Trainer Ernesto Rodriguez prophesied that his fighter nicknamed “Swift” would become a unified world champion one day ... and their journey is far from over—as the duo takes the next step Saturday night on Showtime PPV.
Long before he became a world champion, even before he began boxing professionally, Jarrett Hurd listened as his trainer Ernesto Rodriguez laid out a vision for his career. It was a vision the trainer, a self-described highly religious man, says was given by God.
“Before he even turned pro, I sat down with Jarrett and said I was going to prophesize something, but I said my vision would come to pass only if you follow my instructions,” said Rodriguez, who has been at Hurd’s side since he started boxing at 15. “I told him, ‘you will be signed by Al Haymon, one of the best managers in the world, and you will become a world champion in your 20th fight. After you win that fight, you will become a unified champion. And once you become a unified champ, you will move up to the next weight class and become a champion there.’”
Thus far, everything has happened as predicted. Hurd, now 28, from Accokeek, Md., was signed by Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions and won his first world title in his 20th professional fight. He unified the 154-pound titles 14 months later by split decision against long-reigning and avoided champion Erislandy Lara.
Hurd (22-0, 15 KOs) will continue his road to stardom when he puts his WBA and IBF light middleweight titles on the line against former British middleweight champion Jason Welborn (24-6, 7 KOs) this Saturday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Showtime pay-per-view, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Hurd-Welborn is the co-main event in a stacked lineup headlined by the WBC heavyweight title showdown between Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) and Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs).
Hurd is fighting for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. He tore his rotator cuff while training for the Lara fight. He fought through the injury, even dropping Lara with a left hook with seconds remaining in the fight, giving him what turned out to be the margin of victory.
“The shoulder is back and I’m ready to fight,” said Hurd. “I feel like I got my power back.”
Hurd expects to display his versatility against Welborn, 32, who is coming off four consecutive victories.
“I’ve shown I can walk guys down and that I have a full tank of gas through 12 rounds,” Hurd said. “This time I want to show I’m also strong defensively and can use my range and height.”
Hurd’s road to the top has been filled with potholes. It almost ended before it began. After Hurd’s original trainer, Tom Browner, died, Rodriguez, the assistant, said Hurd walked away from the sport.
“We met at Tom’s funeral, and shortly after that Jarrett asked if I would train him. I told him no, because he wasn’t serious,” he said. “When he convinced me that he was going to be serious, I gave him the opportunity and he gave me the opportunity, and hey, here we are. Unified champ. It’s a great story.”
Hurd’s victory against Lara finally brought him the respect he believes had been missing.
“After I beat Tony Harrison for the world title, people were looking at me like, yeah, he’s a world champion but they didn’t really respect me, because they thought I was given the title because I fought for the vacant one,” said Hurd, who is nicknamed “Swift.”
“Even after the fight with Trout, even though I was the first man ever to stop Trout, (critics) were still questioning it because, well, maybe the guy’s just a big fighter, he doesn’t have too much skills, he overpowered an older Trout.
“But when I beat Erislandy Lara, they said, ‘wow, he beat the longest-reigning (154-pound) champion, a seven-year champion.’ Not only am I getting respect in the boxing world, my city’s giving me a lot of respect, too. The D.C. Boxing Hall of Fame gave me the 2018 fighter of the year, I was brought up to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The Washington Redskins want to do a partnership with me. My schools, my church, everyone’s getting involved.”
Hurd claims the Lara fight was his toughest.
“He caught me with an uppercut, I think it was the seventh round. That was the first time I ever felt what it was like to be dazed by a punch,” said Hurd, who stands 6-foot-1.
Welborn has a low knockout rate, but Hurd isn’t taking him any less serious.
“I think most people feel that the fight is so much in my favor, they’re underestimating Welborn,” Hurd said. “But this is his opportunity. He gave up his British title to fight for my world titles. So, he has nothing to lose. He’s going to go out there looking for the win.”
Hurd said if beats Welborn, he will not, as expected, face fellow undefeated 154-pound titlist Jermell Charlo next. Instead, he hopes to land a homecoming fight, perhaps in Washington, DC’s 20,000-seat Capital One Arena.
“I’ve been talking to Al (Haymon) about it. It would be a perfect time for me to come home and fight, because everyone’s been asking,” Hurd said. “I want to get right back in the ring. Maybe February or March, and around summertime, have that fight with Charlo.”
For now, however, Hurd’s thoughts are solely fixated on Welborn. Trying not to sound overconfident, “Swift” sees a KO in his immediate future in another crowd-pleasing performance.
“We’re not going to go out looking for it, but I believe I will get a stoppage over Jason Welborn. “He’s a guy who holds his hands pretty high, and I think in no more than eight rounds, I can stop him with a body shot.”