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Lara vs. Hurd: The Best Fight Nobody is Talking About

Image: Lara vs. Hurd: The Best Fight Nobody is Talking About

By Donavan Leonard: Often great moments can be overshadowed by happenings out of their control. The Houston Rockets were on their way to an NBA championship when O.J. Simpson hit the streets in a white Bronco. Harriet Quimby was the first female to fly across the English Channel as news of the Titanic sinking was circulating around the globe. And Erislandy Lara, holder of the WBA junior middleweight belt for nearly five years, will be facing the formidable IBF champion Jarett Hurd this weekend…while the boxing media is laser-focused on either the fallout from Clenelo-Gate or the future of the heavyweight division.

In another year (2016), this might have been a fight that fans circled on their calendar-a unification bout between the king of the hill (Lara), and the young lion (Hurd). However, 2017 and 2018 have been kind to the followers of the sweet science, and this bout is only one week removed from a heavyweight unification bout (however dull the inaction in the ring) between the biggest draw in Europe, and perhaps the world, Anthony Joshua, and the now-defeated Joseph Parker. Compounding the quietness surrounding the bout is that any news story that is not banging the drums for a matchup between Joshua and WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder seems to be covering the rematch that is not happening, Gennady Golovkin versus Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez withdrawing from the bout after two failed drug tests seemed to turn everyone into an expert in all matters Clenbuterol, as well as into matchmakers for Golovkin. Golovkin, as of this writing, is still seeking an opponent both relatively worthy and also approvable by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Under this backdrop, the anticipated clash between Lara and Hurd has taken something even further than the back seat…perhaps the trailer. That is a shame because this could potentially be a great fight.

Lara has not done himself any favors, and has not been granted any favors, since his 2014 controversial decision loss to Alvarez. Politics, friendships, and a safety-first style have prevented him from landing meaningful or anticipated bouts. Although two of his six wins since then have come via knockout, the opponents (Jan Zaveck, Yuri Foreman) were viewed as terribly weak. The other four bouts have been mostly void of entertainment value. He displayed his power with knockdowns of both Delvin Rodriguez and Terrell Gausha, but consciously coasted to decision victories. Fans of Lara and fighters of his type will quickly point out that the sweet science consists of two things: to hit and not get hit. Lara is very good at both. He has enough power in his punches to deter opponents from rushing in carelessly, he has enough movement to keep them off balance, and he has the experience to clinch to thwart attacks once they are on the inside. This has often been a combination that is frustrating to watch, as his bouts tend to be repetitive. They can lack rhythm, drama from back-and-forth exchanges, and to be blunt, action. His bout with Alfred Angulo provides hope for a classic battle, as a fighter who has the will to let his hands go and stay on top of Lara will force him into exchanges. Lara survived two knockdowns in the bout and stopped Angulo in the 10th round.

Hurd is a young fighter beginning to blossom. The winner of seven fights in a row by knockout, the relentless pressure he applies is fan friendly, and the chin he has displayed while walking down his opponents must be disheartening to his victims. His current path, if victorious, would put him on the path to potential stardom. His first defense after defeating Tony Harrison for the vacant IBF title was against the highly-respected Austin Trout. He ate quite a bit of leather, but over the second half of the fight he was able to continually land his punches on a wilting Trout, becoming the first fighter to stop him. A win over Lara and talk of a bout with Jermell Charlo looms. This is the type of top-level matchup that fans clamor to see, and Hurd has made no bones about taking them. However, a win from Lara is far from a sure thing. While Hurd was punished during his win over Trout, Lara won a relatively easy, decisive victory over him in 2013, dropping him in the process. Hurd is physically huge for the weight class, but he is neither taller than, nor possessing a longer reach than Paul Williams, whom most observers, other than the judges who were later suspended, felt Lara defeated. Hurd does not possess great hand speed, so despite his reach advantage, it is unlikely he would be able to stand on the outside and outbox the former amateur standout from Cuba. He has stated that he has studied the Angulo fight, and it is most likely that he will do what he has been doing—moving forward, keeping his hands busy, and attempting to put enough punishment on his opponent to force a stoppage. With the Angulo fight as the blueprint for the fight, this promises to force return fire from Lara.

Lara-Hurd is a fight with many questions and subplots that should be a treat to the fans, and it deserves the attention that is being diverted by the other happenings. Will Hurd be able to get to Lara the way Angulo did? Will Hurd be able to take the power shots of Lara as he did with Trout? Will Lara be able to take the pressure, or will his 34-year-old legs betray him? With recent losses by Guillermo Rigondeaux, Luis Ortiz, Sullivan Barrera, and Rances Barthelemy, are the cracks in the Cuban school beginning to show? Or will Lara be able to restore some lost luster?

For the fans of Lara, they can look forward to him schooling the youngster. For Lara haters, they can look forward to Hurd applying Terminator-like pressure and disposing of another non-exciting fighter. Lara has said he can be exciting if matched correctly. This looks to be that type of match. Headlines be damned—this is and should be the story of the week in boxing.

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