Why success hasn't changed Jarrett Hurd, a world champion boxer who still lives with his parents
When a teenage Jarrett Hurd approached his mother, Brenda, and asked if she’d finance him as he tried to make a run at a professional boxing career, her thoughts immediately turned to the youngest of her three sons.
When Justin Hurd was very young, he showed great proficiency as a skater, both on ice and on roller skates. An Olympic coach watched Justin skated and told the Hurds he had potential.
Justin wanted to try to make a go of it as a skater, and so Brenda Hurd did some research.
“When I checked on it and I found out how much it cost for him to hire a coach and go through all the training it would take, I felt it was just too expensive, and so I told him no,” Brenda Hurd said. “I’ve always regretted that. I’ve often thought to myself, ‘What if he had been really good?’ and I didn’t give him the opportunity. That’s always kind of nagged at me and I do regret it.”
So when Jarrett, who Brenda said was 18 or 19, came to her and asked her to finance him as a boxer, she remembered the incident with Justin years earlier. She told him she’d give him $50 every two weeks for gas to get back and forth to the gym. If it didn’t work by the time he was 25, she told him he’d be on his own.
Jarrett turned professional in 2012, a month after his 22nd birthday. In 2017, he had built a 19-0 record with 14 knockouts and got a fight with Tony Harrison for the vacant IBF super welterweight title. He stopped Harrison in the ninth to win the belt, and defeated Erislandy Lara in April to add the WBA belt.
You could say he made it with room to spare.
On Saturday, he’ll defend his belts against veteran Jason Welborn on the pay-per-view undercard of the heavyweight title bout between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.
No records are kept on this, but Hurd may be the only world champion who still lives with his parents. He’s taken a ribbing about it over the years, but you won’t come across a more normal, well-adjusted star athlete than Hurd.
He grew up in a middle-class home in Accokeek, Maryland, with his parents Fred Sr., and Brenda, and brothers Fred II and Justin. They had an almost “Mayberry R.F.D.” kind of upbringing, in which everyone in the neighborhood, as well as their extended family members, seemed to gather at the Hurd residence.
“I like to say my parents were the parents of all the kids in the neighborhood,” Hurd said. “All the kids, my brothers’ friends and my friends, they’d all wind up at our house and my parents kept an eye on everyone. There was a lot of love and a lot of support at all times.”
When Jarrett was 15, he began to box, and was immediately good at it. Boxing was a passion of his father’s and the family would routinely gather around the television whenever a big fight was on.
Jarrett won most of his amateur tournaments, but he didn’t stick with it. He’d train, win a tournament and then not pick it up again until there was another tournament that interested him.
His interest soared when he discovered that his original trainer, Tom Browner, had died.
Hurd was living at home, working in the deli at Safeway. Browner would call him repeatedly and ask him to get to the gym and get out of the Safeway. Browner would tell him he had talent to go places in boxing.
“I’d tell him, ‘I’m at Safeway because I need the money,’” Hurd said.
When Browner died, Hurd finally decided to take his words to heart. He got the funding he needed from his mother and off he went.
He’s become one of the sport’s most entertaining fighters, and has a passel of big fights ahead of him, including a unification bout with WBC champion Jermell Charlo.
His success, though, hasn’t changed him. He still lives with his parents, though because he travels so much for his job, they don’t see him as much as they’d like.
“He’s my son, but he really is a good kid,” Fred Hurd Sr. said. “I wear a lot of his gear, the hat and the clothes, the sweatsuits, that kind of stuff. A guy came up to me in the store and said, ‘Jarrett Hurd? I follow that dude. Very good guy. Humble dude. And he can fight.’ I didn’t say anything at the moment and I just listened to him. He went on and talked a little more about Jarrett and I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell him what you said, because you just met his father.’ It’s always great to hear someone talking about your children like that, and this was just a natural situation where he had no idea who I was before he spoke to me.”
Jarrett will soon be making the kind of money that he could only once dream of before. He’s practical and is saving it and hasn’t blown it on material things.
He doesn’t own a fancy car and hasn’t yet bought a home, though he’s starting to think in that direction.
“Staying at home, everything is working for me,” Hurd said. “And look what that’s done: Instead of me buying a starter home, now I’m in a position to get my dream house. I grew up and I didn’t have the money to buy whatever I wanted, so I had to learn to work with a budget. Even when I started to get money, I was just budgeting, budgeting, budgeting.
“As I started moving up in boxing and being on television, I realized that even without the bling or the fancy car or whatever, I was still going to get that love from [the fans]. So I didn’t have to do anything just to impress someone. I don’t need a Mercedes. I don’t need a big house. I’m barely home anyway. I don’t have a family of my own, no kids, and so I could be careful with my money and keep it.”
He still hangs with his parents. Brenda Hurd said the get-togethers are just larger now. The sons now bring their girlfriends with them to the home and they go out together for dinner or just spend time enjoying each other’s company.
There’s a lot for Fred Sr. and Brenda to be proud of, and not a lot to complain about. There is, though, one small thing.
“I’m so proud of Jarrett and what I am most proud of is the way he handles people,” Brenda Hurd said. “When someone comes up to him and asks for a picture or an autograph, he’s always nice and gives them his total respect and attention. He’s that kind of guy. He shakes hands with the people and he’s never rude. He’s just about perfect.
“The only thing I can say bad about him is that he doesn’t like cutting the grass. He hates cutting the grass. If he liked that, he’d be perfect, but we’re very thankful for the man he has become.”
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How death, humility and prophecy made Jarrett Hurd a world champion
In today’s age of self-aggrandizement and pomposity, “Swift” Jarrett Hurd and his trainer, Ernesto Rodriguez, are outliers.
