Getting hammered with Erickson Lubin
Saturday night’s Showtime world title tripleheader (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT), with three of the four junior middleweight titles up for grabs, has the feel of a mini-tournament designed to crown an undisputed champion. The standout match, in the estimation of most, features recently crowned WBC champion Jermell “Iron Man” Charlo, 29-0 (14), against fast-rising contender Erickson “The Hammer” Lubin, 18-0 (13), in a duel of boxers at or near their physical peaks. The undefeated duo are sure to test each other’s will, skill, intellect, stamina, chins and pain thresholds. The big question asks if the 27-year-old champion can hold off the youthful 22-year-old’s charge, in a battle of multi-faceted boxers who have never suffered the mental sting of defeat. Excluding the outside possibility of a draw, one will be a damaged commodity after tonight.
Erickson Lubin seemed destined to make his mark in boxing from early childhood. He grew up in a Haitian immigrant family, idolizing Oscar De La Hoya, and somewhat controversially signed a professional contract on his 18th birthday. A favorite for gold at the 2012 Olympics, Lubin was wooed by Mike Tyson, and his fledgling promotional company, who persuaded Lubin onto an early professional path to help his family financially. Thanks to that early start, and inspiring performances capped with highlight reel knockouts, Lubin has a title in his sights. Lubin insists he is ready, “I’ve been dreaming about this fight for quite some time now. I asked for this fight. I don’t feel like Charlo has ever fought anyone like me.”
Lubin’s first pro contract was voided when Tyson’s promotional company folded, after which Lubin signed with Al Haymon. The southpaw has rewarded Haymon with some impressive victories, which have shot Lubin up the rankings, thanks to valuable television exposure. Lubin has never faced a boxer with a losing record and attributes victories to superior abilities rather than soft matchmaking, “They might say they’re nobodies but I make them look like it. I feel like I came up the right way. I’ve been undefeated since I was 13 years old. I fought guys with experience. I fought hard-hitters. I fought all types of guys, so, I’m definitely ready for this fight.”
Lubin is more than a raw physical talent; he has a fantastic upside imbued by his amateur pedigree and athletic dynamism. Despite this title shot, Lubin is not a finished product and is still maturing, at 22, registering devastating stoppages that were set up with the savvy of a veteran. Sure, Lubin’s pure athleticism blinds some and there is a lot to be said for a near-5-foot-10 southpaw with power in either hands. He grew up in a gym, taking in things others only dream of, via osmosis. That youthful swagger has not been a hindrance, “I’m younger. I’m fresher. I’m ready. I’m on fire right now and I won’t let Jermell Charlo take out my flame.” Lubin has an electric aura to create a fan base, which can start in earnest with a win over Jermell Charlo on Saturday night.
Jason Galarza, Lubin’s trainer for every step of this maturation process, shares Lubin’s confident outlook, “I’ve known Erickson since he was eight years old. He had an aura about him back then and he still has it. He continues to be a hard-working individual. He has this drive that most athletes don’t have – but the great ones do. He pushes himself; he is a student of the game and always has been.” Lubin had some home-cooking lately, since he trained in nearby Hackensack, New Jersey, enabling him to visit his mother, who lives in Queens. This will not hinder his readiness or making weight, “I prepared myself physically as well as mentally. I want to get the knockout and make a big statement winning my first world title. I’m glad they put this opponent in front of me, in Jermell Charlo, where I can actually showcase my talent, my real skills.”
Team Lubin is not going into the fight blind, evaluating Charlo firsthand and on film. Lubin noted, “He does have decent power. I’ve seen a few of his fights where he did what he had to do and knocked the guys out, like Charles Hatley, of course, and John Jackson. So, the guys they put in for him that he’s supposed to get out, that’s exactly what he did and he got them out, so, I do respect that.” Final preparations included tough sparring with former middleweight titlist Daniel Jacobs and everything remains team-focused. “My coach Jason Galarza, I’ve been with him for a very long time. He’s worked my corner since the amateurs. We click. He definitely knows how to read me. He knows how to read the other fighters. He’s smart. We’ve been together for 10 years-plus, so this is definitely who I need in my corner. It’s not that I want them in my corner. I need them in my corner.”
There is no pronounced lack of respect from either side and Jermell Charlo admits this is a stiff test for him to retain the title. The champion (who has nearly three times as many professional rounds under his belt) noted, “I got my hands full with Erickson Lubin and I know he comes to fight. He’s a dog but I’m an animal, as well. I’m going to step up and do what I’ve done each time before.” Experience is something Charlo values since it cannot be taught, “This young guy here (Lubin) has a big fight coming up. I already know what I have to do. They got to be the ones that try and figure out a game plan, try and come up with a ‘Plan B’ or ‘Plan A.’”
The champion duly noted Lubin, as well as Lubin’s numerous interviews, leading up to fight week. Jermell Charlo referenced previous opponents, who talked a lot before the opening bell, “He’s been running his mouth a lot lately. I let the opponent run his mouth and then I took care of him. I’m going to let that happen again. I know that I have a lot of advantages but I just need to go seize the moment. He’s a tough, strong fighter, who’s going to be ready to take my title. It’s interesting to see a guy as young as he is come for a world title. I’ve been here a long time in the pro game. I’ve fought a lot of tough guys up to this point. It’s a big stage for both of us. We did this before; we will do it again.”
Co-promoter Lou DiBella is more than an interested bystander and does not have promotional affiliations with either boxer. He appreciates the match-up, “Both of these guys have the whole package. This is the can’t-miss fight of the card. I think that this one has really captured people’s interest. Lubin was the 2016 ‘Prospect of the Year’ by both ESPN and (THE) RING Magazine and had an incredible 143-7 amateur record. He has done nothing but win since then. I think unification bouts are definitely coming – and in the not-too-distant future.”
Two possible future foes, for the victor or loser, are WBA titlist Erislandy Lara and IBF beltholder Jarrett Hurd; both weighed in with opinions on the fight. Lara said, “Charlo vs. Lubin is really a great title fight between two tremendous fighters. Charlo is going to have his hands full with Lubin. I think Jermell is going to come out on top with a close, split decision win.” Hurd seconded Lara’s opinion, “Charlo vs. Lubin is really a 50/50 fight. Lubin is the faster and sharper fighter but Charlo is more mature. I would have to lean towards Charlo on this one because he’s been on this stage and been in title fights before. We don’t really know what Lubin can do yet, so I give Charlo the slight edge but it’s really close.”
That is not the outcome Erickson Lubin sees, “Jermell has some power. He moves pretty well but I’ll be prepared for everything. Whether he pressures or boxes me, I’ll be prepared. I always steal the show. I’m not even in my prime yet and I’m ready to capture this title. A lot of fighters say they’re going to do something but I am the type of guy that says it and lives up to it.” Whatever the outcome, Jermell Charlo believes their fight will be the highlight of the evening, “Saturday night, the fight that I thought should have been the main event of the card is going to be the one that steals the show.”