Great fights we will have this Saturday, April 7 when Erislandy Lara seeks to add a new triumph that consolidates him as one of the greats in the super-welterweight division, but will have to face the undefeated Jarrett Hurd to prove his hierarchy at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. This event will also feature the rematch between Caleb Truax and James DeGale for the IBF super-middleweight belt.
Erislandy Lara has had a more rugged road than I think we really consider when we talk about him as the best fighter of 154 pounds in today's sport. Let's reflect, starting in 2011.
That year, he opened by defeating Delray Raines (KO-1), before meeting Carlos Molina two months later. He was lucky to come out with a draw against Molina, a fighter whose clumsy cunning gave Lara some adjustments in the televised bout on ESPN2.
Then he paired up with Paul Williams, a great opportunity for Lara on HBO. Williams "beat" Lara that night, a decision so outrageously bad that three judges were suspended in New Jersey, although the result was not nullified or anything. It was a bad enough theft that Lara became something of a cult and hero cause for a while, and any idea of her own gift halfway against Molina was forgotten.
Ronald Hearns (TKO-1) and Freddy Hernandez (UD-10) fell in 2012. That same year, against Vanes Martirosyan, a technical draw due to accidental headers in a WBC eliminator.
In 2013, Lara recovered from the canvas to beat Alfredo Angulo, stopping him at 10, and then dominated Austin Trout in 12 rounds. 2014 saw him lose a moot decision for Canelo Álvarez (I thought Álvarez did enough, or maybe more exactly, Lara did not do enough), and then beat Ishe Smith for the "world" title of the WBA.
2015 saw him fight against Delvin Rodriguez and Jan Zaveck. Both opponents were criticized. He fought only once in 2016, defeating Martirosyan in a rematch. 2017 was even worse than in 2015, perhaps, with wins over Yuri Foreman and non-contender Terrell Gausha.
Lara, who now has the WBA "super" world title, has been "a champion" for the past few years, and his defenses have come against Delvin Rodriguez, Jan Zaveck, Vanes Martirosyan, Yuri Foreman and Terrell Gausha. It's not exactly what you want to see from a headline.
But how much guilt can there be? Who knocked on Lara's door, who wanted to fight against a top-class Cuban left-handed craftsman when there were more defective and less astute fighters in the division who also wore belts? Lara not only can win you, but it can make you look bad in the process. It's not a new story in boxing. Lara is exactly the type of fighter that most managers and promoters seek to avoid by combining ascending stars on the upward path, even if that means an opportunity for the title.
But now we have a good fight, since Jarrett Hurd has reached the plate, a fellow starter and a rising star in the division. Finally, Erislandy Lara takes her talent to a fight with an opponent that can make us want to tune in. That is a very good thing.
Jarrett Hurd was not a very prepared prospect who was always on this track. He struggled to get here.
When Hurd was paired with Frank Galarza on Showtime in 2015, it was Galarza who was the prospect intended to be showcased. Instead, Hurd stopped him in six. Solid prospect Oscar Molina was next, Hurd knocked him out in 10. Veteran Jo Jo Dan went down in six, Tony Harrison in nine, and Austin Trout after 10.
So Hurd has not only won as he has increased in the competition, but he has been doing it in style, stopping all his opponents. The last time the distance went was six rounds in 2014, and it was a majority decision, a fight in which you imagine that if the cards were legitimate, Hurd learned something and made some adjustments after a close call.
This is obviously the biggest and toughest fight of Hurd's career on paper. Lara can make good and strong fighters look bad in the ring. But Hurd has youth on his side, he never loses, and he's on a hot streak. If he can beat Erislandy Lara, he definitely deserves to be called the best junior middleweight in the sport, and he could be someone you should also pay attention to as a possible legitimate star.
You can stream the fights online, Lara vs Hurd and Truax vs DeGale, on the Box Nation website in the UK and Showtime website in the US.