Hurd unifies belts with split-decision win over LaraJarrett Hurd, left, battles Erislandy Lara in their middleweight bout at the Hard Rock casino-hotel in Las Vegas, Saturday, April 7, 2018. Hurd won by split decision. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Jarrett Hurd used a 12th-round knockdown to secure a split-decision victory over Erislandy Lara and unify the IBF and WBA junior middleweight world titles on Saturday night.
Two judges scored the fight 114-113 for Hurd, while the third judge had Lara winning the fight by the same 114-113 scorecard.
Hurd connected on a short left hook with less than a minute remaining, knocking down for former WBA champion Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs), the longest reigning champion at 154 pounds entering the fight. Lara was attempting to defend his title for the sixth consecutive time.
''I didn't feel like I needed the knockdown for the win,'' said the 27-year-old Hurd, from Accokeek, Maryland. ''I felt like I was in control the whole fight, applying the pressure.''
The win for Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs) sets up a potential mega-matchup against Jermell Charlo, who has held the WBC light middleweight world title since 2016.
Hurd is the seventh unified world title holder in 154-pound history, joining Hall of Famers Terry Norris, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Winky Wright, as well as Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez.
The 34-year-old Lara from Houston thought he won the fight, despite the knockdown in the final round.
''I was up by a large margin going into the last round,'' said Lara, who suffered swelling and a cut around his right eye. ''The problem was the cut on the eye. I couldn't see in the last round.''
James DeGale won back the IBF super middleweight title he lost in December to Caleb Truax with a bloody, 12-round unanimous decision. The fight was an immediate rematch of what many thought was the upset of the year in boxing in 2017. The 32-year-old DeGale (24-2-1 14 KOs) held the IBF world title at 168 pounds for 31 months before losing it to the 34-year-old Truax (29-4-2, 18 KOs) on DeGale's home turf in London.
''I'm back,'' DeGale said. ''Two-and-a-half years I had it and I lost it to Caleb. He embarrassed me, but we're back.''
DeGale suffered a massive cut just over his right eye on an accidental head butt that led to extensive bleeding in the third round.
''I couldn't see from my right eye,'' DeGale said. ''I couldn't see. But I'm just glad I got through it. I showed some heart. In my last fight, I was like a weak little kid.''
DeGale connected on 37 percent of his power shots compared to 28 percent for Truax. He now returns to London a world champion with some massive potential fights in the future.
''I want to be busy,'' DeGale said. ''I have a couple years left in this sport.''
Truax was just the fourth boxing world champion ever from Minnesota.
''I thought I did enough to win the fight, but I also thought I was pretty flat and didn't get my shots off like I wanted,'' Truax said.
Philadelphia's Julian Williams stopped Chicago's Nathaniel Gallimore by a majority draw in a 12-round 154-pound eliminator bout for Hurd's new IBF belt.
Williams (25-1-1, 1 ND, 15 KOs) used a relentless body attack to take the upper hand as the fight neared the finish. Williams outworked Gallimore on the night, landing 37 percent of his total punches (191 to 518) in the fight, compared to just 23 percent for Gallimore (107 to 469).
Both men were pushed to the 12-round distance for the first time in their careers.
''I wasn't surprised a judge had a draw,'' Williams said. ''Sometimes when you're fighting real close like that, it is hard for judges to score. I knew I won. Once I heard 116-112 and 117-111, I knew I won because I knew he didn't win eight rounds.''
Gallimore (20-2-1, 17 KOs) had previously won seven consecutive fights by knockout before being stopped by Williams.