For the past seven months Jarrett Hurd has kept a low profile in the aftermath of his first defeat, which seemed to take a far greater toll on him mentally than physically.
In May, Accokeek, Maryland’s Hurd entered the ring in front of a home region crowd a half-hour away in Fairfax, Virginia, as an undefeated unified junior middleweight titleholder in what was supposed to be a celebratory homecoming.
But Julian “J Rock” Williams had other ideas. He dropped Hurd in the second round and won the action-packed fight to take his two titles belts by unanimous decision. Hurd exercised his contractual right to a rematch that was supposed to have taken place Dec. 14, but Hurd changed his mind and essentially disappeared.
He reemerged Wednesday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, for the kickoff news conference for his return against Francisco Santana, which will take place at the arena Jan. 25 (Showtime) as the co-feature to the welterweight title eliminator between former two-division titlist Danny Garcia and Ivan Redkach.
In the opening TV bout, Stephen Fulton (17-0, 8 KOs), 25, of Philadelphia, meets Arnold Khegai (16-0-1, 10 KOs), 27, of Ukraine, in a junior featherweight title eliminator.
Hurd came with a new look — gone was the bright blond, long hair replaced by a closer cropped cut of his natural brown hair — and news that he was now being trained by Kay Koroma after having parted ways with longtime trainer Ernesto Rodriguez soon after the Williams bout.
“This is my first time doing interviews since I fought Julian Williams. Last time I was up here I was an undefeated fighter and then I suffered my first loss,” Hurd said.
Then Hurd explained why he decided to forgo the immediate sequel.
“We had the rematch set up for this December, but with me going through a switch in trainers and still in the process of searching, I wasn’t in condition for it,” Hurd said. “It was the hardest thing possible to not take the rematch, much harder than taking it.”
Instead, Hurd said he has been in training camp getting used to Koroma, a former U.S. amateur national team coach and trainer of featherweight titlist Shakur Stevenson.
“I’ve been training in Colorado with Kay Koroma and getting away from everything,” Hurd said. “We’re focused strictly on boxing. I cut the hair off, too, because I was just ready for a change. The work so far is showing me how much work I have left to do and how much room I have to grow.
“I will stay at 154 pounds and fight for my titles again. I’m not looking past Francisco Santana because he’s a great fighter. I’m working hard to get back to the old me. This is the fighter who was put in front of me. He has the style that we were looking for with my having my first fight with my new trainer. I had some time out of a gym after the Williams fight but now we’re going strong toward Jan. 25.”
Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs), 29, rejected the idea suggested by some that he wasn’t focused on Williams and perhaps distracted by the hoopla of defending his title at home, something he relished.
“I would never say I overlooked Julian Williams. There’s no excuses,” Hurd said. “Julian was the better man that night. When I look back there were probably some things that could have affected me, but Julian deserved to win the fight.
“I don’t know if I’m a better fighter now, but the loss opened my eyes to some things. My new coach has really opened my eyes to some things that I need to work on — using my jab more and my footwork specifically. I look back at my fights and realize that I won those fights on pure heart and determination. We’re doing things different this time and working behind strategy and skills.”
Santana (25-7-1, 12 KOs), 33, of Santa Barbara, California, has been in many hard fights, lost three of his past four and is coming off a decision loss to Abel Ramos in March. He’s also moving up in weight to face one of the biggest junior middleweights anyone will ever lay eyes on. On paper, Santana looks like easy work for Hurd, but he said he’s determined to pull the upset.
“This is my Super Bowl,” Santana said. “When someone calls and presents an opportunity like this, you can’t turn it down. To fight against one of the biggest names in the division, that’s hard to say no to. Of course, I’m going to step up to the plate and on Jan. 25 I’m going to show everyone the definition of never giving up on a dream.
“I’ve had setbacks like Jarrett and I’ve picked myself up and rose to the occasion time and time again. On Jan. 25 I’m going to fight with every ounce of spirit that I have in me so I can go on and become a world champion. I know that everyone is giving me zero chance come fight night. But that’s OK. I read the comments and what people say. It’s all good. My team believes in me and I believe in myself.”
In the main event, Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs), 31, of Philadelphia, will fight at Barclays Center for the eighth time since the building opened in 2012, as he looks to stay on course for another major fight, which could come in the spring against either unified titlist Errol Spence Jr. or titleholder Manny Pacquiao.
“I’ve fought in a quarter of the events here at Barclays Center, so you could say this is my house. I’ve had some historic fights in here,” Garcia said at the news conference. “I love walking in the tunnels and seeing my pictures next to Jay-Z, DMX and Rihanna. If the top welterweights want to fight me, I’ll be ready whenever. Redkach makes a lot of sense because he’s a southpaw and that would have me ready for Errol Spence Jr. or Manny Pacquiao.
“We picked Redkach because he’s dangerous and we knew he’d be tough. I’m definitely not overlooking him. I’m training hard for this fight. For me, this is a big fight. If I overlook him, it could ruin everything.”
Since a losing three of four fights in 2016 and 2017, Ukraine’s Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs), 33, who fights out of Los Angeles, has won three in a row and is coming off a spectacular sixth-round knockout of former titlist Devon Alexander in June.
“I accept the opportunity with honor and I want to thank Danny Garcia for taking the fight,” Redkach said. “The victory over Devon Alexander was important because he was a well-known opponent. Winning in the fashion that I did catapulted me to where I am right now. Danny made a mistake if he thinks this is a tune-up. I’m going to give everyone a great fight and we’ll see what happens on Jan. 25.”