True clarity within any one of professional boxing’s 17 weight classes can be an incredibly rare thing in this era.
Outside of junior welterweight champion, which saw all four recognized titles at 140 pounds reside in the hands of one man for the first time in history since the dawn of the four-belt system in the late 1980s, the breakdown of power within most divisions is shared.
But Saturday’s tripleheader from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET), featuring a trio of 154-pound title bouts, offers a significant step forward within the junior middleweight division in terms of finding out who is for real.
Let’s take a closer look at the three matchups, including a prediction of who wins:
Erislandy Lara (c) (24-2-2, 14 KOs) vs. Terrell Gausha (20-0, 9 KOs)
Outside of Canelo Alvarez, the 34-year-old Lara has been the class of the division for short of a decade. While not one for excitement outside of the rare times he has been pushed to the limit by an aggressive fighter who can take his stiff counter shots (i.e. Alfredo Angulo), the former Cuban amateur star remains an incredibly difficult puzzle to figure out due to his slickness and footwork.
Gausha, 30, was a decorated amateur in his own right for the United States, but has yet to face anyone remotely close to the level of Lara, who has made five title defenses and fought a litany of top fighters at 154 pounds. Unfortunately for Gausha, a 2012 Olympian who has gone to the scorecards in five of his last six bouts, he also doesn’t have the kind of power to give Lara a scare, even if he is successful in cutting off the ring.
Prediction: Lara by UD12
Jermell Charlo (c) (29-0, 14 KOs) vs. Erickson Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs)
Lara may find himself in the main event because of his name and long-standing atop the division, but it’s a toss-up between the next two regarding what’s the best fight on the card. What’s also up for debate, once the division’s hierarchy is further fleshed out is whether we’ll find out if Charlo was the best fighter all along.
Charlo, 27, the twin brother of former 154-pound titlist Jermall Charlo who recently moved up to middleweight, has shown flashes of a complete arsenal as an athletic boxer-puncher with a future ahead of him among the pound-for-pound best in the sport.
Known initially as the Charlo brother who may be more of a pure boxer than a big puncher, Jermell has repealed that label significantly with a pair of destructive knockouts against John Jackson and Charles Hatley.
But Charlo will be facing no slouch in fellow unbeaten Lubin. The only question remains whether the 22-year-old, nicknamed “The Hammer,” is taking the fight too soon in his progression after turning pro out of high school just four years ago.
Lubin, who was initially promoted by Mike Tyson, has everything from good power to a marketable smile. But this is a significant leap into the deep end of the pool. While Lubin has steadily stepped up his class and stayed active to the tune of seven victories over the past two years, not a single opponent presented the talent and danger of Charlo.
Ultimately, Lubin’s willingness to find out right now how great he can be brings a certain extra level of drama to the fight. It might ultimately become his undoing just the same considering Charlo’s blend of speed and pop.
Prediction: Charlo by TKO8
Jarrett Hurd (c) (20-0, 14 KOs) vs. Austin Trout (30-3, 17 KOs)
There’s a real crossroads element to this fight when you consider the deficit in experience that Swift will face against the former champion Trout, who has faced every top fighter in the division from Alvarez to Lara.
Trout, 31, feels reborn following a career-long layoff of 17 months. And if there’s a moral victory to be had in losing, Trout gave then-titlist Jermall Charlo everything he could handle in a close decision loss last year.
A calculated boxer with a defensive base as a southpaw, Trout has shown a strong enough chin to give big punchers a problem and has never been stopped in his career. That’s why Hurd, 27, will need to show more than just athleticism and explosion in order to defeat the most accomplished opponent he has yet to face in his five-year career.
Hurd, nicknamed “Swift,” looked ultra impressive in stopping Tony Harrison in February to claim the vacant title and is currently riding a six-fight knockout streak overall against quality opponents. How well he can play chess against Trout and deal with a tricky style will go a long way in proving whether he’s ready for the big time.
Prediction: Trout by UD12