It’s Tuesday and that means another episode of our weekly installment “Rising Stars in Boxing.” This week our analysts Kid Hersh and Matt Andrzejewski zero in on two hot prospects, both undefeated, who hail from strange places on the map. Accokeek, Maryland, is the hometown of Jarrett Hurd while Caleb Plant comes from Ashland City, Tennessee, a “city” that in actually is a small town, albeit considered part of a larger metropolitan area. Hersh gets us started with a look at young Mr. Hurd, a fast rising contender in the 154-pound division.
Jarrett “Swift Hurd’s (18-0, 12 KO’s) boxing story is not the very first of its kind but an interesting one nonetheless. It’s fascinating how in this sport a man can go from near obscurity to being nationally recognized in the blink of an eye. That is exactly what happened to Jarrett when last November he burst onto the scene with an impressive stoppage victory on ShoBox.
Jarrett did not have a lengthy or decorated amateur career. The highlight of it was winning the 2008 Nationals, only to go on and lose in the 2009 Golden Gloves. His amateur days were over and so he decided to get a regular job. By regular job I mean at Safeway, about as regular as a guy can get. It was at Safeway when Hurd got the phone call that changed his life in 2010. His longtime friend, mentor, and trainer Thomas Browner was dead.
It was at Browner’s funeral that another disciple and fighter of Browner’s, Ernesto Rodriguez, asked Jarrett when he was coming back to the gym. Just like that, Swift put in his two weeks notice and went back to the gym full time. Rodriguez told him to give it six years, that being the amount of time that he should be breaking through if he hadn’t already.
Fast forward five years and sixteen fights later and “Swift” was getting a chance on ShoBox as a main event fighter after Gary Russell Jr vs Oscar Escandon fell off due to Russell suffering a cut in training camp. The chance was here, the moment Jarrett had been waiting for.
Hurd came into the Frank Galarza fight as the underdog. The 30-year-old Galarza had proven himself on the network numerous times — in particular his head snapping knockout of the undefeated John Thompson who went on to win the Boxcino tournament on ESPN after Galarza blew him away in less than two rounds.
What unfolded was not what many people had in mind as Hurd busted up Galarza from the outside and inside from the body to the head. Galarza suffered the first knockdown of his career from an uppercut in the fourth round and despite getting up he really did not want to continue by the look on his face. Then in the sixth round he turned his back on Hurd instead of taking more punishment, effectively ending the fight. Susan Sarandon, who was ringside and a big supporter of Galarza, was in shock like most of us.
Heard caught another break when the match between Jesus Cuellar and Abner Mares fell off the televised portion of the highly anticipated fight between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Hurd and another undefeated fighter, Oscar Molina, were tabbed to fill the void. Hurd was matched tough, but he took full advantage again, dropping Molina with his now signature punch (the uppercut) and out-boxing him for the late (premature) stoppage victory in the tenth and final round.
Hurd has officially blasted onto the scene and is now fairly well known in boxing circles just from his impressive showings in his previous two bouts. His fighting style reminds this writer of the late great Diego “Chico” Corrales as he uses his long frame to get leverage and can fight either on the outside or the inside, although he does seem to prefer those uppercuts. – KID HERSH
Caleb “Sweet Hands” Plant has quickly become one of boxing’s top young fighters. This Super Middleweight prospect and former US Olympic boxing alternate has built an impressive early pro career record of 14-0 with 10 knockouts. Plant has also aligned himself with Al Haymon and already been featured several times in PBC televised slots.
Plant has faced his share of adversity in life. He endured a tough childhood in a poverty stricken area in Tennessee. At an early age, Plant turned to boxing as a refuge and built a solid amateur foundation. He would turn pro in 2014 and enjoyed some early success before tragedy struck his life. Plant’s 19 month old daughter, Alia, passed away from a rare medical condition shortly after Plant’s fifth professional fight. Despite the hardships he has faced in his life, Plant has pressed forward in the ring with a determination of one day becoming a champion.
In his last bout on August 23rd, Plant fought in his first nationally televised main event against Columbian veteran Juan De Angel who sported a record of 18-4 with 17 wins coming by way of knockout. On paper De Angel represented the most dangerous opponent to date for Plant.
Plant started somewhat cautiously, possibly wary of the Columbian’s power, but picked the pace up as the bout progressed. Plant would drop De Angel in the 4th and showcased good boxing skills as well as good defense down the stretch. He would go the full ten round distance for the first time in his career and win decisively, pitching a shutout on the cards of the judges.
The nickname “Sweet Hands” is very appropriate for Plant. His hand speed is probably his best trait. Though he doesn’t possess devastating one punch power, Plant has very heavy hands and his punches seem to take an accumulative effect on his opponents. As he demonstrated in his last bout against De Angel, Plant is very fundamentally sound. He moves his head well and is very slick inside the ring not making himself an easy target for his opponents to reach.
One of the biggest critiques of Plant is he seemingly lacks a killer instinct. In his last fight, Plant had De Angel dropped and hurt in the 4th but did not step it up to finish him. And though he was outclassing De Angel, Plant fought cautiously and basically took what was given; it certainly appeared he could do much more.
Super Middleweight is a pretty deep division right now with many good young fighters in the top ten. Plant is quickly moving up the ranks and should shortly be contending with the division’s elite. There will be a lot of good fights to be made at 168 and Plant certainly figures to be involved in the not-so-distant future. – MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI