When you step back and take a look you do realise that Cuba has had a terrible year or so in boxing. All through the weight divisions from Ortiz to Rigondeaux from Barthelemy to Dorticos if there is truly is a Cuban school it is most certainly in detention. Though these setbacks have occurred at the highest level, and in boxing someone always needs to walk away the loser there isn’t the same widespread fear throughout the fight game that are the next to get Cuban schooled. In times of need Cuba is going to rely on one of their most reliable, if not profitable stalwart. For more than five years Erislandy Lara 25 (15 KOs)-2 (0 KO)-2 has been the epitome of Cuban boxing, reaping all its rewards but equally suffering under its curse.
If you want to know what a stereotypically Cuban fighter is, look at Lara. A sharp counter punching southpaw who uses excellent footwork to evade trading on the inside to keep the fight at range. If you’ve just tuned into boxing for the first time I wouldn’t recommend watching Lara if you want that Mike Tyson excitement, because Lara is more of a fine wine than a vodka shot, you need to really pay attention to understand the facets of his game, because on first glance he can appear simply boring. What Lara does better than almost every other fighter out there is he uses his own shots to give him an escape route when he feels like his back is near the ropes. For example he will often use his lead hand to either blind the opponent or get lead hand control and then he’ll throw a straight left, after this he will step out to his left and reset. He can do the exact same thing using a right hook and pivoting outside the lead foot of the opponent to his right. He’s always been a safety first fighter so you shouldn’t expect a Gatti Ward war tonight, but while his fights don’t always produce major drama, fights against Canelo and Angulo provided excellent style matchups that were far from boring. Lara has always been on the short end of the stick from the judges, is it his style, is it favouritism, it’s unclear but what you can say in that with two draws and two losses Lara has yet to be soundly beaten.
This is the task for fast rising IBF Light- Middlweight champion Jarrett Hurd 21 (15 KOs)-0-0, if the best fights with Lara are against fighters who have a completely different style then maybe this will turn out to be an under the radar cracker, because Hurd is definitely not Lara. Hurd’s biggest advantage is his size. He is an absolutely massive 154 pounder, he towers over Lara, and he makes full use of his size if not reach. Hurd is most definitely a pressure fighter, he can take shots in fights early like he did against Austin Trout and Tony Harrison and be outboxed, but it’s in the later rounds when he comes into his own. When the opponent tires and the foot movement slows Hurd moves in and starts swinging on the inside. Not the most aesthetically pleasing to watch, as he’s definitely not as sharp as Lara, but he is effective as he can mix it to head and body.
Most fights you come into with a reasonable idea of what each fighter will try to do to get the win but in this case I’d be absolutely shocked if anything other than Hurd coming forward and Lara going back took place. For Lara he really should hope to get Hurd’s respect early with that left hand, because it was the lack of respect as opposed to lack of boxing skill that eventually spelled trouble for Trout. Fast movement and precise shots are what are needed from the Cuban, and it’s a massive plus that Lara is always in shape, so shouldn’t gas too greatly down the stretch. As for Hurd he’s got to go to the body early to slow the movement, and be prepared to lose the opening rounds to catch up to Lara later, even if he’s losing the rounds he needs to make Lara work for every second.
As a final prediction I’d say Lara should pull this one out of the bag, Hurd does have the style and physicality to give Lara problems especially late, but Lara being so fit, sharp and a deceptively good puncher he should have enough to keep Hurd honest and earn a unanimous decision.
On the undercard Julian Williams 24 (15 KOs)-1(1 KO)-1 is slowly rebuilding his career following a knockout loss to Jermall Charlo against relatively unknown Nathanial Gallimore 20 (17 KOs)-1 (0 KOs)-1. Also on the card is Britain’s James Degale 23 (14 KOs)-2 (0 KOs)-1 who is in a cross roads fight and must look good against Caleb Truax 29 (18 KOs)-3 (2 KOS)-2 who he unexpectedly lost to in December last year the IBF Super- Middleweight title.