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With Big Wins, Hurd and Charlo Convey That Blonds Really Do Have More Fun

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It has been a tough season for Odell Beckham Jr., the New York Giants’ superstar wide receiver who has popularized both the seemingly impossible one-handed catch and a hairstyle, bleached-blond on top of the wearer’s naturally dark roots, that more and more African-American athletes have adopted as a mark of distinction and possibly as a tribute to its originator. But while Beckham is now out for the season with a fractured ankle, and his struggling team was 0-5 after a 27-22 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 8 in which a grimacing Beckham had to be carted off the field, two of the victorious boxers in Saturday night’s Showtime-televised tripleheader here at the Barclays Center proved that OBJ’s ‘do’ is not through being a thing worthy of imitation.

While most of the public and media attention had been concentrated on the middle act of the three TV fights, which pitted WBC super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo against the much-hyped Erickson Lubin, and the finale and ostensible main event, in which WBA/IBO super welterweight titlist Erislandy Lara took on 2012 U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha, the opening segment, in which IBF junior middleweight ruler Jarrett Hurd would defend his belt against former WBA 154-pound champ Austin Trout, drew comparatively scant attention.

That proved to be a major error in judgment, as the 7,643 in-house spectators and the Showtime viewing audience would happily discover. Where Beckham, when healthy, is adept at catching bombs, his barbershop lookalike, Hurd (pictured in the blue trunks), is more likely to deliver them. After a slow start in which Trout, the clever, 32-year-old southpaw from Las Cruses, N.M., held the upper hand in the first three rounds despite coming off a 17-month layoff that did not noticeably coat him in a layer of ring rust, one thing was becoming evident: the challenger lacked the firepower to continue to stave off the stalking Hurd’s relentless pursuit and intent to deliver far more damaging punches.

Hurd’s power eventually began to turn the tide, and the big bopper from Accokeek, Md., which is considered to be a part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, foreshadowed the eventual ending by connecting with jolting right hands in the fifth round, twice causing Trout to take little bunny hops. Another big right in the sixth again almost caused Trout to go down, at which point the outcome became less a matter of “if” but “when.”

A small window opportunity opened for the game but increasingly desperate Trout in the seventh when he opened a cut above Hurd’s left eye, which Hurd claimed was the result of a head butt. But the taste of his own blood might have done more to ramp up Hurd’s pressure than to tamp it down, and he rocked Trout, who was never floored, with more ripping rights in the eighth and ninth rounds, which had the effect of swelling Trout’s right eye nearly shut.

In a possible nod to diversification, Hurd, 27, momentarily went southpaw in Round 10 and landed an overhand left that had once more turned Trout’s legs to jelly, but he managed to make it to the bell. The reprieve was only momentary; referee Eddie Claudio called the ring doctor over to examine Trout’s worsening eye and the determination was that it was best that the challenger, who several rounds earlier had decided that he would be better served by trying to build on his early momentum by knocking Hurd out, thus taking the judges out of the equation, not be allowed to come out for the 11th round.

It’s hard to find fault with Trout’s rationale for throwing caution to the wind. After 10 completed rounds, he trailed on all three scorecards, by 96-94 (twice) and 97-93, and the shift in momentum toward Hurd showed him landing 265 of 753 total punches (35 percent), according to CompuBox, compared to 208 of 673 (31 percent) for Trout. The disparity seems even more telling in light of Hurd’s superior strength.

“I’m always the one that comes on stronger at the end of the fight,” said Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs), who was making the first defense his title. “We knew we were going to wear Austin Trout down in the later rounds and eventually stop him.”

Trout (30-4, 17 KOs), who was taken to a nearby hospital for observation, was not available for comment, but in losing inside the distance for the first time he had enough valorous moments against an equally determined champion to stamp their fight as an instant classic, and Fight of the Year candidate.

“Wow,” said promoter Lou DiBella. “That was sensational.”

Hurd-Trout would have been a tough act to follow under most circumstances, but Charlo-Erickson, the presumed “fight fans fight,” was a jolt to most observers’ sensibilities, despite its brevity. Much of the attention beforehand had been focused on Lubin, who had just turned 22 on Oct. 1 and, in Charlo’s estimation, hadn’t established enough bona fides to even be granted a shot at the title, despite being the WBC’s mandatory contender.

