You'd be correct to say that Premier Boxing Champions currently has a lockdown on almost the entire junior middleweight division.
Along with a deep roster that includes the likes of secondary titleholder Erislandy Lara and former champions Jarrett Hurd, Julian "J-Rock" Williams and Tony Harrison, the PBC houses the two men who currently hold three of the four recognized titles in Jermell Charlo (WBC) and Jeison Rosario (WBC, WBA). Current WBO titleholder Patrick Teixeira remains just about the only name on the outside looking in.
Not only are Charlo and Rosario set to mix it up during one of two pay-per-view main events Showtime will broadcast on Sept. 26 for control of the division, the network features a bout nearly as important one week earlier for a mandatory shot at the WBC title at stake.
One of the division's rising stars, Erickson Lubin (22-1, 16 KOs) will face 154-pound veteran and former U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha (21-1-1, 10 KOs) on Saturday in a pivotal bout in terms of title position as the main event of a PBC card (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Fresh off a wide decision win over Nathaniel Gallimore last October that marked four straight wins since his 2017 loss to Charlo, the 24-year-old Lubin has entered a new level of confidence and poise but inside and out of the ring.
"I feel like [the division], it's still up for grabs and I'm back to where I was in 2017, when I was younger and less experienced," Lubin told CBS Sports' "State of Combat" podcast this week. "I'm back and better so I'm looking to take over this division. I already started off with the main event I had last time against Gallimore. I had an impressive performance. I'm looking to do the same thing and have a spectacular victory. Then I have the mandatory spot and we get one of the champions out of Charlo and Rosario for all of the belts.
"I'm excited and fired up. I can't wait."
While Lubin is open to facing either Rosario or Charlo should he advance past Gausha, he couldn't help but admit he would love to get a second chance at the current WBC champion. Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs), who regained his title in December by stopping Tony Harrison, needed one right hand and less than one round to finish Lubin in a fight that proved to be a turning point for the young fighter.
"That helped me realize a lot inside and outside the ring," Lubin said. "I was able to just go back to the drawing board. I ain't had my head held down for too long. I know my skill set and I believe in myself. My confidence is at an all-time high. I just bounced back. I got with Kevin Cunningham. He helped me bounce back in a tremendous way. He brought my IQ game to another level. Being with him, I just leveled up 100 times more."
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Cunningham is a trainer noted just as much for his demanding approach as for his success with southpaws like former champions Cory Spinks, Devon Alexander and David Diaz. He has served an even bigger role than that for Lubin as not just teacher and mentor, but a managerial type figure when it comes to which fights to accept.
Lubin took on what's expected to be a difficult challenge in the 33-year-old Gausha, who can box and punch despite having come up short in his two biggest fights to date -- a 2017 decision loss to Lara for the WBA title and a disputed split draw against Austin Trout last year.
"Training camp has obviously been a little different ahead of this fight but we've done what we need to and I'll be ready," Gausha said. "This is a big fight for me, being my second chance at getting to a world title. I know Lubin is a young, good fighter and I'm sure he'll also be ready. But this is my fourth southpaw in a row, so I'm very prepared for this fight and I'm going to show that I'm on another level."
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, who fought on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, Gausha now fights out of Encino, California, under head trainer Manny Robles. He was originally scheduled to fight Lubin last October until a hand injury forced him to pull out, which allowed Gallimore to slide in for what became Lubin's Showtime closeup.
"We know [Gausha] is an Olympian and he has the experience under his belt but I have the same kind of experience and maybe even more," Lubin said. "I expect to go out there and just capitalize on everything he comes out there with. If he want to come out and box or if he want to bang, it don't matter. I'm not overlooking Terrell Gausha. I'm going to go over there, take care of business, win the title and just keep defending it. I'm going to make my mark in the division and just take over."
Lubin believes Gausha was able to land shots against an aging Trout that he won't have the same opportunity to against him. He also has no regrets for the decision he made back in 2013 when, as an 18-year-old, Lubin chose against the Olympic road in favor of turning pro for then-promoter Mike Tyson.
When it comes to the 154-pound division, Lubin believes all of the talk will soon center around not simply its overall depth but the fact that he has separated himself as the face.
"[Critics] bring up my name when they talk about the division being loaded, I just feel like they hype up the other dudes a little bit more," Lubin said. "It's my job to go out there and let them know which man they should be talking about. They should be talking about me. Charlo and Rosario are champions but all these other dudes, I feel like they became champion once and couldn't defend the belts successfully. To me, that's not true champion status. I feel like once I get the belts, I am going to keep them.
"What separates me is I'm the youngest yet I can compete with any of them. I can beat anyone of those guys. I'm hungry and Showtime is backing me and it's exciting. I just can't wait to get those title fights and those pay-per-view fights. I'm definitely looking to take full advantage of every opportunity that comes my way."
This card also features a pair of rising stars in their divisions looking to make a name for themselves in this showcase opportunity. Tugstsogt Nyambayar, a brawler from Mongolia, takes on Cobia Breedy in the co-main event at featherweight. "King Tug" lost his first professional bout his last time out to WBC champ Gary Russell Jr. in February. But Nyambayar brings his high knockout rate (9 of 11 wins by TKO) to the ring against Breedy, who is 15-0 with 5 TKOs but is yet to step up in competition.
Plus, Jaron "Boots" Ennis is back when he takes on Juan Carlos Abreu at welterweight. Ennis is an undefeated, 23-year-old prospect looking to get into the crowded title picture at welterweight. He has yet to be truly tested at this stage in his career, but still boasts a 25-0 record with 23 knockouts to his name. Abreu (23-5) has plenty of KOs to his name, but he did lose twice in 2018 to tougher competition.
- Date: Saturday, Sept. 19 | Location: Mohegan Sun -- Uncasville, Connecticut
- Start time: 9 p.m. ET (Main card)
- How to watch: Showtime
Fight card, odds
- Erickson Lubin -650 vs. Terrell Gausha +475, junior middleweights
- Tugstsogt Nyambayar vs. Cobia Breedy, featherweights
- Jaron Ennis vs. Juan Carlos Abreu, welterweights
Gausha is at his best when he's in control of the pace and able to rely on his timing and technique to counter. The problem is that he doesn't let his hands go enough in competitive fights where activity might prove to be the difference in close rounds.
As long as Lubin can avoid getting caught in those patterns, he remains the rightful betting favorite. With advantages in speed and power, Lubin will need to be explosive enough early to prevent Gausha from finding room to let his hands go.
Gausha is durable and savvy enough to likely go the distance in this fight, even in defeat. Lubin will need to get off consistently with his jab, which he showcased almost exclusively in a beautiful performance outboxing a durable Gallimore, to be able to set up his heavy counter shots including a sneaky uppercut.
Was his one-punch knockout loss to Charlo an early referendum on Lubin's chin when facing elite punchers or just a bad night at the office for a young fighter? Either way, Gausha likely isn't the type of fighter who will be a major danger in exposing that.
A victory by outboxing such a talented technician in Gausha would be a major announcement toward his future title hopes against the winner of Charlo-Rosario. But a less likely stoppage would elevate that announcement into something more like a threat.
Pick: Lubin via UD