Hurd must handle Williams to leave desired 154-pound legacy

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — If Jarrett Hurd wants to leave his desired legacy as a 154-pound champion, he can’t overlook challenger Julian Williams.

There simply isn’t time.

The holder of the IBF and WBA super welterweight titles badly wants to unify the remaining belts to become an undisputed champion. But the 28-year-old Hurd (23-0-0), who says his weight ballooned as high as 190 pounds following rotator cuff surgery last year, also knows the clock is running out on that goal.

That’s because he believes he has at most four fights left before moving up to middleweight, including his defense Saturday night against Williams, a bout that will be contested in Fairfax, Virginia, about 30 miles away from Hurd’s hometown of Accokeek, Maryland.

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“There’s definitely a time limit, for sure,” says Hurd, who stands 6-foot-1 — 2 inches taller than Williams — and has a reputation for outlasting and out-slugging smaller, more technical opponents. “I don’t think, going into next year, I’ll be fighting at this weight the entire year.”

Hurd wants to target the WBC belt next, and wishes he already were fighting for it. Instead, Tony Harrison’s decision over Jermell Charlo for that title in December resulted in a rematch set for June, leaving Hurd to wait for the winner.

That, of course, assumes Hurd can handle Williams (26-1-1), whose only defeat came in his previous shot at the IBF title, when he was stopped by Charlo’s brother, Jermall, in December 2016.

Williams has four wins since, allowing him to become the IBF’s mandatory challenger. And Hurd doesn’t have any visions of an easy night, saying this could follow the path of some of his previous bouts against polished competitors.

A little more than a year ago, Hurd needed a 12th-round knockdown of Erislandy Lara to win a narrow split decision and take Lara’s WBA belt. The shoulder surgery followed, before Hurd returned for a straightforward knockout of Jason Welborn in December.

“A lot of these fighters are sharper than me, and so in the beginning, it shows,” Hurd said. “It takes me some time to wear them down a little bit to get on my level. And then I pick it up from there. … I could be behind on points — but you know it’s not on purpose.”

Williams is content to take his chances in the later rounds as well. The 29-year-old believes he was overeager against Jermall Charlo.

And although he said little about his specific strategy, he believes he’s grown from that experience.

“I have a little more patience,” Williams said. “Not letting my personal emotions get involved too much. Sometimes you want it so bad, you want it too much, and you go after it too hard.”

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