“I’m fighting a prospect,” the blond-tressed Charlo had said, almost contemptuously, in the lead-up to the fight. “He’s not even a contender. Like I said, I don’t know how he even got this fight. But I have to (fight him) so I can fight the No. 1 guys. That’s what mandatories are all about.”

Lubin presumably had further irritated Charlo by musing about all the good things that would come his way after he wrested the title from the 27-year-old champion. He spoke about “changing the lives” of his parents, Erick and Marjorie, and especially that of his three-month-old son with the sort of financial benefits attendant to reigning champions with burgeoning fan bases.

As if all that weren’t enough, perhaps the 27-year-old Jermell still harbors a grudge toward all the skeptics who have depicted him a lesser talent than his identical twin, Jermall (26-0, 20 KOs), a former IBF junior middleweight champion who vacated that title to move up to middleweight. Perhaps because Jermall was regularly depicted as the harder puncher and thus more entertaining of the twins, Jermell switched trainers, from Ronnie Shields to Derrick James, who was tasked with the responsibility of converting his new pupil to someone as capable of whacking out opponents as Jermall, who continues to be trained by Shields.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the new-look Jermell has significantly raised his profile as a dangerous dude.  He came into the bout having won his three most recent bouts inside the distance, including an eighth-round knockout of John Jackson for the vacant WBC title and a sixth-round kayo of Charles Hatley in his first defense. But Lubin supposedly posed a much sterner test, even if there were some reservations that he was stepping too far up in class and too soon.

Make it four straight now as he delivered a ripping right hand to Lubin’s jaw in the very first round that sent the Orlando, Fla., southpaw crashing to the canvas, where he rolled over onto his side and flopped around like a caught fish. Referee Harvey Dock did the right thing and waved things off after an elapsed time of just 2 minutes, 41 seconds.

“They were giving (Lubin) a lot of attention,” Charlo said of Lubin’s now-diminished status as one of boxing’s flavors of the month. “I was quiet the whole time. They said he was going to take my title. I had to defend it. They (Lubin and his support crew) didn’t know what I was bringing into this and I think he was worried about the wrong things.”

Just as Hurd-Trout will get consideration for Fight of the Year, Charlo’s quickie demolition of a hot property like Lubin now enters the discussion for Knockout of the Year.

Popularity in boxing being tied as it is to a fighter’s action quotient, it was almost a given that Houston-based Cuban defector Erislandy Lara, who closed the night by making his sixth title defense against unheralded 2012 U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha, would provide the fewest thrills and chills. But then, technical proficiency is and always has been the Lara’s stock in trade. He wins not so much by looking good himself, but by making opponents look bad, and he wasn’t about to deviate from his tried-and-true fight plan against Gausha, even though the 34-year-old southpaw dropped the would-be usurper from Cleveland, Ohio, with a straight left for a flash knockdown in the fourth round. Gausha, 29, survived the mini-scare, but he proceeded to be outboxed the rest of the way in a snoozer that seemed even less appealing in light of the fact the two preceding 154-pound championship fights had produced spectacular moments of high drama.

“He came to fight,” Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs) said of Gausha (20-1, 9 KOs), who never registered double-digit scoring punches in any of the 12 rounds. “I take the rhythm of the boxing match and that’s when I take over. (Gausha was) fighting the best in the division … he knew who he was fighting today.”

All that remains now is how the future plays out for the winners, all of whom professed an interest in unification matchups.

“I’m ready to unify – 2018 is the year for unifications. It don’t matter who it is. I’m ready to take on anyone,” said Hurd. “Team Swift (“Swift” is Hurd’s nickname, although mobility does not appear to be his foremost asset) don’t run from anyone.”

It was yada, yada, yada with both Charlo and Lara, the former an emerging quick-strike artist and the latter and unhurried tactician.

“We’re going to unify,” Charlo said. “The other champions want to fight me and I’ll take any of them. Give me another title. I want Hurd. Hurd just won. Give me Hurd.”

Lara, on the other hand, has visions of mixing it up with former stablemate Charlo, saying, “I don’t shy away from anyone that wants to fight me. I’ll box whoever. Just line them up. I’m not afraid. I have proven that I’m a true champion. I’ll fight Charlo if I have to. We are friends, but business is business.”

