Unbeaten former 154-pound world champion certainly dresses the part of a millennial model during everyday life, but his hunger to add multiple world titles and achieve greatness in the sport reminds his trainer Ronnie Shields of the throwback Hall of Famers he's worked with in the past.
Jermall Charlo may dress like today’s millennials, but he’s as old school as a third-grade Trapper Keeper.
Charlo’s Instagram is replete with more modeling pics than Tyson Beckford’s portfolio. Even so, the 27-year-old Houston, Texas product doesn’t just don throwbacks. He is one.
“Everything about Jermall reminds me of Evander Holyfield,” said his trainer, Ronnie Shields. “Sometimes I’ll watch him, and the similarities are startling. I’m not talking just in the ring, even though there are similarities there too. I’m talking about dedication. Both of those guys refuse to take a day off.”
Charlo is winding down camp at Shield’s Plex Boxing Gym in Houston. On Saturday April 21, he faces Hugo Centeno Jr. as part of a Showtime tripleheader (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT) from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The winner becomes the WBC interim world middleweight champion, and the mandatory challenger to champion Gennady Golovkin. Perhaps that’s why Charlo has intensified training for this bout—if that’s even possible.
“I want to send a message to the world that I’m going to dominate the 160-pound division,” he said. “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.”
Charlo-Centeno was originally slated for March 3rd, until Centeno suffered a rib injury in camp. Unsurprisingly, Charlo (26-0, 20 KOs) took less than a week off after the postponement before returning to the gym.
“I have to hold Jermall back, so he doesn’t overtrain,” Shields said. “Your body is only going to allow you to do so much before it gives you signs that you need to slow down. And we’ve had instances where that’s happened to him. But I love the mindset. In boxing, desire is what separates the best from the rest.”
Shields would know, having trained Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Pernell Whitaker, and Mark Breland, among others.
Charlo has captured the ethos of that old guard. His father Kevin, himself a former amateur standout, trained in Shields’ gym and would often bring his twin sons by.
“Jermall and Jermell were about eight-years-old then,” Shields recalls. “Every day, they would ask me, ‘when are you going to train us?’ I would tell them when they turned 17 or 18. They held me to that.
“Jermall is of those guys who studies and learns from other fighters. He worked alongside my fighters. He saw the work ethic Evander had. He saw how Pernell and them had a similar background to him. It showed him that he could do it too if he put the work in.”
“ The kid has all the talent in the world, and he has the will. I’ve seen it before. Fighters with his mentality just won’t be denied. ” Ronnie Shields, trainer for Jermall Charlo
That work is bearing fruit. Jermall won the IBF world super welterweight title in 2015, bulldozing Cornelius Bundrage in three rounds. When he struggled to make weight before a May 2016 win over former world champion Austin Trout, he decided it was time to move up.
“We were ready to give up the belt until Julian Williams started talking,” Shields says. “Jermall said, ‘I don’t care if it kills me to make 154. I’m shutting him up, because he’s talking way, way too much.’ That’s the old school attitude.”
The Charlo-Williams bout was delayed when the champion needed Lasik surgery to repair blurry vision.
“Julian and his trainer started talking even more, like we didn’t want the fight,” Shields says. “And that was so far from the truth. We had to show proof to the IBF in order to be granted a 60-day extension. By the time fight night rolled around, Jermall was really sick of the talking.”
The compelling scrap ended abruptly in the fifth, when Charlo posterized Williams with a barbarous counter right uppercut. He vacated his title immediately after, setting his sights on a stacked middleweight division.
“We’re real excited about possibly fighting Gennady Golovkin,” Shields says. “We want him and Danny Jacobs. We like our advantages against both. Jermall isn’t a mover, but he’s a tall boxer with a good jab, and he has power. I don’t see Canelo Alvarez facing us, because he picks and chooses who he wants to fight, and it won’t be Jermall. But the rest can bring it on.”
First, Charlo must get by Centeno Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs). Last August, the Oxnard, California native flattened unbeaten favorite Immanuwel Aleem in three rounds.
“Centeno is one of those guys who will sneak in shots on you,” Shields said. “You just have to be careful with guys like that. When he’s on, he’s on. When he’s not, he’s not. We have to make sure that he’s not.”
“I'm not Immanuwel Aleem and I’ll let you all see that when April 21 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.”
A win sets Charlo up for a world title shot, possibly against Golovkin. Regardless of opponent, Shields believes his charge is primed to become the division’s next king.
“Jermall matches up well with anyone at 160,” he said. “I’m really pleased with where he’s at right now. I expect him to win the title, unify and then move up to 168. The kid has all the talent in the world, and he has the will. I’ve seen it before. Fighters with his mentality just won’t be denied.”
For a closer look at Jermall Charlo, check out his fighter page.