Five days after he became a world champion, Jarrett Hurd sat at a conference table in a Greenbelt, Md., office park and set about creating a website.
“Do you have the URL?” Web designer Chris Richards asked Hurd, an affable 26-year-old from Accokeek, Md., who also happens to be the International Boxing Federation junior middleweight champion.
“Huh?” Hurd asked.
“The URL? Swiftboxing.com or anything?” asked Richards, who would be designing his first boxing website. Hurd — whose nickname is “Swift” — did not own that, or any other, URL. “Might as well go get the URL now,” Richards said, and a few minutes later they had acquired SwiftJarrettHurd.com, the fledgling site for a young boxer determined to take full advantage of his newfound status.
That Hurd is a champion, he’ll tell you, is not a surprise. That it happened when it did? That was surprising. A bit more than a week before his Feb. 25 fight with Tony Harrison, the boxers were told that IBF champion Jermall Charlo was moving up a class and vacating his belt. That transformed their nationally televised eliminator bout into a title fight, which Hurd won with a ninth-round TKO.
The next morning, he was putting the IBF title belt through an Alabama airport metal detector before a 6 a.m. flight back to Maryland. (He flew coach.) Suddenly, neighbors in suburban Accokeek — at the southwestern edge of Prince George’s County — were scurrying to organize a welcome-home event. (They wound up unwittingly decorating the porch of the Hurd family home after Jarrett already had arrived; his girlfriend later called to ask who put balloons all over the porch.) Suddenly, a kid who felt perpetually overlooked by the local boxing scene was coming to grips with something new: photos with strangers during a celebratory dinner at MGM National Harbor, media interviews, and maybe even the need for his own website.
“It still hasn’t hit me for real that I’m the world champion,” Hurd said. “I’m like, dang!”
His is a rather vivid tale, even in the Technicolor world of pro boxing. He is the son of Brenda Hurd — a vice president at the HUD Federal Credit Union — and Fred Hurd Sr., a boxing-obsessed man who spent 30 years working in the mailroom of a local media organization. (Okay, full disclosure: It was The Washington Post. Democracy dies in darkness, and all.) Jarrett’s older brother works for Kaiser Permanente, and his dad, who introduced his three sons to the sport, had to convince Jarrett that being middle class wasn’t a disqualifier.
“Mike Tyson said if you come from the middle class, you’ll never be a champion; that you have to come from the ghetto, you have to come from the ‘hood,” the elder Hurd said. “I told him that’s not true. We’re middle class, and son, you can be a world champion.”
By his own admission, Jarrett wasn’t sufficiently dedicated to the sport as an amateur. He would take too long away from the gym between tournaments, spend too much time hanging out with friends, and would tire by the third round of amateur bouts. After graduating from Gwynn Park High, he briefly studied at the College of Southern Maryland, thought about trying to become a firefighter, and left the sport for a short time, working in the deli department of a Fort Washington Safeway.
His former trainer, Tom Browner, died during his absence. That news rattled Hurd and made him believe he should give the sport one last shot. He looked for help from Ernesto Rodriguez, one of Browner’s colleagues who had encouraged Hurd to take a break from boxing, but Rodriguez initially was unmoved: He told the kid to get a job, to go to school, to pursue a career. But Hurd convinced the trainer he was serious this time, and the two became a team.
They still faced improbable odds. Because of Hurd’s late start in the game and his time away, he had fewer amateur fights than many of his contemporaries. He didn’t hail from a place known for its star boxers; “I mean, Accokeek is not exactly a hotbed of world championship fighting,” joked longtime boxing PR man Fred Sternburg, who has followed Hurd’s ascent from afar. And he couldn’t attract much in the way of media attention, despite his undefeated record.
“We couldn’t even get an interview, with anyone, because he didn’t have that amateur pedigree,” Rodriguez said.
“Nobody wanted to listen,” Hurd agreed. “I just said, eventually they’re going to have to see me.”