Based on Saturday night’s (and into early Sunday morning in the Eastern Time Zone) results, perhaps the most appealing of the possible pairings would be Hurd vs. Charlo. For one thing, they have the more fan-friendly styles. For another, somebody needs to claim the mythical but seemingly coveted crown as king of the OBJ hairstyles. Even in boxing, it matters to care about the hair.

Photo credit: Ed Diller / DiBella Entertainment

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Artur Beterbiev: “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need”

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Russian Artur Beterbiev, triple champion of the 175-pound division, is the only current world champion who, thanks to the enormous power he wields in his fists, has won all his fights inside the distance.

Beterbiev has 18 victories by way of chloroform since he debuted as a professional fighter in June 2013 when he anesthetized retired American, Christian Cruz, in the tenth round at the Bell Center in Montreal where Beterbiev currently resides.

Beterbiev, who turned thirty-eight last Saturday, will defend his WBC, IBF, and WBO titles against Brit Anthony “The Beast from the East” Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) on Saturday, January 28th at the OVO Arena in London.

Beterbiev obtained the WBO belt on June 18th this past year when he defeated American Joe Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) in the second round at Madison Square Garden. This was Smith’s second defense of the belt.

Earlier, in November 2017, Beterbiev won the vacant IBF belt after defeating German Enrico Koelling (28-5, 9 KOs) by knockout in the twelfth round in Fresno, California.

Two years later, Beterbiev seized the WBC belt from Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in Philadelphia. Three knockdowns in the tenth round forced referee Gary Rosato to stop the lopsided bout with 11 seconds remaining in the round.  Beterbiev maintains that although his intention is to win each fight, in no way does he want to harm his rival and that his greatest wish is for both of them to leave the ring healthy.

Referring to his upcoming matchup, Beterbiev told BoxingScene that “after the fight, I just hope he (Yarde) is okay.”

He acknowledged that he does not know much about the British boxer, although he has watched several of his fights: “He’s a good fighter, has good experience as a professional and he’s a boxer. He’s dangerous so I have to prepare for this fight like I always do.”

Beterbiev said that his main motivation is to successfully defend the three belts he owns and that is why he will try to be one hundred percent ready and then it will be evident who is the better fighter.

Regarding his knockout streak, Beterbiev emphatically denied that he enjoys knocking out his opponents: “No. There’s no pleasure in it. I just hope everything is OK with them. I just want to do good boxing, not hit people.”

Beterbiev smiles enigmatically and stares at the horizon when they ask him to what he attributes the strength of his fists to. “I know for sure, 1000 percent, that the secret to my power is somewhere in my boxing gym but I don’t know exactly where,” he adds. “I don’t know which exercise or bag gave me this secret. I don’t know where it comes from. I wasn’t always like this either, it has come from working every day. But really my dream is to be a good boxer one day.”

Aside from the upcoming fight with Yarde, Beterbiev acknowledges in each interview that his goal is to be the undisputed champion of the division, which means facing (and defeating) the undefeated Russian Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), who holds the WBA light heavyweight super championship belt.

“I need Bivol,” Beterbiev admits. “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need. I hope I fight him in 2023 but the hold-up is not from my side, it’s from their side. In the last three years he always says he will fight me next but in this time we’ve done unification fights against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith. We’ve done that whereas he has just been talking about it.

Beterbiev recalled that he was with Bivol on the Russian national team where they were amateurs. “I knew him then, but he is younger than me. We haven’t talked for 10 years now. He was 75kg back then, too small for me. We were never friends.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

 Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A New Foe for Broner and an Intriguing Heavyweight Match-up

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Boxing Odds and Ends: A New Foe for Broner and an Intriguing Heavyweight Match-up

BLK Prime’s inaugural venture went off without a hitch. An announced crowd of 14,630 turned out in Omaha to watch native son Terence Crawford dismantle David Avanesyan. BLK Prime’s second promotion, slated for Feb. 25 at a 5,000-seat venue in Atlanta, has been messy from the get-go. The executives at the fledgling company, based in Hayward, California, are learning to their dismay that the sport of professional boxing is governed by Murphy’s Law: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Adrien Broner’s nickname is “The Problem” (how perfect!) but the problem isn’t him but finding a suitable opponent for the former four-division title holder who purportedly signed a three-fight deal with BLK Prime that will pay him an absurd $10 million. As reported in a story that ran on these pages last week, Broner’s original opponent Ivan Redkach pulled out and was replaced by Hank Lundy. Today (Tuesday, Jan. 24) it was revealed that Lundy was also off the card and would be replaced by Michael Williams Jr.

