Jermell Charlo is the Full Package but is Playing Second Fiddle Once Again

Jermell Charlo defends his 154-pound WBC title against Austin Trout at the Staples Center on Saturday night in Los Angeles, but he’s not packaged as the promotion’s main event attraction. Instead, the Showtime telecast beginning at 10 p.m. ET is headlined by a featherweight title rematch between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares.

Shouldn’t Jermell Charlo be headlining his own events by now? What gives?

While Santa Cruz-Mares 2 is a noteworthy fight featuring two of boxing’s hardest working little fighters, it’s frustrating to see Charlo still working as a televised undercard fighter at this point in his career. It’s time for the sport’s power brokers and their television partners to start treating the fighter like the commodity he is.

Charlo, who travels from Houston to Dallas to work with one of the hottest trainers in the sport right now in Derrick James, has been outstanding during his prizefighting career. He’s athletically gifted, delightfully skilled and really knows how to run his opponents into punches for knockouts. And over the last handful of fights, in what was supposed to be the toughest stretch to date, he has been absolutely brilliant. Charlo has won his last four fights by knockout, three of them world title bouts.

But here is Charlo, with just one fight remaining on his current promotional contract under PBC, fighting in a support role on a major U.S. boxing telecast.

It doesn’t make any sense.

Both Charlos, in fact, have become major factors on the world boxing scene. Jermall, the elder brother by one minute, has gone from being the IBF title holder at 154 pounds to one of the most recognizable contenders in the middleweight division.

On top of Jermell’s previously noted knockout streak, Jermall has enjoyed a similarly stellar performance over the same timeframe. The middleweight Charlo has won four of his last five fights by stoppage.

It’s no wonder boxing fans seem so eager these days to see the Charlos fight. They’ve become knockout machines and people love them for it.

Don’t believe me? Head over to your favorite social media platform. Ask other fight fans who Gennady Golovkin should fight if the proposed rematch with Canelo Alvarez falls through (again). You’re likely to hear Jermall’s name more than anyone else’s. And if Alvarez is looking to campaign at junior middleweight for good now, try some social media matchmaking for him, too. The top name bandied about by those who want the most competitive matchups between A-level boxing stars is Jermell.

Yes, as Showtime PR envoy Steve Pratt put it when he told me how hard it was to pin down a Charlo brother these days outside their standard promotional schedules, “the Charlos are so hot right now.”

They sure are.

“We’re jolts of lightning for this sport,” Charlo told the Los Angeles-area press at a recent media workout in California.  “We’re giving people real problems. We just get in there and do what we do.”

And what the Charlos do is win, often in explosive and spectacular fashion, against some of the very best competition in the sport. Over the last three years, the Charlo brothers combined are 10-0 with 9 knockouts.

“Me and my brother talk the talk and we walk the walk,” said Jermell. “From this point on in our careers, we’re going full force, and it’s going to be nothing but knockouts.”

The last person to survive 12 full rounds with a Charlo brother is Trout. The artful southpaw used deft footwork and clever counterpunches to give Jermall Charlo all he could handle in May 2016. Having come up short in that encounter and now coming off a knockout loss to unified division champion Jarrett Hurd, we can probably expect an invigorated Trout to give it his all on Saturday night.

But besides the five-year age gap between the two fighters, Trout’s biggest hurdle versus Charlo will be that the fighter he faces in 2018 is light years ahead of where either brother was as a fighter just two years ago.

Both Charlos have improved dramatically during that time span, but especially Jermell. Anyone who has watched Jermell graduate from the clever counterpuncher he was then to the full-fledged, power punching savage he’s become today, can see it in both the way he fights and the way he carries himself outside the ring.

“Jermell is always pushing to do more and do it better,” said Derrick James who also trains 147-pound titleholder Errol Spence. “He’s always looking to go further than training. If I tell him to do something he does it and learns from it. He’s a great student. I think he has a lot of heart and a lot of desire, and you will see that come out [against Trout].”

It’s not that Trout isn’t a highly skilled and decorated fighter capable of the upset. It’s that Jermell is that much better in just about every single way. However Trout might try to attack Charlo this weekend, the younger, stronger fighter, is sure to have an answer for it. Trout can’t outbox Charlo, and he can’t outpunch him either. The 32-year-old is in for a long night.

“I’m definitely growing as a fighter and growing as a man,” said Charlo. “If Trout wants to bang, let’s bang. I don’t care what [trainer] Barry Hunter has or what he does, it’s not going to be able to beat me and Derrick James. I don’t necessarily think Trout is as tough as me so if he can’t put up the skills and match my ability, he won’t beat me that night.”

Perhaps most interesting is what will happen after the fight.

Charlo is about to have a big decision to make. According to multiple reports, Charlo has fielded promotional offers from Eddie Hearn, Bob Arum, Oscar De La Hoya and others. Each promotional company — Matchroom Sports, Top Rank and Golden Boy — offer competitive mixtures of risks and rewards. Charlo might stick to his current setup of working with Lou DiBella coupled to PBC or perhaps even start a promotional company of his own.

Whatever the case, after Saturday night, it’s high time for the Charlos to take center stage. Jermell has first run at it. He’s one of the most intriguing and richly talented fighters in the sport, and whichever route he chooses to go, one hopes he understands how important it is for his career to pick the right promoter.

The right promoter puts Charlo on television in main event bouts against top level competition. The wrong one? I think we’ve already seen what happens there.

Photo credit: Dave Mandel / SHOWTIME

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