We were treated to a couple of great fights this weekend, two of which took place in, and shifted the landscape of the Junior Middleweight division. Due to the results in recent fights, let’s take some time and look over a few of the talents at 154 pounds and assess some of their (apparent) strengths and weaknesses. Today we will be looking at, from my perspective, a handful of the top fighters in the division in no particular order.
Jarrett Hurd (22-0 15KO)– Hurd is the man of the hour at 154 pounds. He is coming off of a career best win over long-reigning Champion Erislandy Lara. Hurd has a big frame for the division, and chin made of granite. His assets lie in his work rate and stamina. Hurd throws enough punches in every round to keep his opponents honest, has enough power to warrant respect and walks through his opponent’s offense seemingly with ease. He’s going to be a tough one to handle for anybody at Junior Middleweight for as long as he can make the weight. I also see one of his greatest assets, his chin, being his eventual undoing. There are some strong punchers are Junior Middleweight, and far stronger at Middleweight. I’m curious to see how Hurd reacts when they start teeing off on him. In any case, Hurd proved beyond a doubt his is elite quality!
Erislandy Lara (25-3-2 14KO)– Lara was given the third loss of his career last weekend against Jarrett Hurd. All three of those losses were inconclusive and arguably could have gone either way. This difference this weekend wasn’t apparent until about 30 seconds before the end of the fight, when Lara was knocked to the canvas in the final round. The knockdown caused a split decision victory for Hurd, without the knockdown the fight would have been a draw. Perhaps father time is catching Lara, perhaps the styles favored Hurd more. Either way, the slick, sharp counter punching Lara is still a tough matchup for anybody in the division.
Jermell Charlo (30-0 15KO)– Of all of the fighters on this list, Charlo appears have the most natural talent. He is riding a 4-fight knockout streak, and at only 27 years old, still could have plenty of time left to perfect his craft. He is also big for the weight class, and uses his size effectively. The unanswered questions about Charlo concern how he looks versus elite opposition, and how he reacts when somebody with concussive power connects on his chin. His record is impressive, however to get a true gauge of his abilities I would like to see him against Hurd or Lara (His upcoming bout against Austin Trout will give us a better idea of how he is progressing).
Maciej Sulecki (26-0 10KO)– This is the sleeper of the list. Sulecki has a way of winning and making it look meant to be. Is his matches against Hugo Centeno and Jack Culcay he was able to nullify their offense while getting enough work in to wear them down. In Centeno’s case, Sulecki grinded him down until a TKO victory was awarded. His strengths are his boxing acumen, height and ability to be defensive without clinching/running excessively. The biggest weakness I see is his apparent lack of concussive punching power. His next bout will be fought at the Middleweight limit against Daniel Jacobs at the end of April. There is no word if he will be returning to Junior Middleweight after the fight.
Julian Williams (25-1-1 15KO)– “J Rock” saw action this weekend against dangerous puncher Nathaniel Gallimore. While I think his transitions from defense to offense could have been a bit smoother, he did a phenomenal job nullifying Gallimore’s weapons, taking all of the steam out of his punches and walking him down. Williams is a true student of the game, and he and his team take a very analytical approach to their plan. Brains, hard work and technical skill make for a potent contender, and Williams is exactly that.
There are more solid caliber fighters in the division (Liam Smith, Kell Brook, Sadam Ali) but I think these five are a lock for the top. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, via email PugilistsParadise@columnist.com or on Twitter @TheGreatToddMan