Jarrett Hurd, a reigning junior middleweight world titleholder, and former titlist Austin Trout have careers going in opposite directions.
Hurd aims to keep his on the upward trajectory, while Trout is trying to remain relevant following a loss and a long layoff. That is what their fight is all about on Saturday (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
For Hurd, his first title defense is an opportunity to put the name of a respected -- but perhaps faded -- former titleholder on his resume. Hurd (20-0, 14 KOs), 26, of Accokeek, Maryland, owns knockouts against then-unbeaten Frank Galarza and Oscar Molina, and also defeated former welterweight title challenger Jo Jo Dan. In February, he knocked out Tony Harrison to win a vacant world title.
Those victories were all in Hurd's last four bouts, but Trout is his most notable opponent to date, and he has vowed to make a statement as he looks to break out of the pack in a talent-rich 154-pound weight class.
"This is a fight I actually chose. We knew what was on the line with this fight with Austin Trout," Hurd said. "He's no slouch, and with his three losses, he had been in every fight, so we knew this fight was going to be tough, especially for a first defense. But that describes me as a fighter, including my mindset. I am a true champion. I want to fight the best, and I don't want the fights that are not going to progress me and put me in line for the even bigger fights.
"I want to take the tough fights, and I feel like if there's the slightest chance that an opportunity presents itself, why can't I better myself? I'm willing to take that chance."
But with Hurd's youth, size and power advantages, there are many who think he might simply overpower Trout, who has never been knocked out in any of his defeats but has been knocked down a few times, including by Erislandy Lara, Daniel Dawson and Canelo Alvarez.
"I'm definitely a bigger fighter, but it's not in my mind to overpower him," Hurd said. "But I look at this fight different than with the Tony Harrison fight. My mind was on that fight because we know Tony Harrison is the type of fighter to gas out in the later rounds as pressure stayed on top of him, and Austin Trout performs differently. He's going to be ready for 12 rounds, so I feel like this fight is going to be more technical and whoever the smarter guy in the ring is will win. I'm not really banking on Austin Trout to get tired off the pressure. He knows I'm ready for 12 rounds."
There are also two other junior middleweight title bouts on the card as part of something of an unofficial Showtime tournament to move toward a unified champion. Lara (24-2-2, 14 KOs), a 34-year-old Cuban southpaw who defected and fights out of Houston, will defend his belt for the sixth time when he faces 2012 U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha (20-0, 9 KOs), 29, of Cleveland, in the main event. In the co-feature, Jermell Charlo (29-0, 14 KOs), 27, of Houston, will make his second title defense when he takes on 2016 ESPN.com prospect of the year Erickson Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs), 22, of Orlando, Florida, who is taking a monumental step up in opposition level.
"I did want -- not to say a tune-up, but a get-back fight. But at the same time, you can't pass up these opportunities because they don't come too often. I wasn't going to turn down this shot. I had to come and take what they gave me." Austin Trout
Trout, whose biggest win came by decision in an upset over Miguel Cotto in a 2012 junior middleweight world title fight, challenged then-titleholder Jermall Charlo (Jermell's twin brother) for his belt in his last fight and lost a clear decision.
That was in May 2016 -- 17 months ago. Trout (30-3, 17 KOs), a 31-year-old southpaw from Las Cruces, New Mexico, is looking to shake off the rust of the long layoff against a formidable opponent. That's not typically a good scenario for any fighter, but Trout is game.
He would have preferred a fight to get back in the groove before facing Hurd, but he had few other options, and he knew it.
"I did want -- not to say a tune-up, but a get-back fight," Trout said. "But at the same time, you can't pass up these opportunities because they don't come too often. I wasn't going to turn down this shot. I had to come and take what they gave me."
Trout said his layoff was not caused by injury or any other problems, just an inability to get a fight.
"Actually, no, there was no reason for the layoff, no injuries, no nothing," he said. "I really can't tell you why I've had such a layoff. I'm not happy about it, but it is what it is. But I thank God I've been in the gym and keeping in shape. Call it vanity or not, trying not to get fat and trying to keep this beach bod, so I'm still sharp. We've knocked all the ring rust out in camp. It's time to work.
"I've been trying to get a fight ... but things happen and things don't happen for reasons."
Trout can hardly afford a second straight loss and realizes he is in a tough fight against Hurd.
"I want to take the tough fights, and I feel like if there's the slightest chance that an opportunity presents itself, why can't I better myself? I'm willing to take that chance." Jarrett Hurd on taking the fight against veteran Austin Trout
"I have the utmost respect for the guy. He didn't have to take this fight, and I want to thank him for making a defense like this," Trout said. "Everybody knows that he's the undefeated champion for reasons, so you can't smack on a kid like that. He is a big, strong dude, and it's crazy, because I don't know how these big dudes make 154."
Respect for him or not, Hurd is aiming to end the fight in style. That means a knockout. Though prepared for 12 rounds, he said he believes he will end the fight in the ninth or 10th round.
"For one, I feel like I have more power," said Hurd, who began boxing at age 15 and only had about 30 amateur bouts. "I feel I have the youth. I feel like I have the size and the length, and those are pretty much the advantages I have.
"I know I'm ready for 12 rounds. That's never a question for me. For my past fights, I feel I get stronger as the fight goes on. If you look back on every fight I had, I was never the fighter that gassed out. I was always the fighter that got stronger, so 12 rounds are not an issue. I'm definitely prepared for 12 rounds, and hopefully it ends earlier."