Hurd will defend his WBA and IBF world 154lb. titles versus England’s Jason Welborn this Saturday, December 1. Rodriguez has been his trainer for 13 years. According to him, they were brought together by a series of events that could only happen by divine intervention.
Rodriguez, or Nesto as associates call him, was born in Panama City, Panama, in a rough section called San Miguelito. The boxing-centric district produced greats Eusebio Pedroza and Hilario Zapata.
Nesto began boxing at five. He was 10 when his family migrated to Maryland, where he pursued an amateur career and won two national tournaments.
In 1997, he turned pro at featherweight. He was 8-0 but had little to show for it.
“I had a wife and a child and boxing wasn’t taking care of my family,” he said. “I was taught as a young boy that a man takes care of his family. So, I applied for the police academy. I really wanted the job because the pay was decent and it had good benefits. I prayed and told God that if he blessed me with that, I would stop boxing.”
Nesto’s prayers were answered—and he kept his word. He still works for the Metro Police Department, but boxing was and is his first love. He joined Hillcrest Boxing Gym in Temple Hills, Maryland, assisting respected local trainer Tom Browner.
Hurd was 15 when his father brought him to Hillcrest. The family lived in neighboring Accokeek, a town with a median household yearly income of $126,000—not exactly a breeding ground for boxing legends.
Hurd and Rodriguez’s backgrounds couldn’t have been more different. Yet they shared a humble demeanor, a strong work ethic and a passion for boxing.
But it didn’t appear that way initially—at least for Hurd. After an inconsistent, 40-fight amateur career, he quit boxing to enjoy his teen years, briefly studying at the College of Southern Maryland with plans to become a firefighter.
Browner implored Hurd to return to boxing. His pleas were ignored until Hurd received a call one day at work, informing him that Browner had died.
“The news hit me real hard,” he said. "After that, all I could think about was how much he called and said I needed to go back to the gym.”
Hurd reached out to Rodriguez, who ultimately agreed to train him.
“In the amateurs, the guys from my neighborhood who were good would beat me,” Hurd admitted. “So, me turning professional, I didn’t have any big goals set. I just wanted to be on the main event of a local card.”
Rodriguez had loftier ambitions. As they prepared for Jarrett to turn pro, the deeply-religious trainer called the young boxer to his office.
“I said, ‘I’m going to prophesy to you today,’” Rodriguez recalled. “‘You’re going to turn pro, you’re going to sign with Mr. Al Haymon and you’re going to become world champion by your 20th fight. And then you will unify. Once you become a unified champ, you will move up to the next weight class and become a champion there.’”
Hurd turned pro in 2012. In November 2014, he signed with Haymon. In February 2017, he stopped Tony Harrison in his 20th bout to win the vacant IBF title. Last April, he unified titles by defeating WBA belt-holder Erislandy Lara via split decision in a Fight of the Year candidate.
Hurd, now 28, says much of his success is owed to Rodriguez and the rapport they’ve built over the years.
“Some coaches show the fighter what they should or shouldn’t do, but they don’t listen to the fighter’s input,” he said. There’s no ego with Nesto, even in the corner. He’ll tell me to do something, and I’ll explain why I’m doing something else. He’ll say, ‘okay, if you want to do that then move your head like this.’ It’s perfect chemistry for me.”
Hurd remains low key, despite his success.
“Nesto has had a great impact on my life. My humbleness came from my parents but having a role model like him—he talks to guys off the streets about coming to the gym and doing other things. His mentality and demeanor of having no ego rubbed off on me. That’s the atmosphere around Hillcrest and all the fighters because he rubbed off on everyone.”
Hurd, 22-0 (15 KOs), hasn’t completely fulfilled Nesto’s prophecy. After tearing his rotator cuff during training for Lara, he underwent arthroscopic surgery immediately after the fight. The procedure kept him out the gym for four months. Hurd typically walks around between 175-180lbs. This summer, he ballooned to 190.
Rodriguez says it isn’t a concern now but may be soon.
“I think he can be at 154 for no more than 2-3 fights,” he said. “He may think otherwise, but he’s getting older and his weight goes up higher in between fights. I want him to stay healthy and not struggle to where he’s weakening his body and affecting his performance.”
The biggest and best fight that can be made at 154 is Hurd versus WBC titlist Jermell Charlo. Hurd is confident it will occur in 2019, and that he’ll win.
“The Charlo fight is going to be easier than Lara,” he said. “He has nothing I haven’t seen before: a basic jab and right hand. He fights with emotion and doesn’t stay composed. Even when his corner is talking to him, you hear him say stuff like, ‘I’m trying! What you want me to do?’ The type of fighter I am, I beat you mentally. I don’t think he’s mentally strong, I think I can break his will.
“I haven’t fought at home since I’ve been on television so I’m going to do that next, hopefully at the Capital One Arena in DC. After that, it’s Charlo.”
First, he must get by Jason Welborn. The bout, which occurs at Staples Center in Los Angeles, is the co-feature on the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury heavyweight showdown (SHOWTIME pay-per-view, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
The danger here is overlooking Welborn, 24-6 (7 KOs), the British middleweight champion who is known for slugging it out—something Hurd says he’s trying to get away from.
“Looking at my fights from Harrison to now, I feel like I had poor defense in all of them,” Hurd admits. “I was getting used to walking my opponents down because that was the style I wanted to use against Lara. Now, I have to get back to the old Jarrett Hard. I’ve worked on my defense, using my range and height, and not just being the guy that comes forward.”
Rodriguez agrees but believes Hurd will need more than just that if he expects to continue winning.
“I know with success, a lot of new faces come in and destroy your blessings,” he said. “We’ve been blessed. Jarrett was an ordinary amateur. Now he’s an extraordinary champion. I’d like him to continue to remain humble and remember that God put him on top of the mountain. That will keep him there.”