Top of the bill at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas last Saturday was the awkward, wily veteran, IBO and WBA super welterweight champion Erislandy Lara, against the taller, rangier, more direct and youthful IBF champion, Jarrett Hurd. A unification fight largely overlooked in the United Kingdom because of a certain James DeGale’s attempt to reclaim the super middleweight IBF title on the undercard. Boxing purists, however, were more than a little intrigued as to what would unfold in this top of the bill clash.
It could have been a passing of the torch, contrarily, it could have been a technical beatdown of a cruder, younger fighter by an old pro. It was neither, really, in the end. Hurd had promised a relentless approach, to never let Lara off the hook; the Cuban has built a reputation as one it is hard to get onto said hook in the first place.
So it proved, as attack after attack from the undefeated American largely glanced of gloves or missed completely as Erislandy countered from the back foot, throwing frustratingly little, but with accuracy. Lara boxes so far on the back foot he could share a hotdog with the fans in the cheap seats. It is no surprise his losses to Saul Alvarez and Paul Williams were contentious.
As the fight went on, Hurd’s intensity increased, and with it his crassness. The Maryland native may well have decent power, engine and unbelievable range, but his head movement was not enough to stop Lara landing when he could be bothered to throw. ‘The American Dream’ is an infuriating fighter to watch, clearly very technically skillful, obviously athletically able but with a style which looks so languid at times it’s as if he’s never heard of something called impressing the judges (let alone entertaining the crowd).
However, Despite that, Lara seemed to be winning most of the rounds, if you were looking for accurate, scoring shots. If naked desire was what tickles your fancy, Hurd was way out in front. The only real loser was the paying spectator until it livened up at the end. By the twelfth the Cuban was so tired and half blind from a swollen, bloodied right eye, that he tried to stick so close to Hurd as to smother his work.
The tactic did not go well for him, though it did put a sting in the tail of the bout. Eventually, Hurd’s devotion to the cause paid off in dramatic fashion, a beautiful left hook landed on the jaw of a dazed Lara, who went down. Although he beat the count, and made the final bell, in the land of the evenly matched, a knockdown is King. This knockdown, in particular, as the scores of 114-113, 113-114, 113-114 favouring the still unbeaten American, Hurd, earned him two more crowns for his collection. Without the knockdown, a 10-9 last round to Hurd would have meant a majority draw.
Erislandy Lara is now thirty four years old, and without his belts becomes an even less tempting member of the “who needs them” club. His tricky, canny style still functions, and he will be a potential banana skin for any up and coming fighter: he nearly was for Jarrett Hurd. ‘Swift’ will whisk those titles away and prepare for the onslaught no doubt spearheaded by WBC champion Jermell Charlo, with Sadam Ali, assuming he beats Liam Smith, and perhaps down the line Kell Brook, waiting for a crack too. The super welterweight division could be heating up at last.