Jermell Charlo’s Kingdom Has Come

Jermell Charlo pulled up to media day in a white Bentley.

If you have never attended such an event for a fighter, here is what happens. The fighter invites fans and media to watch him work out. He shows up 30 minutes late or so to be sure he’s the last to arrive, then parades around the gym to showcase what it sort of looks like when he actually works out.

In truth, a fighter’s media day is nothing more than a pep rally for him and his constituents. He takes pictures with fans. He kisses babies. He struts around soaking in some blatantly forced applause and adulation.

It is a rite of passage, and Charlo has earned it.

Having seen Charlo rise quickly from just a local prospect to one of the most elite fighters in the sport has been a case study of how a young fighter goes from point A to point B. Point A is the time in his life he might actually make something of himself as a fighter. Point B is the point in time everyone else starts believing in him too.

Charlo has gone from a no-name pug at the local area gym to the WBC junior middleweight champion of the world, and he’s adapted nicely to the added pressures and common trappings associated with it. He and his twin brother Jermall are Houston’s most well-known boxers, and Jermell appeared to revel in watching his star power rise to the level of being one of Showtime’s most recognizable and oft-promoted TV fighters.

Sunglasses in tow, Charlo walked into his local Houston boxing gym, Charlo Boxing Academy, greeted by throngs of fans and media ready to sing his praises. They clapped when he hit the bag. They cheered while he boxed shadows. They laughed at all his terrible jokes. Showtime cameramen darted around him to document his every move.

For Charlo, it has become the new norm, but it hasn’t changed his dedication to the craft that got him here.

Charlo takes being a world champion seriously. He moved his training headquarters from Houston to Dallas under the tutelage of trainer Derrick James precisely to weed out distractions from his life, a smart move for a fighter who wants to continue his winning ways.

“I feel like I can focus over there,” said Charlo who returned to Houston for his media day workout.

It seems to have paid off. In recent outings, Charlo has become a hard-hitting knockout machine, clobbering just about whomever the WBC mandates he defeats in order to keep his title belt. And that’s something he said he plans to continue doing for the foreseeable future.

On October 14, Charlo will take on undefeated prospect Erickson Lubin, one of the most talented and highly praised young fighters in the junior middleweight division. But Charlo remains unfazed at the idea of trying to match Lubin’s power punching and precise mechanics. He brushed off the idea the bout was between two evenly matched fighters, but said he had to make sure he focused on his skills and abilities to prove it.

“He’s a crafty young fighter. He’s strong. He’s got some skills. He’s got a little pop. I’m going to have to dog it out [to win the fight]. May the best man win.”

Lubin is a southpaw wrecking ball who combines tenacity with a style and stance that traditionally can be trouble for orthodox technicians like Charlo. But while it might be true Lubin is the best fighter Charlo has faced to date, it most assuredly is true the other way around. Lubin has not faced anything close to as good a fighter as Charlo, and the step up from where he has been fighting is huge.

Besides, Charlo said he has had no problems defeating southpaws anyway.

“I’ve knocked every southpaw I’ve fought out,” he said dismissively to a boxing reporter who dared to insinuate he might have some trouble with a lefty.

Charlo is so confident that he’s already looking forward to bigger paydays against more celebrated opponents. With Miguel Cotto set to have his farewell fight in December, Charlo made clear his intention to be the other man in the ring that night.

“I’m too much for Cotto,” said Charlo. “I’m just way too much. He’s older now. He doesn’t have the athleticism I have. He’s not active enough.”

But Charlo is savvy. He knows how the sport works. He knows older fighters like Cotto don’t schedule bouts against dangerous fighters like Charlo unless there’s enough money on the table to warrant it, and right now, it probably doesn’t make financial sense for a fighter like Cotto to risk a beating.

So while Charlo doesn’t believe the fight will actually come to fruition, he certainly made a point about saying why that might be the case. He said he was too dangerous an opponent for Cotto whereas other reported names would offer less of a challenge while providing the same financial compensation.

Of all the names bandied about for Cotto, the most likely bout for him is against David Lemieux at the present, especially since Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez seem set on signing an immediate middleweight championship rematch for May 2018.

To that end, Charlo said he would have no problem moving up to middleweight for the right fight, and said that 160 pounds was likely his destination as a professional fighter in the fairly near future anyway. He said if he could nab the December date against Cotto, he’d be comfortable fighting at either weight.

“[Cotto]be a great fight for me, of course. But I don’t believe Cotto and his team would put that together.”

Charlo said he is frustrated with being overlooked by older fighters heading off to retirement. He said the Cotto situation reminded him of when Floyd Mayweather was set to retire after defeating Manny Pacquiao in 2015. Back then Charlo was saying a lot of the same things about Mayweather that he says now about Cotto and, like then, it’s probably just as much to no avail.

“Me being the stud that I am, I definitely know these guys are going to overlook me.”

Charlo said his focus right now was defending his title belt against Lubin, but that he wants bigger fights in the future. He said a move to middleweight would help him accomplish that, but the decision would be left to the discretion of his handlers, saying at the moment he doesn’t have any issues making the 154-pound limit for junior middleweight.

Still, his face lit up when he was asked about tangling with the likes of Golovkin and Alvarez someday soon.

“I’m after the big fight. I’ve fought 29 fights. I’ve fought a lot of prospects. I’ve fought Olympians. What else do y’all want me to do? Now it’s time to put this Houston fighter on the map, [and] beat the Cottos, beat the Canelos and the GGGs and whoever else y’all want me to jump in the ring with.”

Charlo said he expects to do his part in lobbying for such bouts by putting on a show against Lubin. To Charlo, Lubin is just a nobody, another fighter whose dreams Charlo must smash in order to accomplish his ultimate goal of becoming the biggest fighter in the sport.

“I’m fighting a prospect. He’s not even a contender. Like I said, I don’t even know how he got this fight, but I have to [fight him] so I can fight the No. 1 guys. That’s what mandatories are all about. I can’t pick and choose because I’m not Mayweather yet…It is what it is.”

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