Final-round drama lifts Jarrett Hurd past Erislandy Lara in match of the year candidate

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It took a while, but Hurd eventually got the job done Saturday. Getty Images

If you're into ring drama, Las Vegas was the place to be Saturday night.

Unbeaten Jarrett Hurd was trailing on all three scorecards entering the final round against veteran Erislandy Lara until he landed a short, devastating left hook that yielded a result-altering knockdown with 35 seconds to go -- enough to give him a split decision in a 154-pound unification fight at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Judges Glenn Feldman and Dave Moretti saw Hurd as a 114-113 winner, enough to retain his IBF title belt while capturing the IBO and WBA straps that Lara arrived with on Saturday night. Both cards had it even at six rounds apiece, but the 10-8 margin in the 12th put Hurd over the top.

Judge Burt Clements had Lara as a 114-113 winner, giving him seven rounds to Hurd's five.

CBS Sports gave Hurd seven of 12 rounds -- including the last six in a row -- and had him up, 115-112.

"It was a tough one," said Hurd, who improved to 22-0 as a pro. "I went out there and did exactly what I said I was gonna do. Words can't describe it. God is good."

Hurd, 27, stood four inches taller and had a 2 ½-inch reach advantage over Lara, 34, but was on the short end in the early rounds thanks to the older man's precision counter-punching off the ropes. The physical differences became more evident as the fight reached the middle and late stages, however, as Hurd scored effectively with left hooks to the body and snapping right uppercuts.

Lara's right eye was cut and swollen as the fight entered its final minute, and Hurd prompted the decisive sequence while the two men were fighting in close. A short right uppercut jerked Lara's head back and was followed by the quick left hand that sent Lara to the floor.

He rose when referee Kenny Bayless' count reached eight and was able to get through the rest of the round without incident. In spite of its ultimate impact on the scorecards, Hurd said he hadn't entered the final round thinking he needed a knockdown to win.

"I didn't feel like it, no," he said. "Lara came good. We had to keep the pressure on him. That was the deciding factor."

Lara (25-3-2) -- with all three losses by split or majority decisions -- said he thought he'd done enough to win here, too.

"I thought I was winning the fight easily," he said. "[The knockdown] shouldn't decide the fight. One punch in a fight doesn't determine the fight. One-hundred percent I want a rematch."

Hurd, though, seemed to lean more toward another unification bout, this time with WBC 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo, who was ringside.

"I'm No. 1 now. I'm in control," Hurd said. "I'm gonna call the shots."

Charlo replied simply with, "I'm down. Let's go."

On the Showtime-televised undercard:

* Former Olympic gold medalist and deposed world champion James DeGale crossed the Atlantic to regain belted status with a unanimous 12-round decision over Caleb Truax. The win returned the IBF's 168-pound title belt to the Englishman's possession after Truax had traveled to London to defeat him last December in one of 2017's biggest upsets. DeGale (24-2-1) won by counts of 114-113, 114-113 and 117-110 on the scorecards. He was docked a point by referee Robert Byrd in the 10th round, but took the final two rounds to earn the victory. Truax fell to 29-4-2.

CBS Sports agreed with the prevailing opinion, scoring it 114-113 for DeGale -- or 7-5 in rounds. Both fighters suggested a third fight ought to be made to break their deadlock. Each man was cut badly in the fight – Truax over both eyes and DeGale over his right eye – and they actually shared an ambulance ride to the nearby University Medical Center after the fight.

* One-time world title challenger Julian Williams ran his personal win streak to four fights with a majority decision defeat of Nathaniel Gallimore in a meeting of 154-pound contenders. Williams, who was stopped by then-IBF champion Jermall Charlo in 2016, improved to 25-1-1 as a pro after winning two scorecards by counts of 116-112 and 117-110, respectively.

The final card had it even at 114-114. CBS Sports again agreed with the majority, seeing it 116-112 for Williams. Gallimore (20-2-1) had won seven straight fights by stoppage since his lone career loss, a split 10-round decision to Virgilijus Stapulionis in June 2016.

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