By John Cudney
Boxing insiders tabbed Erickson Lubin as a future superstar before he even turned pro. Here’s why.
Erickson ‘Hammer’ Lubin will challenge Jermell Charlo for his WBC 154lb championship on Saturday October 14th, just 2 weeks after his 22nd birthday. It will be Jermell’s second title defense and many view this as a mismatch of maturity and experience in Charlo’s favor. To understand why he is pursuing this steep test at such a young age, you have to look back at the day Erickson Lubin became America’s next top prospect.
Lubin joined the US Boxing Olympic training center in January 2013 when he was only 17 and in the middle of his junior varsity basketball season at Poinciana High School. Lubin was already a two-time Junior Olympic gold medalist, and his immediate purpose at the center was to prepare for his first adult international competition — the Independence Cup in the Dominican Republic.
The favorite to win the Independence Cup in Lubin’s weight class was Yasniel Toledo of Cuba. Toledo was already an established boxing superstar in his own right. He had won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics and he was considered one of the best names on Vasyl Lomachenko’s amatuer resume.
Lubin entered the tournament with a relatively low ranking in the same bracket as the top seeded Toledo. Lubin notched comfortable victories against Jonathan Soares of Brazil and Eduardo Sanchez of Costa Rica in the first two rounds in order to earn the right to fight Toledo in the semi-finals.
Erickson Lubin faced-off with Yasniel Toledo on February 22nd 2013. “At first I was nervous and feeling iffy. I had butterflies in my stomach,” Lubin said after the fight. “But then my coach started feeding stuff into my head, telling me I’m better than him. He gave me a gameplan, and we haven’t failed one of his gameplans yet. I just went in there and did what I had to do.”
“I was timing him with the jab pretty good,” Lubin continued. “I had a longer reach, so I just tried to keep my hands out there. He wanted to start slow because he thought he was going to put-out everyone in the tournament”
“It was basically tied up, but then I just started picking away at him in the final round, landing the smarter cleaner shots.”
When the scores were read, Lubin emerged with a 20 — 17 victory. By coincidence this is the same margin of victory that Vasyl Lomachenko carried over Toledo at the 2012 Olympics.
Having already dispatched the tournament favorite, Lubin went on to dominate Jose Rafael Rosario of Puerto Rico to secure his gold medal in the Independance Cup.
In the immediate aftermath of his victory, Lubin became the most promising male amatuer boxer in the country and the favorite to win gold in his weight class at the 2016 Olympics. However, it didn’t take long for the world of professional boxing to come knocking. Powerful promoters, managers, and advisors equated his upset Independance Cup medal to an Olympic medal and a bidding war soon formed around the young Lubin.
Erickson Lubin appeared in national boxing headlines for the second time on October 1st 2013, the day of his 18th birthday. Erickson Lubin had signed with Iron Mike Promotions (with Al Haymon serving as advisor), and Charles Butler, the president of USA Boxing, published an open letter criticising Mike Tyson for signing the young Lubin on his first day of legal eligibility. In the letter Bulter dubbed Lubin USA Boxing’s “best hope”.
The letter set off a firestorm debate in the boxing world: was Lubin too young to turn pro, was he foolish for spurning a chance at an Olympic medal? Historically the Olympics had been viewed as the surest route to stardom for young American boxers, but Lubin was choosing a different path.
Here we are now, almost exactly 4 years later, and we are in a position to judge whether this experiment was a success. Erickson Lubin is now 18–0 and he is poised to fight Jermell Charlo for a chance at his first title this weekend. Should he have spent more time in the amatuer ranks? Is he challenging Charlo too soon? We will have an answer by the end of Saturday night. But if you want to know if Erickson thinks he himself is ready, all you have to do is look back to when he was 17, when he faced the best the world had to offer and came away with the gold.
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The Day Erickson Lubin Became America’s Next Top Prospect was originally published in sundaypuncher on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.