BOXING

Hurd Unifies in Battle With Lara, DeGale Regains Title

Late Knockdown Seals Decision Win For Jarrett Hurd

“It ain’t over until it’s over,” Yogi Berra famously said, a philosophy that rings as true in boxing as it does in Berra’s sport of baseball. Every round, every point on the scorecard matters, particularly in a sport where fighters don’t know the scores until the fight is already over.

Jarrett Hurd had no way of knowing that his unification bout with fellow 154-pound titleholder Erislandy Lara was hanging in the balance going into the 12th round on Saturday night. But he had been through 11 hard-fought rounds and was determined to close strong, punctuating the action with a knockdown that sealed the victory.

Hurd poured on the punishment in those final three minutes, pushing Lara back and then ultimately forcing him down, sending out a short right uppercut and following with a short left hook that dropped Lara.

Hurd may not have won without that knockdown. Judges typically score a round 10-9 for a fighter who wins a round without a knockdown, and they score it 10-8 when one knockdown occurs. There are instances where action can be so one-sided that they will score it 10-8 anyway.

That knockdown proved to be the difference between a decision win and a draw. Two judges had it 114-113 for Hurd, six rounds apiece minus a point for the knockdown, which means that the fight may have been moments away from ending as a majority draw. The other judge had it 114-113 for Lara — seven rounds for Lara, five for Hurd.

Hurd earned a second world title in impressive fashion and now looks forward to fighting for a third.

It wasn’t easy. Lara, a skilled boxer, came forward early with more aggression and less movement than we’ve been used to seeing from him, landing cleanly on his taller, bigger and more powerful opponent. Hurd, who tends to start slow, continued to push forward in the second round. While Lara was landing, the fight would soon become a question of whether Lara could hurt Hurd, and whether he would tire out while trying and allow Hurd to come on strong.

Indeed, Lara began to cover up and rest more in the third, allowing Hurd to work more, landing body shots on the inside. That left hook downstairs was there for Hurd all night, helping wear Lara down even further.

Hurd soon found his groove and was the more active fighter. Lara tried to stem the tide, landing a big left uppercut in the sixth that shook Hurd’s legs for a moment. Hurd quickly steadied himself, continued to come forward and soon had Lara looking to rest, holding on with his mouth open.

It became a tough situation for Lara to try to win the judges over. He fought in spurts while Hurd was more active. He moved while Hurd came forward. He landed but didn’t throw with as much power.

Hurd had a really good eighth round. Before the ninth, Hurd’s trainer said that Lara was done. That wasn’t true. Lara dug down and fought back, even as his eye was swelling shut and even as Hurd continued to throw and land.

Five years ago, Lara had been in with an unrelenting pressure fighter in Alfredo Angulo, had been knocked down twice and had to land a huge shot to end the fight late. Lara showed much of the same grit and heart that he did back then, but this time the fight-saving punch never came. He came up just short in a very close, competitive bout, though one in which Hurd still seemed the deserving winner.

Hurd moves to 22-0 with 15 KOs. This was a big step up from wins over fringe contender Tony Harrison and veteran former titleholder Austin Trout. The next challenge will also be tough. Hurd will move toward a clash with titleholder Jermell Charlo, who throws with more power than Lara.

That fight may not come next, but it will hopefully come soon.
Lara, meanwhile, falls to 25-3-2 with 14 KOs. He’s long been avoided by the other top fighters in the junior middleweight division, even when he held a belt himself. Hopefully that won’t happen now that he’s lost it. He deserves another chance.

James DeGale Gets Belt Back From Caleb Truax in Ugly, Ugly Fight

The rematch between James DeGale and Caleb Truax was painful — for the fighters, who shared an ambulance ride to the hospital afterward, and for the fans, who suffered through a slogging affair that had little in the way of effective action or compelling drama.

DeGale’s pain was likely numbed by the joy of regaining the super middleweight world title he’d surprisingly lost to Truax just four months ago.

That loss came in DeGale’s first fight back from injuries and surgery. He’d gotten hurt in a brutal and entertaining draw with Badou Jack at the start of 2017 and spent nearly all year recovering. He believes he came back too soon, and that Truax was able to take advantage of the situation. Truax put forward the best performance of his career to score the upset last December, taking the fight to DeGale and taking his title by majority decision.

That’s not what happened this past Saturday.

The fight was ugly from the very beginning. About two minutes in, Truax staggered backward, holding his mouth after a head butt. Replays showed that DeGale had ducked down and moved forward without throwing a punch, suggesting that the maneuver had been intentional. A similar sequence came about 45 seconds into the second round. And then, in the third, another clash of heads opened up a cut alongside DeGale’s right eye, this one coming after Truax’s head collided with DeGale’s. (The referee wrongly ruled that the cut had come from a punch.)

It says something when the most notable action and damage from the early rounds comes from fouls rather than punches. Alas, not much else of note could be said for the punches either. The fighters each landed about 100 shots on the night, averaging barely eight per round, according to CompuBox.

DeGale had the better hand speed and landed more clean, sharp punches. The rest was a sloppy mix of DeGale moving — to try to allow himself to see better despite the flowing blood — and the fighters jockeying for position or clinching in close. DeGale at times could be seen looking up at the clock between rounds. You couldn’t blame fans if they were doing the same. Even the event’s promoter, Floyd Mayweather, could often be spotted on screen looking down at his phone and, later, talking to someone on it.

The referee took a point from DeGale in Round 10 for shouldering Truax away in a clinch. He’s fortunate that it didn’t wind up costing him on the two close scorecards. The final result: A pair of judges had it 114-113 for DeGale, seven rounds to five but with the point deduction. The third judge saw it a much wider 117-110, 10 rounds to two.

DeGale is now 24-2-1 with 14 KOs. It’s hard to tell just how well he’ll fare in future fights. He didn’t look good in his loss to Truax last year, but he also didn’t look good Saturday night. That may be in part because of the head butts and the cuts, but he also could be feeling the effects of recent grueling battles against Rogelio “Porky” Medina and Badou Jack.

One fight that would be interesting would be another rematch, this one against George Groves, who edged DeGale in 2011 back when both were prospects. Groves now holds a world title as well.

Truax, meanwhile, is now 29-4-2 with 18 KOs. He said afterward that he thought he’d done enough to win, but he also admitted to coming out flat and not being able to get his punches off the way he wanted to.

While he’d given DeGale an immediate rematch, it’s doubtful that DeGale will return the favor. The first fight had been an upset, and a rematch with DeGale was likely the best-paying option for Truax. Instead, Truax will have to work his way back into position or hope someone gives him another shot.

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman. David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and "Fighting Words" columnist for BoxingScene.com and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book "Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing." Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2

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