The Houston native is already an accomplished champion with crossover appeal, but at just 29 and entering his prime—Saturday night’s PBC on FOX co-headliner seems like he’s just getting started.
Jermell Charlo has been a professional boxer for 11 years, yet he’s just reaching his peak. He has been a world champion since 2016, yet has just started collecting belts. He already is a featured attraction on TV, yet his star could shine even brighter in the future.
In other words, it seems the best is yet to come for the 29-year-old Houston native.
“Definitely,” he said. “I still have a lot I want to prove to the boxing world.”
Charlo defends his WBC junior middleweight title against Tony Harrison in the co-feature to twin brother Jermall Charlo’s 160-pound title fight against Matt Korobov this Saturday, December 22 in a kickoff event to the new PBC on FOX fight series (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
This will be Jermell’s fourth defense of the belt he won by stopping John Jackson in May 2016. Charlo was behind on all three cards in that fight but stopped Jackson in savage fashion in the eighth to win the vacant title. He followed with victories over Charles Hatley (KO 6), Erickson Lubin (KO 1) and Austin Trout (MD).
Few fighters in the world are making a bigger impact on the sport, which is no surprise to his trainer, Derrick James.
Charlo left trainer Ronnie Shields in 2015 to work with James in part because he thought James was more supportive of the Charlo brothers’ decision to become promoters, which gave rise to Lions Only Promotions.
The marriage has been blissful. James describes his protégé as tremendously athletic and a wonderful student, one who takes instruction to heart and works harder than he has to. Charlo wasn’t in need of an overhaul after working with Shields, one of the best trainers in the world, but minor tweaks have refined his defensive skills and produced more power.
Charlo has stopped four his five opponents under James and he put the resilient Trout down twice.
“Ronnie did a phenomenal job with Jermell,” James said. “I’ve just tried to implement what I teach. One thing I did was slow him down. By slowing him down, it’s easier for him to see everything coming.
“And we’ve worked on rotating his whole body when he punches. When he does that, no one can stand up to that power.”
Charlo has always benefited from elite training mates. He has worked alongside his gifted twin brother since they first laced up gloves as 8-year-olds. Now he trains in Dallas with Errol Spence Jr., one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
James becomes gleeful when he talks about sparring sessions between Charlo and Spence—sometimes-brutal affairs that harden Charlo and are, according to James, “better than what you usually see on television.”
“It’s been great being around Errol,” Charlo said. “He’s taught me some things, I’ve taught him some things. My brother is still in my life. He has four kids who love when Uncle ‘Mell comes around. I like the situation I’m in now.
“Derrick and I have good chemistry, a good relationship. I’m continuing to grow as a fighter with him.”
“ Everyone knows that any guy can destroy your career. I’m not going to take it easy on this guy at all. He can ruin the party at any time. ” WBC Junior Middleweight Champion Jermell Charlo, on Tony Harrison
If Charlo (31-0, 15 KOs) beats Harrison, a title-unification with IBF and WBA beltholder Jarrett Hurd could be on the horizon. At least that’s the plan.
Charlo climbed into the ring immediately after Hurd knocked out Jason Welborn on December 1 in Los Angeles and the two exchanged heated words.
“I like those belts,” Charlo told Hurd. “They look real good on you.” And he added, just as an opening jab, that the fight would be “easy money.”
Hurd (23-0, 16 KOs) isn’t an easy night for anyone. A particularly good boxer can give him trouble —as Erislandy Lara did—but his unusual physical strength and durability usually wear his opponents down.
Indeed, Hurd represents the kind of test that, if passed, can change the way a fighter is perceived.
Spence believes that Charlo has the all-around ability and toughness to hand Hurd his first loss and gain recognition as one of the top fighters in the world as a result. Charlo insists he doesn’t care much about pound-for-pound recognition, which he dismisses as random opinions, but he does want to make his mark.
And Hurd is the man who can help him do it.
“He’s a champion. And I want to become undisputed champion in the division,” Charlo said. “He has confidence in himself. He’s willing to fight me. We’ll get in the ring next year. And I’ll continue to build my career.”
First things first, of course: Charlo must get past Harrison (27-2, 21 KOs).
The one-time student of the late, great Emanuel Steward is an experienced boxer-puncher who gave Hurd problems until he was knocked out in the ninth in February 2017. He’s 3-0 since, including a split-decision victory over Ishe Smith in May.
“Everyone knows that any guy can destroy your career,” Charlo said. “I’m not going to take it easy on this guy at all. He can ruin the party at any time.”
And, again, Charlo’s party is just getting started.
For a closer look at Charlo vs Harrison, check out our fight page.