For as much attention as the pay-per-view driven divisions of heavyweight and welterweight regularly receive, there might not be another boxing weight class as deep or unpredictable at the moment as 154 pounds.
Not only have the four major titles changed hands with regularity in recent years, even the long-awaited undisputed championship fight last spring pairing Jermell Charlo and Brian Castaño ended via disputed draw and will be run back a second time on May 14.
So it should come as no surprise that an impatient line of hungry contenders has formed behind them, including Australian upstart Tim Tszyu, who made his U.S. debut a successful one on March 26 when he outpointed Terrell Gausha to secure his status as mandatory contender to Castaño’s WBO title.
But as far as staking their claim for next to face the winner of Charlo-Castaño II, the fighter with the strongest case just might be former title challenger Erickson Lubin (24-1, 17 KOs), who returns on April 9 at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) to take on Sebastian Fundora (18-0-1, 12 KOs) for the interim WBC title and a mandatory shot at Charlo’s championship.
Lubin, 26, has won six straight fights since his lone pro defeat in 2017 when he found himself on the business end of a spectacular first-round knockout for the WBC title and believes nothing will hold him back from getting a second shot if he gets past the Fundora.
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“I think this fight right here separates me from the rest of the pack,” Lubin told “Morning Kombat” last month. “I’ve been doing the champion’s job of beating top contender after top contender. They put another one in front of me and it’s my job to go in there on April 9 and take care of business so that can separate me from those contender guys and those that are just getting there and coming up.
“Ain’t no denying me after this one.”
A former decorated amateur from Orlando, Florida, who decided against trying out for the 2016 Olympic team in favor of turning pro as just a teenager, the southpaw Lubin has recorded an impressive run of wins against the likes of Jorge Cota, Ishe Smith, Nathaniel Gallimore and Gausha, before surviving a war last June against former unified champion Jeison Rosario that ended via body shot in Round 6.
But the challenge of taming the all-action beast that is the 6-foot-6 Fundora is a different one altogether. A fellow southpaw, the 24-year-old “Towering Inferno” brings an 80-inch reach into battle yet often gives away his height advantage by brawling on the inside.
“I feel like I can adjust to any style,” Lubin said. “As long as [Fundora] gets on that scale at 154 pounds, we have to fight. It’s really no problem for me. I have been knowing him since the amateurs and I feel like it’s just any old fight to me. He’s just taller than the other guys.”
Despite the fact that many observers felt Castaño had done enough to defeat Charlo last year, Lubin isn’t shying away from hoping that Charlo gets the best of their rematch so that it sets up a redemptive shot of his own.
“Everybody loves a comeback story,” Lubin said. “I have been gunning for that fight for a while now and I’m just taking care of whoever they put in front me. I have bounced back from it. I am 6-0 since that fight and about to win my seventh straight. I plan on getting that rematch and taking full advantage of it. I’m hungry for it.”