Jermall Charlo: Shifting Energy

The WBC World Middleweight Champion is a doting family man outside the ring—and one of the most menacing fighters in it, as he plans to show against Brandon Adams Saturday night on SHOWTIME.

When Jermall Charlo knocked out Julian Williams in December 2016, he asserted himself before the masses as a bonafide competitor with a mean streak: ornery, vengeful, and eminently proud.

It was a welcome introduction.

After a more or less lackluster title reign, Charlo was suddenly all the rage. And more to the point, in the age of glitzy manufacturing, he had achieved this distinction on his own terms, organically, and not through some contrived marketing ploy. 

In the lead-up to the fight, Williams, then a contender, had conjured up a storm of invective, accusing Charlo, the then IBF 154-pound titleholder, of ducking him and calling him a “turkey,” among other jibes.

Bursting at the seams of his frame, Charlo had been mulling a move up to middleweight. But like an aggrieved 18th century baron looking to protect his honor by pistol dueling his offender, Charlo decided to stay put at the weight class for one more go-around.  

During the fight, Charlo would score three knockdowns before the referee called it off in the fifth round. Afterward, Williams went over to the opposite corner to try and bury the hatchet — but Charlo wasn’t having it. Still jittery with adrenaline and the bad blood still fresh, Charlo spurned Williams on the spot, as a chorus of boos came raining down on the ring. 

“(Williams) disrespected me all the way up to the fight,” Charlo puffed post-fight. “I made the fight happen. I gave the fans what they wanted to see. I stayed at 154 pounds to fight someone that the world says I couldn’t beat.”

Bad sportsmanship or not, the win endeared Charlo to the body of fans who could appreciate a bit of malice in the ring. When his brother Jermell achieved a similarly cathartic conclusion later with a swift first round knockout against mouthy Erickson Lubin, it cemented the tandem as the proverbial bad boys of the sport.

On the other hand, though, that also meant having to contend with claims that they were too unruly and hotheaded for their own good. But public perception, at least in the elder Charlo’s view, has never been much of a concern. 

“We never really cared too much about what people think about us or say about us because we just fight our hardest,” Charo, the current WBC middleweight champion, said recently. “There’s nothing we can do about what people say about us, you know? In general we just continue and try to be the best can while we have this opportunity in boxing.”

Nonetheless, it may have come as a surprise to observers to see the older Jermall cast in a far more congenial light in a recent Showtime-produced segment for his upcoming fight in his hometown of Houston against Contender winner Brandon Adams. (Showtime, Saturday June 29, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT)

In the clip, Charlo is shown giddily checking in on the renovation of his newly purchased McMansion estate, dining out with his wife and friends, and taking his two kids to daycare. At one point he stresses that he prioritizes his children more than anything else. There are scenes of him sparring as his trainer Ronnie Shields looks on, but the boxing portion is almost an afterthought. The portrait here is at odds with the image of Charlo floating around in cyberspace as a tetchy, perpetually disgruntled alpha male (“Lions Only,” so goes the brothers’ mantra). Charlo chuckles when he is reminded of this disjunction. 

We never really cared too much about what people think about us or say about us because we just fight our hardest. WBC World Middleweight Champion - Jermall Charlo

“I’m actually a real big family person. I’m happy, man. I’m living my best life. I have beautiful kids, a beautiful wife, a beautiful home and the things that I couldn’t be more proud of myself for. I couldn’t be more satisfied.”

While his younger brother prefers to lead the bachelor’s lifestyle, Jermall always knew he was going to settle down with his high school sweetheart.

“My wife was always destined to be the one and she made it appear that there was no other choice,” said Jermall, who got married shortly after winning a 154-pound strap from Cornelius Bundrage in 2015. “Like, where we gonna go from here?”  

“Sometimes things like this don’t get out to the media. I’m actually one of the happiest fighters out there. It’s no big deal if people don’t see it. If they don’t see it, they don’t see it.” 

The key, according to Charlo, is understanding that these are two different pursuits and require different “energies.” 

“I just know how to shift my energy in boxing,” Charlo explains, noting that he can be a savage in the ring and a doting father outside of it. “I want and I’m willing to be a great fighter. I also want to be a great person. But you can’t get it mixed up. You gotta know how to shift your energy.” 

Part of that involves being a devoted older brother. Though Jermall may be fully invested with his own family, he never fails to show up at his twin’s fights and vice versa. He was at the most recent fight in Las Vegas, where Jermell knocked out Jorge Cota inside three rounds. They had dinner afterwards to celebrate and then got right back on the plane to Houston to resume training. And of course, when Jermell dropped a highly controversial decision to Tony Harrison last December, Jermall was sitting right beside him at the post-fight press conference propping up his crestfallen sibling. 

But lest he becomes known for anything else, and as satisfied as he may be with the developments in his personal life, Charlo makes it clear that he is far from content with his professional career. Without overlooking Adams, Charlo knows that his reputation rests on fighting the best in the middleweight field, a prospect made difficult by the usual political divisions in boxing. In the end, it’s his role as a fighter that counts the most. 

“Of course, of course,” Charlo responded when asked if he would fight the likes of Saul Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Danny Jacobs, and Demetrius Andrade. “It’s definitely about loyalty and getting with my team and making sure everything is not crossing the line but of course I’d go over and fight. I’d go to Mexico and fight ‘Canelo.’ I’d go to Kazakhstan to fight Golovkin. Also Rhode Island and fight Andrade. I’d fight Danny Jacobs out in Brooklyn. I’d go to every piece of the earth (to fight these guys). 

“Hopefully I can get one of those guys across the street and come into unfamiliar territory where they’re not protected by a network. Let the best man win.”

For a closer look at Jermall Charlo, check out his fighter page.

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