Prior to being lopped off the card, it was reported that Hank Lundy had been suspended by the California Athletic Commission for failing to honor his contract to fight up-and-comer Ernesto Mercado (8-0, 8 KOs) on Feb. 4. The match was to be an 8-rounder in Ontario, California. According to prominent boxing writer Jake Donovan, Lundy provided paperwork to the California commission showing that he was unable to keep his commitment because of a cut he suffered in sparring.

Some state athletic commissions automatically honor a suspension handed down in another jurisdiction. Other commissions evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis. It’s a fair guess that had Lundy kept quiet about the (alleged) injury, the Georgia commission would have allowed the Broner-Lundy match to go forward. Regardless, he’s out and, barring more upheaval, Broner (pictured) will be touching gloves with Michael Williams Jr.

The son of an Army veteran who serves as his chief trainer, Williams Jr, 23, was born in Fort Riley, Kansas, and grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, home to Fort Bragg. As a pro, he’s 20-1 with 13 KOs but those 20 wins came against a motley bunch of opponents and he failed miserably on the one occasion that he stepped up in class. On Dec. 11, 2021, he was stopped in four rounds by fellow unbeaten John Bauza on a Top Rank card at Madison Square Garden. Williams suffered five knockdowns before the match was halted. “He’s got a lot to work on. There are some glaring issues here,” said ringside TV commentator Andre Ward.

Although the Fayetteville area has long had a reputation as pugilistic feed lot (a place where boxers go to fatten up their records), the feeling is that Williams may have been awed by his surroundings that night in the Big Apple, hence his poor showing. During the early portion of his career, he was co-trained by Roy Jones Jr who reportedly hooked up with the young junior welterweight after witnessing him bully a bunch of ex-cons while sparring at a gym in New Orleans.

Does he have the tools to make things interesting against Adrien Broner? Likely not, but Broner tends to fight down to his level of competition, so it wouldn’t surprise us if Williams wins a few rounds.

Heavyweights at the Crossroads

SHOWTIME drops anchor in San Antonio on Feb. 11 with a card headlined by a match between Rey Vargas and O’Shaquie Foster. They will compete for the WBC 130-pound world title vacated by Shakur Stevenson.

Truth be told, this isn’t a contest that gets our juices flowing. The undefeated Vargas, who has won world titles at 122 and 127, is a solid technician but doesn’t fight with pizzazz. He hasn’t won a fight inside the distance since 2016. Foster is on a nice roll – he’s won nine straight, advancing his record to 19-2 — but likewise lacks charisma.

The pay-per-view opener, however, seized our interest. It’s that very rare contest between two rising heavyweights at the same juncture of their respective careers. On paper there’s little to choose between Viktor Faust (11-0, 7 KOs) and Lenier Pero (8-0, 5 KOs). Both are the same age (30), are roughly the same size (in the six-foot-five and 240-pound range) and were outstanding amateurs.

Faust

Viktor Faust, aka Viktor Vykhryst, is from the Ukraine. In 2017, he won the European amateur title, defeating future Olympian Frazer Clarke in the finals. He turned pro in 2020, spurning an opportunity to represent Ukraine in the Tokyo Olympics.

Faust, says prospect watcher Matt Andrzejewski, is extremely fluid for his size and his hand speed is well above average. He also has one-punch knockout power as he demonstrated in his third pro fight when he starched the Spaniard, Gabriel Enguema. However, his most recent fight on U.S. soil, a match in Hollywood, Florida, against Iago kiladze, left many questions unanswered.

This was a wild and wooly affair that ended in the second minute of the second round. Kiladze was down three times and Faust twice during the tumult. Because Kiladze was on the small size for a heavyweight, one was left wondering whether Faust could have weathered the storm if he were matched against a bigger man.

Since that scuffle, Faust has added two more wins to his ledger, comfortable 8-round decisions over 40-something gatekeepers Kevin Johnson and Franklin Lawrence.

