NEW YORK -- Nearly booed out of the arena by a feisty Barclays Center crowd, the rebirth of former unified junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd received mixed reviews on Saturday.
Hurd (24-1, 16 KOs), in his first fight since losing his WBA and IBF titles to Julian Williams last June, made his return in Brooklyn with a new trainer, haircut and fighting style. Although he exited with a fairly wide 10-round unanimous decision over Francisco Santana in their 156-pound catchweight bout, Hurd visibly struggled with identify problems.
Having made his name with a relentless, pressure style that benefits from his extreme size advantage at 154 pounds, the 29-year-old Hurd was far more passive and defensive in his first fight with U.S. National amateur coach Kay Koroma in his corner. Although he took home judges scores of 97-92 and 99-90 against the blown-up welterweight Santana (25-9-1, 12 KOs), Hurd was showered in boos throughout the second half of the fight.
"I loved it. We came out here and did what we wanted to do," Hurd said while the crowd jeered him during his post-fight interview. "It was definitely frustrating. We didn't want to go toe to toe with him."
Save for an explosive fifth round and the 10th and final frame, where Hurd floored the gutsy Santana with a right uppercut, Hurd rarely made his opponent pay for closing distance on him.
Hurd relied on a defensive jab as he backpedaled for large stretches. It was in Round 5 where Hurd finally turned into the "Swift" of old as he employed a shoulder roll style and regularly battered Santana with hard counter right hands and blistering combinations. But the aggressive approach was never maintained and the 33-year-old Santana did his best to pressure on the inside.
The combination of Santana's limited power and Hurd's tremendous size advantage made it where the former champion was never in trouble. He went on to outland Santana by a wide margin of 233 to 95, according to CompuBox, and landed 47% of his power shots. He also was far too lenient in allowing Santana to hang around.
"[The loss to Williams] was the past. We just came out here after the long layoff and got the job done," Hurd said. "We want the belts and want to be one of the best. We are not exactly sure what will be our next move but we definitely want the belts back."