This weekend’s best boxing arrives courtesy of Showtime Championship Boxing, as it’s informal super welterweight tournament rolls along. WBA Champion Lara and IBF Champion Hurd will meet for just the sixth unification bout in the division’s history. The short list of previous 154-pound unified champions includes Hall of Famers Terry Norris, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Winky Wright, as well as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
All the action gets started at 10 PM EST/7 PM PST Saturday, April 7 live on Showtime from Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
Let’s dig into the action-packed triple-header!
Erislandy Lara vs Jarrett Hurd
The Super-welterweight division’s longest reigning champion Erislandy Lara is going to Erislandy Lara. The question in this 154-pound unification match is, based on “Swift” Jarrett Hurd’s last two fights at the world-class level, what new wrinkles is Team Swift bringing into the ring Saturday night? Hurd is a huge forward-moving super welterweight, he’s long, he maintains a steady punch output with great pop, and he’s displayed a granite chin. His chances of becoming a unified champion – a remarkable feat per a mixture of his shallow background and Lara’s achievement – increase significantly if he can stalk Lara wisely, employing good head movement and remaining mindful of operating from his optimal range. Sounds tricky for a fighter looking to apply pressure.
Lara tends to stay on the move, engaging when he wants to from outside. Hurd must avoid being caught in the middle where the shorter Lara could establish a wide margin in landed punches, at least over the first half of the fight. So, we’ll see how Hurd succeeds at cutting off the ring, and if he reads that he’s at a hand speed disadvantage, that he takes some half steps back after he lands. In the second half of the fight, once he’s in a good rhythm and possibly worn down Lara some, perhaps then he move his attack inside to unleash some uppercuts.
Lara’s 34-years old but he’s shown no signs of slowing down to where he will struggle to maintain his movement for all 12 rounds. Hurd’s patented “storm” strategy likely needs to produce a knockout, or multiple knock downs, to get a second consecutive career-defining win.
Caleb Truax vs James DeGale
Golden Golpher alum Caleb Truax shocked the world in December! Unfortunately, a pair of ugly knockout losses seemed to hold back the outpouring of widespread acceptance from fellow U.S. fighters – a stark contrast to what occurred when Sadam Ali ruined Miguel Cotto’s farewell. Maybe B.I.G. was right when he spit “…spread love it’s the Brooklyn way…” As for a world champion from Minnesota, SMW contender Caleb Plant immediately started clapping – and I’m not talking about with sweet hands.
This fight’s major question: Exactly what is a 100% James DeGale at this point?
DeGale walked away from his last fight before Truax, a grueling unification bout with then IBF SMW champion Badou Jack, still carrying his belt. Plus some teeth. Add an injury or two.
On most nights DeGale is likely the better boxer between the two fighters. Keep an eye on Truax to see when or whether he senses what iteration of DeGale is standing in front of him Saturday night. Moreover, look for any adjustments to Truax’s game plan after making that determination. Truax did enough to convincingly win the first fight in front of a full house of UK fans, but at times he seemed to show too much respect for DeGale, as if expecting to find the fighter his team probably saw over the first half of the Badou fight.
Safe to say we won’t ever see a pre-Badou DeGale, so I presume through the first three rounds DeGale will be assessing what effort level he can conjure out of his body. And, from that point we’ll learn whether he can figure out a way to get a win relying more on his ring IQ than the creativity exhibited in past fights. An aggressive Truax would make this a tough exercise to get through on-the-fly for Chunky, so maybe at the fight’s conclusion we see whether Plant gets the shot to move his hands from Instagram to his first world title bid.
Julian Williams vs Nathaniel Gallimore
This IBF 154-pound eliminator is one of my favorite fights of the first quarter of 2018. Thanks to Nathaniel Gallimore’s gruesome social media campaign – waged primarily on Instagram – throughout the build-up to this fight, Williams-Gallimore is set to go off as fierce contest of skill versus will.
In the 1989 comedy-drama Harlem Nights slick young hustler Vernest “Quick” Brown (Eddie Murphy) brazenly clarifies his nickname to crooked cop Phil Cantone (Danny Aiello), “Quick like in quick to whip somebody’s ass.”
Cantone instantly counters back with, “Or you mean like you might get your ass whipped, quick?”
Williams, not surprisingly, isn’t backing down from Gallimore’s internet trolling and press conference tough talk, and his track record suggests that he could possibly outbox the Jamaican-born Chicagoan Saturday and kick his a__.
J Rock is far less vocal than he was during his pursuit of his first world title shot with former IBF super welterweight champion Jermall Charlo, but he has stated that his game plan is to box, and take Gallimore into the proverbial deep waters. He even claims that the fight could end in the 10th round.
Gallimore doesn’t believe him, pointing to the fact the wide margins of the judges’ cards for Williams’ 10-round unanimous decision over 39-year old Ishe Smith belied the Philadelphia native’s performance failed to convincingly vanquish the determined vet.
Gallimore enters the fight riding a streak of seven consecutive knockouts, including the athletic Justin DeLoach back in July of 2017. Williams isn’t overlooking Gallimore, and probably doesn’t make the mistake of getting into an early shootout with him. The key development to look for through the first few rounds is how Williams gets into his offense while disrupting Gallimore’s attack. Regarding Gallimore, is there any patience mixed in with his aggression? Apparently he can bring the heat, but is his off-speed stuff developed enough to create openings for the big shots to cut short J Rock’s intention to take the fight deep?
At the end of Harlem Nights the “ready for action” Quick got the best of Cantone by employing deception crafted with brain power – not by using his firepower. This was possible because Quick deferred to his mentor “Sugar” Ray (Richard Pryor). I look for trainer John Pullman to guide Gallimore to becoming the mandatory to the Lara/Hurd winner.