Hugo Centeno Jr. stands between Jermall Charlo and 160 pound supremacy

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Once-beaten middleweight contender Hugo Centeno Jr. says he will outbox former 154-pound champion Jermall Charlo tomorrow night in their 160-pound interim title fight on Showtime.

Hugo Centeno Jr. produced one of the most spectacular knockouts of 2017.

In his last fight, Centeno connected with a counter left hook that knocked Immanuwel Aleem senseless in the third round August 25 in Miami, Oklahoma. That perfect punch sent Aleem to the canvas like a chopped tree and abruptly ended their scheduled 10-round bout.

It’ll take more than that to impress Jermall Charlo, Centeno’s opponent tomorrow night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

“I’m not Immanuwel Aleem and I’ll let you all see that when April 21st gets here,” Charlo said. “It’s a whole different ball game when you get in there trying to trade with me. You better have power, so I hope he's ready for it.”

Houston’s Charlo (26-0, 20 KOs) and Centeno (26-1, 14 KOs, 1 NC), of Oxnard, California, will fight for the WBC interim 160-pound title. Whoever wins will become the mandatory challenger for the victor of a May 5 bout between unbeaten champion Gennady Golovkin and new challenger Vanes Martirosyan in Carson, California.

The 27-year-old Charlo is a heavy favorite to beat Centeno — as much as 50-1, according to multiple online sports books. Centeno senses Charlo could be overlooking him almost as much as fans and odds makers as they approach the scheduled 12-round fight that is part of a Showtime-televised tripleheader (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT)—which features a main event of former world champs Adrien Broner and Jessie Vargas.

“I know a lot of people have been saying he’s been rambling and going off on Instagram and all the social media stuff,” Centeno said. “But every time he’s been doing that, I’ve been in the gym, staying focused. … I stay focused. I don’t worry about none of that. I’ve got my eye on the prize and that’s winning this world title.

“A lot of people say it’s an advantage for me because he isn’t focused and he’s looking past me. Realistically, if he does, that’s on him. I don’t wanna hear any excuses because we’ve had a lot of time to get ready. Like I said, I just stay focused and I keep my eye on the prize. And if he overlooks me or he’s not focused, that’s on him. He should know better at a level like this.”

Charlo says he isn’t overlooking Centeno. The confident Charlo is just convinced he is a vastly superior fighter destined to beat elite middleweights.

“I want to send a message to the world that I’m going to dominate the 160-pound division, while my brother proves he’s the best 154-pounder on the planet,” Charlo said, referring to his twin, WBC super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo. “Once I get my shot, you will all see what I’m talking about. Hugo Centeno Jr. is just in the way of that process. After April 21st, you’ll be able to see what I’m really made of.”

I want to send a message to the world that I’m going to dominate the 160-pound division, while my brother proves he’s the best 154-pounder on the planet. Former Super Welterweight World Campion Jermall Charlo

It’s tough to know what to make of Charlo’s last win. The former IBF junior middleweight champion stopped Jorge Sebastian Heiland in the fourth round of their WBC elimination match July 29 at Barclays Center.

Argentina’s Heiland clearly came to the ring with an injured left leg, though, which he hid from the New York State Athletic Commission and everyone else involved in the fight. That injury inhibited Heiland as soon as their fight started and prevented him from even standing up straight as Charlo clobbered him.

Charlo dropped Heiland once apiece in the second and fourth rounds, before their one-sided fight was stopped.

“With the talent that Jermall has,” Centeno said, “I would’ve thought he would’ve finished the fight a lot faster, especially with his opponent being hurt.”

A bruised rib suffered during sparring caused Centeno to postpone this fight from its original date of March 3. He says he is completely healthy, unlike Heiland, and said he will demonstrate that by out-boxing Charlo.

Centeno contends he won’t make the same mistake Heiland and others have committed by trading with the hard-hitting Charlo. The patient contender intends to use his jab to slow Charlo’s aggression, but Charlo’s formidable blend of speed and power has proven problematic for each of his first 26 opponents.

“He’s a very strong puncher,” Centeno said. “He has shown that. But I believe he’s a strong puncher to someone that’ll stay there [in front of him] and will make the mistake of staying flat-footed or taking his shots.”

The 27-year-old Centeno will fight for the third time since his lone loss — a 10th-round technical knockout to Poland’s Maciej Sulecki (26-0, 10 KOs) in June 2016. The greatest lesson Centeno learned from that defeat is to stop taking training for granted, as if he simply could get in shape, show up and beat whoever was placed in front of him.

The mild-mannered Centeno thinks Charlo needs to be humbled as well.

Centeno believes Julian Williams, a common opponent, was beating Charlo before Charlo clocked Williams with an overhand right that led to a fifth-round knockout in December 2016. Charlo, who floored Philadelphia’s Williams once in the second round and twice in the fifth, was ahead by the same score, 38-37, on all three cards when the fifth round began.

Nevertheless, Centeno—whose fight with Williams resulted in a no-contest—is certain Charlo hasn’t proven anything in his one fight at middleweight.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, well Jermall is the uncrowned king at 160,’” Centeno said. “And it’s kind of hard to crown him at 160 because he just got there. I mean he was a great fighter at 154. But he really hasn’t fought anybody at 160 yet.”

For a closer look at Charlo vs Centeno, check out our fight page.

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