Lara faces Hurd in junior middleweight title fight

April 6, 2018

LAS VEGAS (AP) World champions Erislandy Lara and Jarrett Hurd will square off in a unification bout in one of boxing's deepest divisions at 154 pounds Saturday night.

WBA champion Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs) and IBF belt holder Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs) will meet for the sixth unification bout in junior middleweight division history. The winner of Lara-Hurd will join Hall of Famers Terry Norris, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Winky Wright, as well as Canelo Alvarez, as the only fighters to unify 154-pound titles.

Lara is the longest reigning titlist at 154 pounds.

''I have to give Hurd credit for taking the fight as it's been hard to get fighters in the ring with me,'' said Lara, who won the WBA title in 2014 and is making his sixth defense. ''Everyone knows I love to fight his style. I've fought better and taller fighters than him and you've seen me dominate them.''

The 34-year-old Lara currently resides in Houston. A native of Cuba, Lara was the favorite to win gold at the 2008 Olympic Games, but defected earlier that year. Lara's only two career losses are to Alvarez and Paul Williams.

The 27-year-old Hurd is a come-forward, aggressive fighter. In his first IBF defense he knocked out Austin Trout last October. Hurd won the world crown with a knockout of Tony Harrison earlier in 2017. Hurd has knocked out the last seven opponents.

''Lara has been the longest reigning champion and he was on top when I first turned pro,'' Hurd said. ''We've studied him a lot. I didn't get into this sport to be anything but No. 1, and Lara is the top guy.

''This fight is coming at the right time for me because my confidence is very high right now. He's a little older, so I'll be the younger and fresher fighter. I just feel like it's my time. I'm going to be relentless. I'm not stopping until I get what I want.''

In the co-feature, IBF super middleweight champ Caleb Truax and former champion James DeGale meet in an immediate rematch of what many thought was the upset of the year in 2017. In addition, super welterweight contenders Julian Williams and Nathaniel Gallimore will face off in an IBF 154-pound world title eliminator.

The fights will be televised live on Showtime (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) and take place at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

DeGale, 32, is looking to win back his IBF belt at 168 pounds he lost as a 14-1 favorite against Truax in DeGale's hometown of London last December.

''My last performance was horrendous,'' said DeGale (23-2-1 14 KOs), who added he came back too early from reconstructive shoulder surgery. ''It was shocking and embarrassing. I'm not going to make excuses about my shoulder and what went wrong. I know what was wrong with me and why I performed how I did in the first fight. I'm going to put it to rest when I become a world champion again.''

The 34-year-old Truax (29-3-2, 18 KOs) is only the fourth boxer from Minnesota to have won a world title.

''I've been through a lot in this sport,'' said Truax,. ''I've fought top guys in big fights, but it finally came together last December. It meant a lot to me and now I'm prepared to put on an even better performance. I know DeGale is going to be hungry, so I have to be ready for him.''

Williams is 24-1-1 with 15 KOs, while Gallimore (20-1-1, 17 KOs) has won seven consecutive fights by knockout.