with Coach Kay, he has fighters all over the Olympic training center, with Shakur Stevenson and I’m learning things from these guys. It’s good to be in a gym with another world champion, and I didn’t know I had so much more to learn until I started training with Coach Kay.”
While he was out of the public eye, Hurd still kept a watchful eye on the division, including Jermell Charlo’s 11th-round knockout of Harrison to win back his title on Dec. 21. Hurd cheerfully noted that now all of the champions at 154 pounds have a loss on their records, a situation that helps give him confidence and puts in perspective the implications of a loss: There is a way to come back from your first professional blemish.
“Man, that Charlo-Harrison fight was a good one,” he said. “Charlo did what he was supposed to do. It was a great fight and now nobody at the top is undefeated. Everyone has a loss and having one loss is like being undefeated, so it’s still an even playing field. You can’t say who’s No. 1 until we face each other and see who is the last man standing.”
For a closer look at Jarrett Hurd, check out his fighter page.