A Hurd mentality

Unbeaten junior middleweight contender Jarrett Hurd. Photo credit: Esther Lin/Showtime

Unbeaten junior middleweight contender Jarrett Hurd. Photo credit: Esther Lin/Showtime

 

There are some well-known boxers who are afforded what some boxing fans view as an easy path to a world title shot. That is not the case with Jarrett “Swift” Hurd, who envisions himself as a modern-day Marvin Hagler. The Maryland native is developing into an attraction with burgeoning name recognition, thanks to exciting performances on CBS and Showtime. Hurd, 18-0 (12), can solidify his place in the junior middleweight pecking order and attract more attention as the co-feature for pound-for-pound entrant and WBC welterweight titlist Danny Garcia on Spike (9 p.m. ET/PT), tonight. He has to contend with a last-minute switch of opponents; Mexican knockout artist Jorge Cota withdrew after an emergency appendectomy that left Hurd facing former IBF world title challenger Ionut Dan Ion – widely known as “Jo Jo Dan” –  35-3 (18). This could actually be a more difficult match-up in terms of Hurd’s development as a fighter, given Dan’s pedigree and southpaw stance. An ambitious Hurd enjoys the challenge though, and smashed through every difficult blockade that has been put in his way so far.

 

The 26-year-old Hurd has become recognizable; a nickname of “Swift” boldly tattooed on his chest with a lightning bolt representing the “I” in the moniker helps and he has already advanced further than most outside of his inner circle had imagined, much less what was projected by industry insiders. There is an outside possibility of Hurd challenging for an alphabet title next year, given the boon of recent exposure and, if one factors in that current champs and contenders Erislandy Lara, the Charlo brothers (Jermall and Jermell) and sanctioning body-elevated Jack Culcay are all looking for marketable foes. While this is a wide-open division, it is also very competitive, with fellow young-guns Julian Williams, Erickson Lubin and Alexander Besputin nipping at Hurd’s heels. Hurd’s recent performances have boosted his assessment within the alphabet bodies as well, installed in the Top 10 with the IBF and WBA.

 

All of these are commendable feats, considering Hurd was not a highly sought-after boxer exiting the amateur ranks, an afterthought whom many wondered openly when super-manager Al Haymon signed him in October of 2014. In describing himself, Hurd used his nickname as an analogy, “The dictionary definition of ‘swift’ is to happen quickly or promptly. So, just like my ring name, that’s exactly what you’ll see on Saturday night. I’m so grateful that this fight was made and that the whole world will be able to see my boxing skills on this highly-anticipated card.” When asked whom he molds himself after, Hurd’s choices were ones that did not match his own prosaic beginnings or offensive sensibilities. “I tried to emulate a lot of defensive fighters. Roy Jones Jr. and Floyd Mayweather (Jr.) are my favorite fighters of all time. I liked James Toney because of his shoulder roll and the Philly shell style.”

 

Nearly everyone considered it an upset when Hurd had his coming-out party, dominating and stopping hyped Puerto Rican hopeful Frank Galarza nearly one year ago. Hurd matriculated through the tough Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. amateur circuits, not ascending to the pros as a highly-prized commodity, given he did not have outstanding tourney victories on a national level. But, as they say, Hurd had a pro style, which translates to an undefeated pro record and a showcase Galarza victory. Hurd does nothing spectacular but sports a long and elastic frame he uses to maximum effect with some intricacies and subtle timing that befuddles foes. Most importantly, Hurd has improved and added to his arsenal with every fight against consistently elevated opposition.

 

Local promoter Ross Molovinsky, a key contributor to Hurd’s rise, told writer Alex Burgos of RoundByRoundboxing.com, “Jarrett does well with fighters that are come-forward types. Jarrett is a puncher and it’s always easier when a target is there and available. Jarrett can avoid shots and deliver his quickly because he’s got great reflexes.” Hurd’s lead trainer Ernesto Rodriguez saw the same attributes and proposed a simple plan to his protégé. “I told him, six years from now should be a point where he is either breaking through or has broken through. If that’s not the case, time to check out.”

