Run hard enough and it might begin to hurt. Run fast enough and you might get quicker. Run long enough and you might find yourself visiting ground never touched before.
The roadwork professional prizefighters undertake is emblematic of the journeys they travel. But at some stage of every fighter’s journey, they’ll encounter a fork in the road, dividing the road into 2 loosely parallel yet vastly divergent routes.
The path of supremacy is the more commonly travelled route. Run by those content with merely being a champion, such fighters continue to run before stopping at the wayside and electing to construct a house of residence. They seek refuge in the walls that shelter them, enjoying the spoils of their career accomplishments and content with retiring on serene terrain.
Then there are those who by choice, elect to continue traversing on the other path – the road to immortality. A path which leads directly into the dangerous jungles of boxing, these are the rare beasts who aren’t content with simply becoming a champion for they chase something greater. They crave something bigger. Cut from a different cloth, they sacrifice the possibility of living an unchallenging existence for a chance to navigate through isolated lands of dense forests, intentionally poking bears to spar and using rattlesnakes to skip rope in a quest to reach a haven beyond the unforgiving wilderness – immortality.
Jarrett “Swift” Hurd, the current unified IBF and WBA 154-pound junior middleweight champion is that rare breed of pugilist wilfully chasing greatness. The straw haired giant hailing from Accokeek, Maryland grabbed public attention following an upset devouring of Brooklyn native Frank Galarza in late 2015. Two years later and again as the underdog, he recovered a points deficit to stop the prime and once beaten Tony Harrison for the vacant IBF junior middleweight strap. The dream had finally been realised. Hurd could finally call himself a world champion but the feral nature of competition which exists in Hurd refused to rest. The Harrison win was succeeded by history, as Hurd become the first and currently only man to stop former WBA world champion Austin Trout in a quintessential demonstration of man meeting beast. The result exceeded what Mexican megastar Canelo Alvarez, future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto, Cuban wizard Erislandy Lara and twins Jermall and Jermell Charlo could not do.
Yet the appetite remained ravenous. Having grown tired feasting on tigers and trout, Hurd sought the biggest piece of meat he could find.
That happened to be the WBA champion Erislandy Lara, the aforementioned Cuban jaguar ranked number 1 in the division but also more proven, dangerous and with enough slickness to shame a mongoose. An extremely plausible argument could have been made suggesting Lara himself should have remained undefeated had he received some judging serendipity in his career. A Fight of the Year candidate materialised before watching eyes and after 12 titanic rounds, a split decision in favour of Hurd saw him emerge from the chaos resplendent with the spoils of war – a Cuban skinjacket and the newly acquired WBA title.
Harrison, Trout and Lara beaten in consecutive fights. Unified champion within 2 fights of becoming a titlist. King of the jungle status obtained. Yet despite Hurd becoming the word, he remains criminally underrated. “Swift” is rarely mentioned on the shortlist for America’s Next Star in the same vein Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr are. The luxury of being granted multiple chances, even in the face of humiliating losses and buffoonery a la Adrien Broner, is one not afforded to him. He has quietly gone through hell to get to the position he holds today whereas others have been granted a free ride to the top.
There is a genuine, objective case for Jarrett Hurd to be ranked minimum top 10 of every pound for pound list given his form, resume and accomplishments. Yet the silent beast remains conspicuously absent. Perhaps it’s due to a lack of significant media push by PBC and SHOWTIME. Perhaps aesthetically, he doesn’t look as “swift” as say a Crawford does, a paradoxical nickname given he boxes using a ‘Frankenstein/Terminator’ style. Perhaps it’s because he actively shuns the spotlight, refusing to deviate from his natural disposition by behaving abrasively or making controversial remarks.
And perhaps that’s fine with him. If idiocy is the common commodity sold to modern consumers, Hurd advertises an entirely different product.
His motivations stem not from the need to obtain attention but through affection, shown by the love and care of his family and team. He dedicates his entire boxing career to his ex-trainer Thomas Browner, who died unexpectedly in Hurd’s absence. Upon his death, Hurd promised committing to boxing “one more time for Tom.” He smiled with the profoundest of happiness when given an Award of Recognition by Accokeek Academy, the school his younger version once attended. His battle tested physiognomy beamed with humility when granted the Living Legacy Award by the Mt. Sinai AME Church.
This is the way he prefers to operate. Outside the ring, a model citizen whose actions are no doubt a testament to the efforts of his parents and his team in developing the man’s character. He has made not only them but his town and Tom proud. Inside the ring, he morphs into a silent hellhound who marauds forward akin to a bulldozer with the handbrake ripped off, the living and breathing embodiment of the legendary quote from former WWE wrestling star Tazz – “win if you can, survive if I let you”.
Standing in the opposite corner this Saturday will be Jason Welborn, a 32 year old Englishman who can be best described as a journeyman. Welborn has been soundly beaten every time he has stepped up. The bookies believe that trend will continue, with a quick glance suggesting anything less than Hurd wolfing down Welborn would amount to a colossal shock. But boxing being boxing, Hurd will have other things on his mind. He’s fighting on the undercard of the biggest PPV event SHOWTIME have produced this year, consequently exposing him to a platform designed for him not only to win but to do so spectacularly in front of an audience projected to be in the millions.
It’s also Hurd’s first bout following a recently surgically repaired shoulder against an opponent expected to offer little resistance. Whilst the naysayers may extrapolate Hurd could have tested his shoulder out in sparring and instead selected a better opponent, such criticisms are mute given that not only does sparring not replicate the palatability of sanctioned competition but history suggests the sport can be unforgiving to those returning from surgery. Exhibit A presents Victor Ortiz, the former WBC welterweight titlist who ill-advisedly fought top contender Luis Collazo just 8 months after his jaw was separated clean by underdog Josesito Lopez. He was knocked out in 2. Exhibit B highlights James DeGale who approximately a year ago, relinquished his IBF super middleweight strap to 100-1 underdog Caleb Truax in his first fight following surgery. Hurd should be made wary of such pitfalls and expected to perform in a manner that respects Welborn as a genuine contender and not as a walkover lest he tempt fate too.
And there remains the small matter of a potential unification bout with WBC boss Jermell Charlo, the man nicknamed “Ironman” who has been howling at the moon for a dance with Jarrett. It’s a fight that has been years in the making. A tantalising affair which not only carries the greatest of risks but the greatest of rewards, for it grants the winner 3 championships and pound for pound stature. Hurd himself expressed his intentions on SHOWTIME’s ‘Day in Camp’ feature stating “I told myself no matter what, I’m not stepping up in weight until I fight him.” Both men are aware of the other’s presence. Mutual respect between the two masks a feral desire to be great. The years of howling and hissing at each other are coming to a close with the duel extremely close to coming into fruition.
And given Hurd’s comments on SHOWTIME’s feature, a win over Charlo will also give him the chance to dream.
The opportunity to traverse more dangerous jungles north of where Hurd resides, terrains which house the money-spinning matches Hurd also craves – Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Demetrius Andrade, maybe a Jermell Charlo rematch at 160 or perhaps a grudge fight with twin brother Jermall. It’s fights of this stature which could potentially elevate him into superstardom and at that point, the Cerberus that is Hurd can no longer be ignored by the boxing world.
But before Hurd can dream of those pocket-lining duels, moving up divisions, the Charlo unification, claiming recognition and cementing a spot amongst boxing’s elite, Saturday’s feast must be consumed without malady. In preparation for this fight, Jason Welborn told the Express and Star “I have gone through hell, I could not have done anything else.”
Going through hell is one thing.
Going through Jarrett Hurd is another.