Jermell Charlo came to the ring Saturday night at STAPLES Center wearing a lion head, and left the ring with another good name on his ledger.
Charlo outmuscled Austin Trout to the tune of a 12-round majority decision in the co-featured bout on the Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares fight. Charlo retained his WBC 154-pound title with the win on scorecards 118-108, 115-111, and a controversial 113-113 score from judge Fernando Villarreal (who had also inexplicably scored McWilliams Arroyo-Carlos Cuadras a draw).
“I went to fish, I tried to get some trout but I couldn’t catch him on the hook," Charlo said after the fight. "I know they’re used to seeing me knock boys out but at least they saw me take care of business."
The fight opened with some heavy boos as both fighters looked to establish their offense. Charlo was able to earn the nod in the first two rounds with spurts of effective aggression. He landed lead rights and then Trout would tie him up, keeping him from landing follow-ups.
The fight picked up in the third round as Charlo landed a right hand that hurt Trout, and a follow-up didn't land cleanly but resulted in Trout being put on the canvas. Referee Jack Reiss ruled it a knockdown, and Trout was in a big hole early on.
Jermell just seemed to be too strong for Trout, using that strength on the inside to push Trout out of a clinch and land big shots that bothered Trout. Charlo bullied Trout in the fourth and fifth rounds, landing big right hands out of a clinch.
Trout had a bit of a renaissance in the sixth round, landed a couple flashy combinations that may have edged him the round. Charlo got a little frustrated in the seventh by Trout's veteran tactics, another close round.
“ I know they’re used to seeing me knock boys out but at least they saw me take care of business ” Jermell Charlo, on his victory over Austin Trout
The ninth round saw Trout visiting the canvas in the opening seconds, turning the fight back in Charlo's favor with one punch. Trout seemed okay but weary of Charlo's power.
Trout had a good showing in the 10th round, tagging Charlo with a four-punch combination before taking a Charlo punch with Trout between the ropes. Reiss warned Charlo for the foul and it seemed to stall Trout's offense.
The pace slowed in the championship rounds with Charlo doing slightly better work. Somehow he walked away only with a majority decision despite scoring two knockdowns.
Where does Charlo go from here? A fight against Austin Hurd, who stopped Trout in a 10-round war last year, would be magical and a fight between arguably the two best 154-pounders in the world. Though Charlo was booed handily by the crowd when conducting his post-fight interview, Charlo can obviously make some big-money fights.
“Trout will tell you who will win that fight," Charlo said of a potential matchup against Hurd. "Trout moved, that’s why he survived 12. If Hurd sat in front of me and took those shots he’s done.”
Trout still showed he can be a slick fighter and he's taken both Charlos the distance -- the only fighter who can say that. At 32, it's unlikely Trout hangs them up as the 154-pound division is stacked and there's still money to be made.
“Both Jermall and Jermell are really good," Trout said afterwards. "They are the future. But I’m not done yet. I’m not defined by my results. I’m defined by the risks that I take. I’ve taken the risks and I’ve stood my ground every time against giants and killers. And I’m still here."