Pero

Lenier Pero, a Cuban defector, was never an Olympian, but had a more extensive amateur career. He was 9-3 in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing but what really stands out is that he was 5-1 against countryman Frank Sanchez who has made great headway as a pro since leaving Cuba in 2017 and is currently ranked #3 by the WBC and #2 by the WBO.

Although the amateur careers of Faust and Pero overlapped, their paths never crossed. However, Faust did fight Lenier’s younger brother Dainier Pero who is currently 2-0 as a pro and may actually be a better prospect than his sibling. Faust and Dainier Pero met in 2018 at a tournament in the Ukraine and the Cuban won a close decision.

Perhaps that’s an omen. Regardless, Lenier Pero looks like the right side in what has the earmarks of an entertaining shootout.

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David Benavidez and Caleb Plant Both Want ‘Canelo’ Álvarez

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American Fighter David Benavidez has been in constant pursuit of an opportunity to face Canelo Álvarez and, until now, it has been an unrealizable dream. For his compatriot Caleb Plant, his match up with Canelo in 2021 resulted in a resounding loss.

For several years, Benavidez has been trying to cross gloves with Mexican star Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs), who has avoided facing him despite receiving countless criticisms from boxing fans.

Undefeated in the ranks, everything indicates that today Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) is closer than ever to finally matching up against Canelo, the current holder of the four most prestigious super middleweight titles in boxing: WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO.

Previously, by order of the WBC, Benavidez faced Canadian David Lemieux (43-5, 36 KOs), to whom he applied chloroform in the third round in Glendale, Arizona, where the winner conquered the Interim title of that sanctioning body.

After the victory, the WBC declared that Benavidez had the obligation to collide with Caleb Plant (22-1, 13 KOs), who was ranked the number one contender by both the WBA and the WBO and third by the IBF.

According to Mauricio Sulaimán, president of the WBC, the winner between Benavidez and Plant becomes the mandatory challenger for Canelo in a battle for that organization’s belt.

However, the future seems quite complicated for the winner between Benavidez and Plant, since Canelo is currently in negotiations with British southpaw John Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs) to fight in May and, subsequently, in September, to carry out the rematch against Russian Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs), who defeated him unanimously on May 7 of last year at the T-Mobile Arena where the European retained the WBA light heavyweight belt.

Benavidez has been outspoken about Canelo’s refusal to face him: He (Canelo) knows I’m the biggest threat at 168.” Benavidez stressed the fact that Canelo avoids him because he knows that if he accepts the fight, the same thing will happen to him as against Dmitry Bivol, an adversary who is also larger and equally as strong as the Mexican redhead.

Despite the efforts and multiple statements by Benavidez (also by José Benavidez Sr, his father and trainer), Canelo has always chosen other adversaries with the excuse that Benavidez has not fought any elite rivals that would make him worthy of the opportunity.

CALEB PLANT WANTS REVENGE AGAINST CANELO

“That wasn’t my best camp going into that fight,” said Plant about last year’s battle with Canelo, “but, regardless, that’s not the reason I lost. I lost because I got caught with a great shot and I got stopped.” Plant was clear about wanting to meet Canelo in the ring again. “I want a rematch with Canelo. If I have to pick up every last top super middleweight in the division to get to that, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Canelo’s victory against Plant at the T-Mobile Arena in November 2021 made him the first boxer from Latin America with the four most important titles, in any weight category. But six months later, in May of last year, Álvarez suffered the second setback of his career, losing unanimously to Bivol who retained his WBA “super” title belt at 175 pounds.

Four years ago, on January 13, 2019, Plant won the IBF belt, unanimously defeating Venezuelan José Uzcátegui (32-5, 27 KOs) at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Uzcátegui went to the canvas in both the second and fourth rounds. Plant lost the IBF title in the unification match against Canelo, a title that Plant had defended three times prior.

Mauricio Sulaimán confirmed to several media outlets that the winner of the upcoming battle between Benavidez and Plant will be the mandatory challenger for Canelo’s WBC super-middleweight title. Per ESPN’s Mike Coppinger, Benavidez vs Plant will take place on March 25th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

 Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

To comment on this story in the fight Forum CLICK HERE

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