“I mean, I laid out a story that in my opinion, you could not avoid,” said Rodriguez, a Metro Transit Police officer who rearranges his work schedule around Hurd’s fights and who had never before trained a pro.
Jarrett Hurd celebrates his victory. (By Albert Cesare / AP)
Then there were the parents. Hurd’s dad had wanted to be a boxer himself, and he sometimes worried that he had pushed his son too hard. He was the one who had given Jarrett gloves and a speed bag, who had taken him to the gym, who had showed Jarrett fights on TV all those Friday nights. He said he backed off when Jarrett decided he wanted to work instead of box, and that he tried to make sure that his son’s career choice wasn’t about pleasing Dad, telling him, “You know I like it, but you can’t do it for me; you’ve got to do it for you.”
His mom, meanwhile, agreed to give her middle son financial support while he chased a boxing career, but with a hard cutoff at age 25. Until then, his parents would help with his food and his phone, his car and his gas. Their friends gave them grief, and Jarrett’s buddies were amazed, but the Hurds explained that they were fulfilling a promise.
“I just felt like he had a talent, that it was worth taking a chance on him,” Brenda Hurd said. “I told him you can live your dream, until you hit 25. And at 25, you’ve got to get out of here. You’ve got to get a job, do something. Show me something by the time you hit 25, that this is real, and that you’re not just playing around.”
Around the time of her ultimatum, her son’s career began moving forward. He stopped several undefeated opponents, and he kept winning; last month’s fight ran his record to 20-0, with 14 knockouts. He sparred with many of the talented young boxers from the D.C. scene. He signed with Al Haymon, the powerful manager whose Premier Boxing Champions series attempted to return the sport to mainstream television. And he got some good luck along the way. His fight with former Mexican Olympian Oscar Molina last summer, for example, became a co-featured event on CBS after the cancellation of a different fight, giving Hurd the biggest exposure of his career.
There was more good fortune last month, when Charlo vacated the IBF title. The Hurds rented a 15-passenger van and drove to Birmingham, Ala., for the title fight, and by the time they returned to Maryland, everyone was trying to make sense of what had changed. Rodriguez, for example, no longer struggled to land an interview.
“This is a movie, man; this is a movie,” the trainer said. “This is my first professional fighter, and he became a champion. I won the Super Bowl my rookie year.”
Fred Hurd Sr., whose voice remains hoarse more than a week after the title fight, said he now looked at his son like he dropped down from outer space: “A guy from another planet. Like, ‘Wow — you’ve been around me all this time, and you’re the world champ?’ It’s shocking to see him at this level.”
Brenda Hurd was similarly thrilled but also trying to stick with her normal routine. A family member wants to throw yet another congratulatory party for Jarrett on Friday night, but Brenda insisted she’ll arrive late. Why? The party conflicts with her monthly book club.
The title belt, incidentally, resides on the dresser in Jarrett’s room, inside his parents’ five-bedroom Accokeek house. Yes, he still lives at home. His $125,000 title fight payout will go toward a first home, but that hasn’t happened yet.
“He might be the only world champ still living at home with his mom and dad,” one friend joked around that conference table.
“My mother, she’s like, ‘You’re a world champion now, Jarrett; it’s about that time for you to get your own place,’ ” Hurd said with a laugh.
“We’ve been in the process, but now we kind of hate to let him go,” Brenda Hurd said with a laugh of her own. “But we know we have to let him grow up.”
Jarrett has promised not to let the trappings change him; his grand cheat meal after winning his belt was a steak-and-cheese sandwich with shrimp and fries from Legacy Carryout in Fort Washington. But clearly, some things will change. His paydays should increase dramatically as long as he is making title defenses. He plans to meet with a financial adviser. The 154-pound weight class is stacked with young talent, and his future competition should be severe. And he wants to fight again this summer, and dreams of leading a card at the MGM, a few miles from where he grew up.
But one thing at a time. First things first. Within the next week or so, Hurd’s new website should be live.