August 15, 2013

KO Digest Spotlight on Boxing's Up and Comers - Jermall Charlo

The Future of Boxing
By Terry Strawson - Less than a week ago now, at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in Indio, CA., Jermall "The Hitman" Charlo improved his undefeated record to 15-0, 11 KO's with a second round stoppage of the talented, yet problematic, Antwone Smith. Fighting out of Houston, TX., under the experienced Ronnie Shields, the 23 year old Charlo is quietly transforming himself from junior middleweight prospect to legitimate contender, a transformation that gained momentum with the swift stoppage of Smith (23-5-1) last Friday night on SHOBOX: The New Generation.

Charlo began the fight behind his jab, maintaining mobility without wasting many steps. His confidence and composure were clear from the outset and enabled him to see (and land) a beautiful right hand counter to the head of his bewildered opponent. That signaled the end for the usually durable Smith who succumbed to a follow-up right hand that landed around the ear and wobbled him to the canvas. Smith had never been down before, and was up in good time but hadn't recovered from his rattled equilibrium when the fight was waved off. It was a good stoppage by ref Tom Taylor and an assured performance from Charlo - the self appointed future of boxing.

A week before the showdown with Smith—who had beaten undefeated Ronald Cruz and ring legend Jose Luis Castillo in his last two outings—KO Digest spoke with a focused and determined Charlo. "I'll use my body, I'll use my size, I'll use my punching power and I'll use my speed too. I know he's in shape so I've got myself in great shape too and I plan on just bringing pressure to him and trading with him. I hope he wants to trade because I've seen a few tapes on him and he likes to trade and throw a lot of punches. But once he feels my power, I know he is not gonna want to trade."

As it turned out, it wasn't that Smith didn't want to trade, he was simply unfit and unable to. Smith, not for the first time in his career, came in overweight for the fight and it fired up an already stoked Charlo. "It sparked a new flame in me to know he wasn't taking the sport seriously. It let me know that he was really looking past me. It's disrespectful, coming in overweight, it shows he didn't really care about me so when I landed that right hand—I hope he still didn't care." 

Twin Charlo Brothers
It is almost impossible to speak about Jermall Charlo without mentioning his twin brother Jermell, who is also undefeated (21-0, 10 KO's) as a professional in the junior middleweight division. Jermell is signed to a promotional agreement with Golden Boy and while Jermall is not signed with any promoter, both brothers are managed by boxing powerhouse Al Haymon.

The pair, born May 19, 1990, were introduced to boxing at the age of eight by their father, and former amateur featherweight, Kevin Charlo. The environment in which Jermall was raised in Texas, surrounded by trainer Ronnie Shields and his stable of quality fighters, provided him with a confidence and a belief that, not only was he ready for Smith, but that he belongs at eye level with the sports elite. "I've been sparring with Brian Vera while he's getting ready for Chavez Jr, I've been sparring with Edwin Rodriguez, who just won the Million Dollar tournament in Monte Carlo and I have been working with my brother Jermell. I've been sparring with the elite, I've been around the elite, I pretty much classify myself as part of the elite."

"I have to show the world what I have so everybody will take sides with me. As of right now I am just in the making."

He certainly is. Charlo's paid career began in 2008 after a spell in the amateurs produced approximately 60 victories with roughly five losses. His debut as a professional prizefighter came at a small venue in nearby Grand Prairie, TX., and resulted in a second round technical knockout of the unknown Cimarron Davis. His next bout followed a couple of months later when he scored a shutout over the previously unbeaten Mario Hernandez, albeit 2-0.

Charlo improves his technique and his record
From that point, Charlo went on to defeat numerous journeyman and opponents before a showdown with Orlando Lora (29-3-2) took place on the under card of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Austin Trout at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX., last April. "The Lora fight was my toughest test as a professional. I trained very hard for him. Me and Ronnie got together and took my performance to another level." The young junior middleweight imposed his will on Lora from the outset culminating in the Mexican's inability to answer the bell for the fifth round.

A fight with Luis Hernandez (22-5), was then staged at the BB&t Center, Sunrise, FL., last June. The Venezuelan had only lost to quality opponents, ranging from Paul Williams to Selcuk Aydin. Hernandez certainly provided a test on paper, but it was passed by Charlo with flying colors. Referee Samuel Burgos stopped the fight in the second round after Hernandez was dropped for a second time in the round. The victory meant Charlo, and his handlers more importantly, were ready to maneuver themselves to a sterner test, one that was supposed to be offered up by Antwone Smith, in a bout that was originally slated for the undercard of Andre Berto and Jesus Soto Karass. "I was expecting a fight, preparing for the worst but he didn't give me the worst. But I'd been working hard so it was just a reward for my hard work."

Hard work in the Charlo corner
The hard work will continue for Jermall Charlo as (having fought just six days ago) he is already penciled in to fight September 12th on the undercard of a Shawn Porter and Julio Diaz rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The show, which will also showcase Badou Jack and Hugo Centeno Jr in separate bouts, should provide a welcome appetizer ahead of the main course offered by Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez just two days later. Alvarez, who holds versions of the WBC and WBA titles, is generally accepted as the number one man in the junior middleweight division since his April victory over Trout. Charlo was on the undercard that night, amidst far less fanfare, but he believes he is ready for a fight with 'Canelo' sooner rather than later.

"I feel like no other athlete trains like me, so I have no choice but to have confidence in myself. Especially when I throw punches and I see the power when I train, let alone when I fight [with smaller gloves on.] So you know, I really feel I'm unstoppable right now and I feel really powerful. I'm ready to unleash and take over the division with what I got. Canelo is still learning right now but, you know, he's getting ready to fight Mayweather right now so he's on top of the world. But I really don't care about him that much, he's not that skillful, I know I can beat him. If it was up to me, we would fight this year, after the Mayweather fight, but of course you know how boxing is, and all the politics behind it, I'll just have to wait my turn. When my time comes, I'll be able to show you."

Charlo looks ahead to a bright future in boxing
Charlo, with Ronnie Shields and Al Haymon guiding his career inside and out of the ring, is certainly headed in the right direction. I would imagine a less direct route to a world title shot for Charlo and his next fight to be another carefully selected opponent geared towards getting him the rounds he anticipated from Smith. Your guess is as good as mine at the moment but Sergey Rabchenko and Cornelius 'K-9' Bundrage stick out to me as potential suitors down the road whille Alfredo Angulo is another. Luciano Cuello, the Argentine who just went the distance with Willie Nelson on HBO recently, would also offer up a viable option for Haymon and his matchmakers to get their young charge more experience.

Whatever happens, we should expect to see Jermall Charlo, and twin brother Jermell for that matter, become permanent fixtures in the sport, not just the division. Jermall (born first and the elder by a minute) is the more aggressive and forceful of the pair and his confidence and supreme physical condition indicate he is more than capable of sharing a ring with a champion or two right now.

The IBF version of the junior middleweight title will be contested for by Ishe Smith and Carlos Molina on September 14th and the vacant WBO belt will be up for grabs when Vanes Martirosyan and Demetrius Andrade meet in November. A fight with either of the aforementioned fighters would offer Charlo a genuine opportunity to become a world champion.

The future is indeed bright for Jermall Charlo.

Written by Terry Strawson ~ exclusively for KO Digest

Look for a new KO Digest Spotlight on Up & Comers on the 15th of every month!