“That fight let me know I need a Plan A all the way to Z this time,” Hurd said in a telephone interview this week. “If one thing’s not working, I need to go out and switch it up instead of just trying that one thing harder.”
Nine months later — the lengthiest inactive stretch of his career — Hurd (23-1, 16 knockouts) has reemerged for a bout against Francisco Santana (25-7-1, 12 KOs) on Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. He has a different trainer and training-camp site, a new home and an updated haircut — the familiar frosted-blond locks are no more.
The most significant adjustments have been adding trainer Kay Koroma, an assistant on the U.S. Olympic boxing team, and moving camp from the D.C. area to the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs. Koroma replaced Ernesto Rodriguez, who had worked with Hurd for 12 years.
The separation between Hurd, 29, and Rodriguez unfolded unexpectedly, according to Hurd, who recounted a text message he received from his mother, Brenda, while on vacation in Mexico shortly after losing to Williams.
Hurd’s mother wanted to bring to her son’s attention unflattering remarks Rodriguez had made about him in a YouTube interview. When Hurd came home, he and Rodriguez met to discuss whether they should continue their partnership. Rodriguez, Hurd indicated, decided it was in his best interest to part ways.
“It was all some type of way he felt about me and the team,” Hurd said. “I don’t know why he felt that way, but that’s the way it happened.”
Fortunately for Hurd, he had forged a relationship with Koroma, a former professional boxer and longtime Washington-area resident who conducts training sessions out of Alexandria Boxing Club — not far from Hillcrest Heights Boxing Club, where Hurd normally works out.
Working with Koroma for the first time compelled Hurd to postpone exercising his contractual right to an immediate rematch with Williams. Instead, he took the Santana fight before seeking an opportunity to regain a title.
“The big strategy is for Jarrett Hurd to get a win again,” Koroma said. “Get comfortable again, getting his hand raised again, getting comfortable getting in that ring again and getting comfortable with some of the things he’s not used to doing. A win is a major thing for Jarrett right now. It builds that confidence back up.”
Hurd, by his admission, had grown a little too cozy with the trappings of being a world champion, leading to an incomplete in-ring blueprint for the Williams fight. For one thing, training locally brought distractions.
In Colorado Springs, Hurd was able to unplug from obligations of family and friends and focus on reclaiming the moxie that had transformed him into one of the sport’s most promising fighters, especially after a thrilling win against Erislandy Lara that was voted fight of the year in 2018 by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Hurd also was living in his family home even after the Lara fight and its subsequent $500,000 in prize money, but that arrangement has changed in the past year. With his mother’s blessing, Hurd moved to Upper Marlboro, roughly a half-hour drive from Accokeek.
“I think the benefit of being away from home is you really get to find out who you are as a person,” Koroma said. “Being in a whole other environment that you’ve never been around, coming to Colorado, training among some Olympians, it was great for him because he pushed himself. It was huge for him to clear his mind.”