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The Greatness of Jermell Charlo

(Photo via Yahoo Sports)

On July 4th, I want to take some time to put a spotlight on one of the best American fighters that we currently have in the sport. Jermell Charlo proudly reps the United States and does everything that we want and expect an elite world champion to do. Charlo is the reigning and defending undisputed junior middleweight champion and his recent run has cemented him as an all-time great 154lber. With it recently being announced that Jermell is moving up two weight classes to challenge Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in the first ever men’s undisputed vs undisputed battle in the four-belt era, it is only right that we take an in-depth look at the greatness of Jermell Charlo.

Jermell did not have it easy on his way up the ranks. A lot of prospects get “protected” as they progress and only get put in tough fights once they are fighting for a world title or final eliminator. Before getting a world title opportunity, Charlo already had wins over Vanes Martirosyan, Charles Bellamy, Gabe Rosado, and Demetrius Hopkins. Charlo was winning these fights, but they weren’t the dominant performances he was capable of and were also going the distance more often than not. Once Jermell joined forces with Derrick James, that all changed.

(Photo via Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

After knocking out John Jackson, son of Julian Jackson, in May of 2016, Jermell joined his twin brother Jermall as 154lb champions. Charlo would brutally knock out Charles Hatley in his first title defense, which lead to a mandatory title defense against 2016 Ring Magazine prospect of the year Erickson Lubin. The fight was basically a toss-up according to the odds, but Charlo showed there were levels to this when he knocked the rising star out inside the opening three minutes.

Charlo would go on to beat former champion Austin Trout by decision in his next outing, which set up the fourth defense of his WBC title where Jermell was faced with some adversity. Though the official result of this fight is still being debated to this day and many around the sport believe Jermell edged it out, Tony Harrison was awarded a close but unanimous decision that handed Charlo his first and only professional defeat. An old-school belief in boxing is that you don’t know what type of champion you are until you face adversity, and how you deal with it defines just how special of a champion you are.

The WBC ordered an immediate rematch between the two, but Harrison withdrew from the fight after suffering an ankle injury. Charlo didn’t let that deter him from his goal of regaining his title, as he stayed busy starching Jorge Cota giving himself momentum going into the rematch. In the buildup to the fight, Jermell still believed that the judges robbed him in the first Harrison fight. The one way to relieve the judges of their duties is to score a knockout, and that is exactly what he did when he finished off Harrison in the eleventh round of their rematch to become a two-time champion.

Charlo would then jump right into a unification fight with Jeison Rosario. Rosario recently had become the WBA and IBF champion by shocking Julian “J Rock” Williams and knocking him out in front of his hometown crowd building his confidence heading into this matchup. The power of Charlo in this fight ended up making the difference. He floored Rosario three different times, including the last one where a jab to the body left Rosario convulsing on the canvas. With the win, Jermell Charlo was now a unified champion and an established pound-for-pound level talent.

That left Charlo one win away from becoming the first undisputed 154lb champion of the four-belt era. In July of 2021, he matched up with WBO champion Brian Castaño. The fight was a back-and-forth affair, with both men having moments of success. It was the activity and hand speed of Castaño against the power and counterpunching of Charlo. The bout was ruled a split draw, and the two met in a rematch last year after a bicep injury from Castaño caused a slight postponement.

Much like he did in the Harrison rematch, Charlo showed that he is truly a special champion. He made the necessary adjustments and wound up stopping Castaño in the tenth round becoming the undisputed ruler of the junior middleweight division. Jermell showed us not once, but twice that he could go back to the drawing board and decisively erase the only blemishes on his pro record via knockout.

Something we love to see that we don’t see enough is the veteran champion being eager to face the young, strong, undefeated contender who poses the biggest threat to his throne. Charlo already did it once with Erickson Lubin back in 2017 and was on his way to doing the same against his WBO mandatory challenger Tim Tszyu. Charlo and Tszyu were originally set to face off on January 28th, but a fractured hand sustained during sparring gave Charlo no choice but to withdraw from the bout.

A chance of a lifetime came up in the meantime though, and Charlo was offered a life-changing payday and the opportunity to stamp himself as a true legend in the sport. This September, Charlo will be moving up 14lbs to try and become a double undisputed champion against the biggest star in the sport, Canelo Alvarez. Though Tszyu has a right to be upset, Charlo should get no criticism from the media or fans regarding this decision. He has sought out the toughest possible matchups fight-in and fight-out since he was a prospect, and if the Canelo fight hadn’t been an option I have all the confidence that Jermell would have taken on Tim Tszyu this fall.

For whatever reason, no matter what Jermell does it seems like the goalposts always move and certain members of the media never give him his just due. The phrase “daring to be great” might get overused, but Charlo moving up two weight classes to square off against another undisputed champion is a prime example of doing just that. Canelo will be the favorite come fight night no doubt, and with many people not giving Jermell even a chance of pulling off the upset it should make this move even more respected.

(Photo via @canelo, Twitter)

Regardless of who leaves him off of their pound-for-pound lists or attempts to diminish his accomplishments, true boxing fans understand and appreciate his place in history. He is the best junior middleweight of his era, and a win over Canelo Alvarez two weight classes above him would solidify his standing as a true all-time great. If every champion behaves the way Jermell Charlo does and continues to, then even the most negative boxing fans will have nothing to complain about. This year in boxing has been the best year we’ve seen in a while, and adding the first ever men’s undisputed vs undisputed champion in the four belt era makes a great year even greater.

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Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly