Erickson Lubin's path back to a world title shot is all clear after the 24-year-old junior middleweight contender became the mandatory challenger for the WBC crown on Saturday.
Lubin (23-1, 16 KOs) survived a late scare against fellow former title challenger Terrell Gausha (21-2-1, 10 KOs) to claim a unanimous decision inside Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut on judges scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 118-110. CBS Sports also scored the fight 118-110 for Lubin.
The victory puts Lubin in line to face the winner of next Saturday's junior middleweight title unification bout on pay-per-view featuring WBC titleholder Jermell Charlo against WBA and IBF champion Jeison Rosario.
"I give myself like a B-minus," Lubin said. "I think the layoff had something to do with it, but Gausha is a top competitor. He is at the top of his weight class for a reason but I just want to stay active and wait for my title shot."
Lubin improved to 5-0 since a first-round knockout loss to Charlo in their title fight in 2017. But it took the southpaw biting down on his mouthpiece to get there as the 33-year-old Gausha woke up from a largely passive performance to wobble Lubin in Round 10 with a counter right hand.
"I know I hurt him in the 10th round but he was able to recover," Gausha said. "I was trying to step on the gas and finish him off but he was the better man tonight. I have to give him credit, he was fast and I was trying to counter him. I make no excuses. We just have to get better."
Gausha went on to let his hands to go close the round and scored both a left hook and two more right hands before the bell but Lubin was able to survive.
"He buzzed me with a shot but I am in shape so I was able to recuperate quick," Lubin said. "Once he hit me with the shot, it was like nothing. But I wanted to make a statement in the last round and hurt him but I also wanted to be cautious. He's game and he's a former Olympian. Respect to him."
Lubin's statement was a beautiful lead right hook that appeared to badly hurt Gausha and pin him in the corner during the final minute of Round 12.
"I take my hat off to Erickson Lubin, he was the better man tonight," Gausha said. "I bit down and showed true grit and I have nothing to hang my head for. We both are highly skilled fighters, and we had respect for each other's game. We were both being cautious and we knew we couldn't get hit by each other."
In all, Lubin proved too quick and far too sharp for Gausha as he built an impressive early lead by staying patient and refusing to overextend himself and allow Gausha, a 2012 Olympian and slick counter puncher, a chance to get off.
Not only did Lubin outland Gausha by a margin of 143 to 107, according to CompuBox, he landed an impressive 47% of his power shots. Lubin also proved successful in disarming Gausha and keeping him cautious to a fault by constantly working the body.
"It was a chess match. He respected what I had and I knew to stay start and I respected what he had," Lubin said. "He was trying to counter a few things and I was just trying to be cautious and not get hit with anything stupid. That's why it was slow in the beginning.
"I definitely made a statement. I beat one of the top guys and I just want to keep going it. I don't care who they put in front of me next. I will stay in the gym and keep getting better."
Lubin will certainly be an interested observer when Charlo and Rosario meet inside the same ring in just seven days, giving "The Hammer" a possible shot at a rematch of his lone pro defeat should Charlo win.
"I think Charlo is going to come out on top in that," Lubin said. "[It will be] Lubin versus Charlo II. That's if he takes care of business like I did tonight. I changed up a lot of things and I have a master trainer [Kevin Cunningham] in my corner. I feel like I'm just an all-around better fighter than the last time we fought."
Lubin vs. Gausha card, results
- Erickson Lubin def. Terrell Gausha via unanimous decision (115-113, 116-112, 118-110)
- Tugstsogt Nyambayar def. Cobia Breedy via split decision (111-1115, 114-112, 114-113)
- Jarron Ennis def. Juan Carlos Abreu via sixth-round TKO