As the doors opened to the Prince George’s County Council meeting room, dozens of family members and friends spilled into the seating area for prime viewing of a ceremony recognizing one of the most promising fighters in boxing.
Council member Mel Franklin stepped to the lectern and declared of the freshly minted unified champion seated in the front row with his parents and trainer, “If Seat Pleasant has Kevin Durant, then Accokeek has Jarrett Hurd.”
Hurd has yet to reach the heights of the Golden State Warriors superstar with well-known ties to the D.C. area, but the comparison is hardly as far-fetched as the trajectory of Hurd’s career. A would-be firefighter and former Safeway deli-counter staffer who didn’t fight professionally until 22 is — a little more than five years later — just the seventh boxer to unify title belts in the history of the 154-pound weight class.
“It’s definitely life-changing. It’s overwhelming,” Hurd said after the festivities last week at the county administration building in Upper Marlboro, Md. “It’s a lot to take in, but at the end of the day, the guy I am, I’m ready for it.”
Hurd defended his International Boxing Federation super welterweight belt and added the World Boxing Association title with a dramatic victory over Erislandy Lara on April 7 in Las Vegas. Lara was making his sixth title defense. Hurd entered the 12th and final round trailing on all three of the judges’ scorecards, but he scored a knockdown on a devastating left hook with 37 seconds remaining and won via split decision.
That made Hurd the latest in a distinguished line of unified champions with ties to Prince George’s County, following the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, who grew up in Palmer Park, and Fort Washington’s Riddick Bowe.
He also banked his largest payday to date: a tidy $500,000, a portion of which he said might go toward a new house. Hurd has been living at his parents’ residence since the days when his mother agreed to provide financial assistance for his boxing career until he turned 25.
That Hurd (22-0, 15 knockouts) has ascended this briskly to the pinnacle of his division is all the more improbable given his relatively late start in the sport. But his father, Fred Hurd Sr., who introduced his son to the sport, recalled thinking Jarrett could be special the first time he stepped into a ring for a sparring session roughly a decade ago.
The sparring partner was none other than Gary Russell Jr., the Capitol Heights featherweight who holds the World Boxing Council belt at 126 pounds and whose only loss came to Vasyl Lomachenko, who is considered among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. With trainer Tom Browner looking on, Hurd more than held his own against Russell, an episode his mother, Brenda, still beams about when recounting.
“He went through the whole rounds without getting knocked down or anything,” Brenda Hurd said, emphasizing her son was going toe-to-toe with a former Olympian, “and Tom was like, ‘Okay, I definitely want to work more with him.’ ”
Said Fred Hurd Sr., who worked in The Washington Post mailroom for three decades, “We knew then Jarrett had a talent.”
Browner trained Jarrett Hurd during his initial foray into boxing, but by his admission, Hurd didn’t work as hard at the craft as he should have and eventually stopped fighting for a brief period following his graduation from Gwynn Park High.
During the interlude, Browner died at age 70. Shortly thereafter, Hurd decided to give the sport another crack and turned to Ernesto Rodriguez, one of Browner’s associates whose full-time job is with the Metro Transit Police Department.
“He was relatively green, but we knew he had heart,” Rodriguez said of Hurd’s early years in boxing. “That’s one of the things you look for in a young fighter: Does he have the heart and the dedication and the commitment to compete in this sport?”
Hurd has shown indefatigable spirit and a granite jaw during his ascent. In his first defense of the IBF title, against Austin Trout on Oct. 14, Hurd absorbed repeated blows and was trailing on two of three scorecards through seven rounds. He continued to move forward, demonstrating little if any sign of damage, and punished Trout to such a degree that Trout’s trainer was lobbying to end the fight before the ringside doctor recommended the same thing — and referee Eddie Claudio obliged — following the 10th round. It was Hurd’s seventh consecutive victory by knockout or his opponent failing to answer the bell.
“I believe there’s still a lot of Jarrett that people haven’t seen,” Rodriguez said. “He’s still learning on the job. It’s something that we work on at the gym every day. With the new fights coming up, depending on the opponents we have, you’ll be able to see a different Jarrett Hurd, and the sky’s the limit. I think we’re just beginning, still have much more to conquer.”
After dispatching Lara, Hurd can turn to his next professional aspiration: taking the World Boxing Council championship from Jermell Charlo. Coincidentally, Charlo’s twin brother, Jermall, had an indirect role in Hurd’s transformation from obscure fighter to champion: In February 2017, a little more than a week before Hurd was to fight Tony Harrison, Jermall Charlo moved up in weight class and vacated his IBF title at 154 pounds. That made Hurd vs. Harrison a title fight, which Hurd won with a ninth-round TKO.
Still, Hurd and his team aren’t in any particular hurry to get a contract signed to fight Jermell Charlo. Rodriguez indicated he and Team Hurd instead are looking perhaps to Kell Brook as the next opponent. Brook is the former IBF welterweight champion who recently moved up to 154 pounds after consecutive losses, both via knockout, to Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence Jr. at 147.
“It’s definitely a fight that’s going to happen,” Rodriguez said of facing Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs). “Is it going to happen the very next fight? Probably not, but I think it may be after the next fight. Kell Brook was one of the fighters that called us out. In the last four fights, we had three southpaws, so we need to go ahead and start working on right-handed and get proficient again. Going into a fight with a guy like Charlo, you want to be at your best. You don’t want to be working on proficiency.”
With his next fight not likely until the fall, Hurd has plenty of time to search for a prime piece of real estate.
But no matter where he lives, he’ll always call Accokeek home.
“I was just looking for a starter home. Now I’m picturing maybe I should get an even bigger house,” he said, triggering a laugh from his mother. “At the end of the day, I’m just blessed, and let’s see what the future holds.”