 

In his last outing, Hurd put forth another great showing that had the added positive dimension of being telecast nationally, on a CBS Saturday afternoon show, as the opener for the much-anticipated Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter event. In an entertaining scrap between unconquered talents, Hurd showed superior speed and surprisingly better technique, considering Oscar Molina was a Mexican Olympian. Hurd put Molina on the canvas in the opening round, with a quick counter right uppercut, and seemed to have Molina guessing from that point forward, dictating the fight until it was stopped in the 10th and final round. It was a complete performance and, because Molina was willing to exchange throughout the bout, it was a fan-friendly affair that undoubtedly earned Hurd additional fans.

 

Reflecting on the Molina performance, Hurd says everything came together for what, in retrospect, may be considered an early career-defining fight. “It was huge being on the undercard. I had to put the pressure aside and prove myself with another dominating performance. My trainer and I knew the fight was close after four rounds. We fought inside to make it obvious (that) I was winning. That’s Molina’s style but I showed my diversity and beat him at his own game.” That may be a flawed strategy with more experienced foes and the hope is that, this time out, Hurd will impose his own will more and not try to outdo others at their game.

 

In his last two outings, Hurd stopped young-gun prospects but, this time around, will face veteran Canadian (by way of Romania) Jo Jo Dan, who was also an accomplished amateur. He is a 35-year-old warhorse who might pose problems with his southpaw style but does enter the ring with a big disadvantage of only recently moving up a weight class. To his credit, Dan defeated former champ Rafal Jackiewicz in his most recent outing and said he had been struggling to make weight for a considerable time. Dan has only lost to the elite so far, a prime Kell Brook in England and Turkish hotshot Selcuk Aydin, who just fell short of title ambitions. Rodriguez assured everyone Hurd is up for the fight, “Dan’s durable and experienced against solid fighters but I predict Jarrett stops him in the seventh or eighth. He’ll give Jarrett some awkward looks but, sometimes, he’ll stand and fight. Jarrett can catch him early or get him late.”

 

Most see this as a showcase fight for Hurd but Dan’s style is a task that has given Hurd considerable trouble in the past. Looking back on his performances, Hurd struggles with southpaws, taking a majority decision from Emmanuel Sanchez and edging by Chris Chatman via a split decision. Both those bouts were only six-rounders, so the thinking is that even if Hurd struggles early, he can make up ground and impose his size on Dan late in the fight. Hurd does not seem worried and is even a bit excited to see how much has improved by taking on a seasoned southpaw. “Jo Jo likes to move around like Chatman, who was about the same size. He’s faced champions, brings his ‘A’ game and can make you look bad. But with Dan rising in weight, my size and power will be the difference.”

 

Given the built-in disadvantages of his early career, Hurd must continue to over-perform in an ultra-competitive 154-pound weight class that features divergent styles and boxers like WBO titlist Canelo Alvarez, WBA beltholder Erislandy Lara and the Charlo brothers, who hold the IBF and WBC straps. With the exception of Alvarez, the others are looking for a marketable opponent who can bring a good payday or fan-base with him to merit risking their titles. Since Hurd does not have awe-inspiring power to draw more casual boxing fans, he will need to rely on opportunities like this to boost his name recognition and show television executives he delivers when the spotlight shines on him. Hurd also knows he is putting down a marker for the opposition, “The other guys are watching, so I definitely want to look impressive. I’m known for my big right uppercut. If it lands for the knockout, great, but I won’t force anything.”

 

Though confident and self-motivated, Hurd is not the type who takes all the credit, working within the understanding that the group furthers the individual in boxing. “I have the best team in the world. There is no ego in my team. We’re all working toward the same goal and everyone plays their role perfectly. The fans are important to me and I want them to feel like they’re a part of my journey. With each fight, we’re getting closer to reaching the ultimate goal of becoming a world champion.”

 

 

You can contact the Good Professor at martinmulcahey@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @MartinMulcahey.

 

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