Well, we can’t say he didn’t warn us.
After a tough decision loss to Julian Williams last May, Jarret Hurd made sweeping changes to his life, both personal and professional. He moved out of his parents’ house, cut off his signature blonde hair, and hired trainer Kay Koroma, professing a desire to get hit less and mitigate the long term effects getting punched in the head can have on one’s neurological health.
Now, that last part is completely understandable. Not having to piss into a diaper or have a computer talk for you should be a rather attainable goal for any 29 year old, but it’s hard not to see how “my fights are probably gonna be pretty boring from now on” might not be the best way to inspire confidence in your fan base.
(Not to mention, “I’m almost 30 and finally got my own place and, oh yeah, my hair doesn’t look like Chinese food anymore” are insanely weird things to brag about, but let’s move on.)
Boxing requires constant adjustments, both micro and macro, but this feels like a massive over-correction on Hurd’s part. Williams is a damn fine fighter and losing to him shouldn’t, and doesn’t require a massive resetting of the table. Someone has to lose, and for a young fighter there’s wisdom to be gained from a loss like the one Hurd suffered to Williams. Adding bricks to the building is possible without tearing down the foundation.
Hurd’s desire to overhaul his fighting style is reminiscent of the 2009-2010 Washington Capitals. Coming off a 121 point season that saw them take home the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best regular season team, the run-and-gun Capitals put up a whopping 318 goals over the course of 82 games and waltzed to a 3-1 series lead over a just-happy-to-be-there Montreal Canadiens in round one of the playoffs.
And then it happened.
It being Jaroslav Halak, Montreal’s unheralded goaltender.
Halak put up respectable numbers in the regular season and in game one of the series, but looked anything but unbeatable in 6-5 and 5-1 losses in games two and three. However, goaltending is voodoo and Halak decided to turn into Domink fucking Hasek for the remaining three games of the series. He conceded a minuscule three goals while making 132 saves, including a tour de force 53 stop performance in 4-1 game six win.
The Canadiens shockingly dispatched the Capitals in seven games and went on to lose to Philadelphia in the conference finals as Halak turned back into a pumpkin.
The Capitals, however, went into full blown panic mode. A complete organizational shift in culture went into effect over the following season, as their high-octane, up-tempo style of play was deemed incapable of winning in a playoff setting. The result was multiple seasons of declining results from a team with no discernible identity. Muting the natural tendencies of their offensive-minded core only served to exacerbate their woes and handcuffed a team far more accustomed to scoring goals than stopping them.
So what’s the point of all this hockey talk on a world-renowned boxing blog? I mean, other than upping our word count to avoid having to talk about this god damn snoozefest of fight? The point is, instead of chalking up their series loss to a statistical anomaly and the stochastic nature of a random sport, the Capitals unnecessarily course-corrected and set themselves back years.
Just as no team on earth was beating Halak in the final three games of that series, no fighter in or around junior middleweight was beating Williams that night in Fairfax, Va. last May. It happens. You can’t plan for it and sometimes the toughest decision to make is the one to stand pat and trust the process. Dance with the date you came with, so to speak. You can sneak off under the bleachers with the girl in the Judas Priest tank top but you might just end up with herpes or even worse, something called a relationship.
All of this would be moot if the results in the ring left anything of note to speak. Against career welterweight and nominal underdog Francisco Santana, Hurd scored a near shutout this weekend in a forgettable affair that had the fans at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn raining down the boos midway through the fight.
When a fight veers more toward the tactical side we tend to refer to it as a “glorified sparring session” or some variation of that idiom, but this wasn’t even worthy of the modifier. This was a fighter incapable of turning things around versus one simply uninterested in doing so.
Hurd did manage to drop Santana in the closing moments of the fight but was unable to close the show. Scores of 99-90, 99-90 and 97-92 made the result official but the boos and audible dissatisfaction of the crowd told the real story.
Hurd has the right to fight however he wants and run his career in whichever way he sees fit. Hopefully the lackluster win over Santana was simply growing pains and this new, cautious outlook is simply added to Hurd’s existing arsenal rather than replacing it altogether.
You’re gonna hit a hot goalie every now and then and you just might be on the wrong end of a guy fighting the fight of his life. Shit happens and chaos reigns. We are who we are.
Hurd has been one of the most exciting and popular young fighters in the sport over the last few years and it’s because of who he is.
Hopefully that version of Hurd isn’t now simply who he was.
(Santana, left, Hurd, right; Amanda Westcott, Showtime)