Some fighters have to scrape and battle for years to receive a shot at an alphabet-soup belt. Others are fast-tracked into those opportunities. Super welterweight Jarret Hurd is one of the fortunate latter. Saturday night in Alabama, he will face Tony Harrison for the vacant IBF belt.
The IBF strap at 154 pounds was vacated last year when Jermall Charlo opted to move up to middleweight, following his sensational knockout of Julian Williams. I would not put either Harrison of Hurd into the division’s top 10. The Ring has Hurd at No. 9, but I just can’t see any justification for it based on his resume. The Transnational Boxing Rankings, which I consider far more accurate, is in agreement with me.
I would unquestionably put both fighters between 11 and 20. They are legitimate contenders, just not top contenders. Harrison lost by Round 9 TKO to Willie Nelson in July 2015. It was his only bout against a fellow contender and he looked very solid, if not particularly exciting, up until the point when Nelson caught up to him. Harrison is one of the last living ties to the legendary Kronk Gym legacy forged by the late, great Emanuel Steward, who was an early mentor to Harrison. That makes him a sentimental favorite of sorts.
Both men are 26, but Hurd comes into this bout viewed as the up-and-coming talent. He is a perfect 19-0 with 13 KOs. His last win was a Round 6 stoppage of the very experienced Ionut Dan Ion. It’s his best win to date.
And it’s not the sort of win that justifies a world title shot, at least not if the word “World Title” is going to have any true value. In the pre-alphabet soup era, this is the kind of fight that would have put the winner in position to possibly get a real title shot. It would have at least put him one or two fights away.
But we live in an era when truth means little. The winner of this bout will leave the ring hailed as a World Champion, at least by people who care more about hype than legitimacy.
It’s too bad, really, because this is a terrific matchup. Both fighters are young, skilled boxers who can crack. A fight this good shouldn’t need mendacity to sell it.