The parallels between Tony Harrison and Jarrett Hurd are many. Maybe not quite to the dimensions of the Abraham Lincoln-John F. Kennedy commonalities, but certainly enough to make for an intriguing 154-pound world title fight.
Both Harrison and Hurd are lean 6-foot-1 boxer-punchers who share a 76½-inch reach, and each right-hander has relied on a combination of speed, power and athleticism to climb the ranks. The 26-year-old contenders nearly share the same birthday even, with Hurd being older by just six days.
With so much in common, it’s not surprising that there’s no clear-cut favorite in the contest for a vacant 154-pound world title between Tony Harrison (24-1, 20 KOs) and Jarrett Hurd (19-0, 13 KOs) Saturday night at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama (FOX, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
The bout, which is the co-main event to Deontay Wilder’s heavyweight title defense against Gerald Washington, initially was billed as a title eliminator to determine who would go on to challenge Jermall Charlo for his 154-pound championship.
Charlo, however, vacated his title on February 16 to pursue opportunities at 160 pounds, which elevated Harrison-Hurd to a world championship fight and escalated both fighters’ intensity levels.
“I was already excited about the fight when they called me about fighting Hurd. I said yes immediately,” Harrison said. “I started this off wanting to be the best and to do that, I have to beat the best. When I got the call that it was going to be a title fight, I knew that this was going to be a legacy fight.”
Said Hurd: “We were excited when we first got the fight with Tony Harrison and we were even more excited when we found out it would be for a world title. This is every champion's dream and I get a big opportunity on a big network. Everyone gets to see who Jarrett Hurd is.”
At Friday's weigh-in, Harrison hit the scale at 153.6 pounds, while Hurd came in at 153.
Harrison, a lifelong Detroit native, has fought the more experienced competition of the two boxers. The former pupil of late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward has defeated former title challengers Fernando Guerrero and Bronco McKart, as well as battle-tested veterans such as Antwone Smith and Cecil McCalla.
In his lone loss in July 2015, Harrison was ahead of rangy contender Willie Nelson on two of the judges’ scorecards and tied on the third before getting caught with a right hand to the chin that led to a ninth-round stoppage.
Hurd, a native of Accokeek, Maryland, said he hopes to follow Nelson’s lead in pursuit of his sixth straight knockout.
“The power is going to definitely have a lot to do with it,” Hurd said. “I feel I'm the more skillful boxer. [Harrison] got put down by Willie Nelson, and he also got put down by Fernando Guerrero. He should not be able to take my big shots.
“We also know we've got to watch out for his power. The main thing we want to do is take that away from him. So once we get that going, the fight is going to be in my favor.”
“ I started this off wanting to be the best and to do that, I have to beat the best. When I got the call that it was going to be a title fight, I knew that this was going to be a legacy fight. ” Tony Harrison, on fighting Jarrett Hurd for a vacant 154-pound world title
Hurd gained his biggest win in his last fight in November, when he earned a sixth-round TKO of former 147-pound title challenger Jo Jo Dan in Philadelphia. After starting his professional career 14 months after Harrison made his debut in July 2011, the unbeaten Hurd now finds himself on the same plane as his opponent.
And even though Hurd racked up stoppage wins over then-unbeaten prospects Oscar Molina and Frank Galarza in his two fights prior to beating Dan, Harrison said he’s never fought someone as talented as he is.
“All those [previous opponents] were really made for him to take advantage of,” Harrison said. “He hasn't fought anybody this fast, this strong and this smart. I'm going to show this guy how seasoned I am. They don't realize that I have more knockouts than this guy has fights.”
Even in his one-sided wins over Guerrero and McCalla, Harrison had to navigate through some dangerous moments before emerging victorious, but he had little trouble en route to earning a ninth-round TKO of Sergey Rabchenko (who was 27-1) in July in his last fight.
“I think [Hurd and I] have mutual respect heading into this fight. He respects me just as much as I respect him,” Harrison said. “But Saturday night, I'm looking to gain my respect as a fighter. For both of us, I think a lot of questions have been raised about who we've fought. These questions are answered on Saturday night.”
Said Hurd: “Some people say I'm not the fastest or that I don't have enough defense. I want to be an undefeated fighter but I also want to build a legacy. I want to be on the platform with the best. I think this fight will give me that credibility.”
For a complete look at Harrison vs Hurd, visit our fight page.