Jermell Charlo vs. Tony Harrison could close out the year with a bang

Charlo is closing in on a unification bout versus Jarrett Hurd, but can’t look past the dangerous Detroit native Harrison—a pugilist from the legendary Kronk Gym who is ready to play spoiler tomorrow night in the co-main event of PBC on FOX.

On Saturday night, December 22nd, the Charlo brothers kick off Premier Boxing Champions' new deal with FOX. In the co-feature of a tripleheader, junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo (31-0, 15 knockouts) makes the fourth defense of WBC 154-pound title against Tony Harrison (27-2, 21 KOs), live from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (FOX & FOX Deportes, 8 PM ET/5 PM PT).

Charlo is on a collision course with unified 154-pound champion Jarrett Hurd but should not be looking ahead as Harrison represents a dangerous challenge.

It can be argued that Charlo hasn't faced a puncher quite like Harrison before. Even in his two losses, Harrison rocked Hurd and Willie Nelson before succumbing to ninth-round TKOs to both. He can really crack, and if Charlo isn't careful, his chin will be tested.

Charlo climbed into the ring after Hurd's successful title defense on the December 1st Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury undercard and fired off a few verbal salvos. It's been reported that the two are on a path to face each other sometime in the second half of 2019. Should that occur, it wouldn’t just be the biggest fight that can be made in the super welterweight division, but one of the biggest in boxing in recent years.

Charlo's star has been rising ever since he scored a startling knockout of John Jackson for the vacant WBC belt in May 2016. That night, Charlo fell behind on the scorecards before detonating a right hand on the side of Jackson's head in the ninth, resulting in a delayed reaction that forced the referee to stop the fight.

The Jackson win was the second Charlo fight since joining forces with trainer Derrick James. Jermell was originally trained by Ronnie Shields, who also trains brother Jermall. The new partnership is bearing fruit. With James, Charlo scored four consecutive knockouts before the streak ended in June against Austin Trout. Charlo dropped Trout twice, but couldn’t put him away, settling for a majority decision in his toughest fight to date.

“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.”

By being more patient, the knockouts have come a lot easier. The other added benefit is that Charlo gets to train with another James pupil, welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., one of the highest regarded fighters in boxing today.

This will no doubt help prepare him for Harrison, a veteran boxer-puncher capable of outboxing or outslugging opponents. The late Emanuel Steward once called Harrison, his former pupil, a sure-fire future world champion. Though Harrison came up short in his lone title bid, he looms as an obstacle to Charlo earning a massive payday against Hurd late next year. In his last fight, the Detroit native nearly stopped iron-chinned Ishe Smith in a split decision win.

Harrison, 28, is riding a three-fight win streak since the February 2017 loss to Hurd, a bout he was winning until Hurd caught up in the middle rounds. Stamina issues have hurt him in his defeats, but he says that is all behind him as he enters the biggest fight of his career.

"I’ve learned to train at a rate where I peak right at fight time and not overdo it," Harrison told PBC's Jordan Hardy in an interview. "I’m eating better. I’m not getting any younger, so the [stuff] that I was getting away with when I was younger is out the window. I’m just taking calculated steps to do everything right and to make sure that, health-wise, I’m at 100 percent.”

Though this fight is being considered a launching pad for Charlo, Harrison’s brimming with confidence. His father and trainer, Ali Salaam, studied tape of Charlo’s fight versus Jackson and liked what he saw.

"Tony’s punching power will be a difference from John Jackson, who isn't the boxer or the puncher Tony is,” Salaam told Boxingscene.com. “With Tony’s punching power, if he hits Charlo with some of the shots Jackson hit him with, I think we stop Jermell.”

Charlo isn't overlooking Harrison, nor is he underestimating him.

“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.”

Charlo is looking for another highlight-reel knockout, hoping to steal the show from his brother Jermall, who fights late-replacement and former title challenger Matt Korobov in the middleweight title main event. A statement performance would be to defeat Harrison more impressively than Hurd did. That’s what he’s aiming to do.

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

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