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Caleb Truax wants a double shocker in Lara-Hurd co-main event

Caleb Truax has authored a stunning underdog story. Now comes the hard part: repeating in in the sequel.

Truax wants nothing more than to duplicate his December victory over former super-middleweight world champion James DeGale.

Truax (29-3-2) was listed as a 30-1 long shot against the former Olympic gold medalist from England, who was in the midst of a two-year International Boxing Federation title reign.

Further stacking the odds against Truax was the fact that the fighter from Minnesota ventured to the champion’s home soil in London for the bout.

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DeGale was fighting what many viewed as a tune-up, and he had spent time discussing future opponents during some media appearances.

That’s all changed now, with the Showtime-televised rematch Saturday at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and Casino serving as the co-main event to a junior-middleweight title unification between champions Erislandy Lara of Cuba and American Jarrett Hurd. The broadcast is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. PDT.

“I don’t feel any pressure at all,” Truax said. “All of the pressure is on him. I was never supposed to win that fight, and he was sitting there talking about other fighters at the press conference. I’m not going to make the same mistake he did and overlook him.”

DeGale fought the first bout after returning from a serious shoulder injury, but he declared months before the December bout that he would be ready to fight. Now, he concedes he might have rushed the return.

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None of that mattered to Truax, who had given former secondary World Boxing Assn. middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs a rugged test in 2015 and topped that versus DeGale.

It marked an unlikely rise. Truax has a degree in sociology and political science from the University of Minnesota. He started boxing only to stay in shape while studying.

“I just fell in love with the sport. It’s nice to have my education to fall back on, but I just couldn’t stop training and competing,” he said.

This is Truax’s first Las Vegas fight.

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“It’s every fighter’s dream,” he said.

After his loss, DeGale immediately demanded a rematch, blaming his performance on the quick turnaround while healing, but Truax said he doesn’t think anything will be different in this bout.

Truax landed some heavy shots to take command in the early rounds of the first fight, and DeGale was able to make the fight close in the later rounds. But it wasn’t enough as two judges awarded the fight to Truax by majority decision to complete what many felt was the biggest boxing upset of the year.

“I come into this fight with nothing to lose. Some are calling for his retirement if I beat him again, so he’s the one dealing with all of the expectations,” Truax said.

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Truax said he has previously contemplated a career in politics but is now having second thoughts.

“It was something I did think about, but with today’s political environment, I’m not sure that’s the direction I want to go.”

Meanwhile, the Lara-Hurd fight stands as the division’s defining bout, a matchup of two of the division’s top three fighters and just the sixth unification in 154-pound history. The five prior winners are either in or bound for the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Though Lara’s conservative, calculating style has made for some dull bouts, the charismatic Hurd is a pressure boxer whose relentlessness allowed him to do what Lara, Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto and Jermall Charlo could not: knock out Austin Trout.

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Lara is the longest-reigning champion at 154 pounds, while Hurd has posted seven consecutive knockouts.

“I did everything in the gym that I needed to prepare for anything that Hurd can bring,” Lara said. “All of my opponents are taller than me. His size means nothing to me. I have the experience and I’m the best boxer in the division. He’s never seen anything like me.

“He has to beat me to get the top spot in this division. I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’ve earned everything in this sport the hard way. I’ve fought the tough fights for no money. I think everyone knows how talented I am and that I belong up there with the best in the sport.”

Hurd admitted, “This is going to be a difficult fight. … We’ve been in the gym working a lot on our hand movement and footwork. I took too many punches against Trout, and I knew what it was going to take to make those improvements. I’m protecting this undefeated record. I promise I’m going to give it my all and bring it to Lara all night long.

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“I’m planning to give everyone a great show just like I always do. No matter what he comes with, I’m going to be in charge in the ring.

“You don’t have to worry about Lara running away, because I’m going to be in his face for 12 rounds.”

sports@latimes.com


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