He entered the ring wearing a Lion’s head, thus signifying that he is one of the young Lions of boxing. And when he left the ring after winning a 12-round majority decision over former junior middleweight title holder Austin Trout, I had more doubts and more questions as to how authentically good he really is and a more firm belief that his twin brother Jermall is the better fighter of the two. Yes, I’m talking about WBC super welterweight champ Jermell Charlo 31-0 (15).
The Charlo-Trout fight lacked any serious sustained action and ended up being a letdown, based on Charlo riding in on a four bout knockout streak along with his pre-fight words and bravado. Yet this was thought to be Charlo’s breakout fight against the most high profile opponent he’d ever met although Trout, who was 31-4 (17) going in, was 1-2 in his last three bouts and presumed to be ripe for the picking.
“I went to fish,” said Charlo after the fight. “I tried to get some Trout, but I couldn’t catch him on the hook. I know they’re used to seeing me knock boys out, but at least they saw me take care of business.”
It would be written that Charlo used a tactical strategy and approach complemented by a consistent offense to post the win, by baiting Trout and making him pay for his mistakes. But that’s not what I saw; in fact I couldn’t disagree more. I thought Trout smartly probed Charlo with his southpaw jab just enough to prevent Jermell from getting a good read on him. The roughly 30 punches per round Charlo’s been averaging really made for a dull fight and allowed Trout to fight without being under duress and exposed Charlo’s rather vanilla offense.
It’s not a reach to glean that his back-to-back knockout of the year candidates in his last two bouts lured him into thinking he can knock out any super welterweight/junior middleweight in front of him, and on call. Charlo, being a fighter who usually works off of his jab, abandoned that posture somewhat during most of the fight with Trout. In the process he caught more jabs to the face and forehead than usual and his complacent pace and distance allowed Austin to pick his spots, often at his leisure. And that allowed Trout, who didn’t have much regarding power to offer in return, to establish his jab to the head and body and once that was ingrained it forced Jermell to fight in spurts and not only that but his offensive outbursts were predictable.
Charlo is an outstanding fighter fundamentally and he consistently presents sound basics. He has speed and explosive power and when his opponents betray a weakness or vulnerability, he usually smells blood in the water and finishes them. But against Trout he looked as though he had regressed. There were too many elongated gaps in the fight when he just followed Trout around the ring looking for the perfect shot to score the highlight reel KO.
Compounding the issue was that he didn’t attempt to set anything up. Instead he’d leap or rush in behind a single jab followed by a big right hand with a trailing uppercut or left hook behind it. As quick handed as he is, it seemed as if Trout had a feel for when Charlo was suddenly going to explode and he either moved or covered well, blunting the effectiveness. And that pattern was repeated the entire fight with Charlo jumping in with a three or four punch combo, sometimes wildly, and then getting out and looking for the next perceived opening to do it again.
Charlo managed to score knockdowns in the third and eighth rounds while Trout was looking to avoid trading with him, but Trout was never really that shook or close to being in a bad spot where it looked as if he might not finish on his feet. And that was due to Charlo’s lackadaisical tempo and too sporadic offense mixed with Austin knowing exactly what he was up against and fighting a very good fight tactically. Had it not been for Austin’s experience and Charlo unsure of how to go about cutting the ring off on him and forcing him to fight/box with a sense of urgency, its doubtful Trout, 32, would’ve lasted the distance.
Yes, the less than stellar showing by Jermell Charlo against Austin Trout may have dinged the perception of him; I know it did with me. Then again, it could’ve been an off night by a young and over-anxious title holder. And the track is fast at 154 with WBA/IBF title holder Jarrett Hurd 22-0 (15) and WBO titlist Jaime Munguia 29-0 (25) still in his path.
But Charlo is highly skilled and I won’t write him off. The other two champions are two of the bigger junior middleweights I’ve seen and if Charlo meets either one of them I can see their size being to his advantage and maybe even working against them. Against Trout, Charlo was confronted by a fighter who intelligently used his smaller size to navigate the ring and pick the safest spots to engage. Trout had no problem letting Charlo be the alpha dog and did all he could to make it more about who was the better boxer than who was the bigger and badder guy, thus making for a less fan-friendly fight.
The 6’1” Hurd uses his size to walk down and tire out his opponents, and the same applies to the 6’0” Munguia (only Munguia is more offensive minded than Hurd, especially early). There’s no way they can do to Charlo what Trout did. On top of that, both Hurd and Munguia fight as the aggressor and with the mindset of being the stronger and bigger puncher – meaning Charlo won’t have to look for either of them. And that will serve him well because he’s faster than both, has the capacity to put his punches together better, and giving ground isn’t in his DNA.
No, Jermell didn’t look good against Trout and some of that was him being inept at tracking him down and heading him off and a little of Trout knowing how to strip the bullets out of his guns. That won’t be an issue versus Hurd or Munguia. So either Jermell’s speed and cleaner punching will carry the day against them – or their size and strength will force him to fight on his back foot looking for openings, thus somewhat neutralizing his explosive offense and power.
Late Saturday night, after Jermell’s bout with Trout, Jarrett Hurd tweeted……..“He fight me ANY way like that, he’s getting stop!,” Hurd added the hashtag #KeepRunningYourMouth, a reference to Charlo’s catchphrase following impressive knockouts of Charles Hatley and Erickson Lubin in back-to-back bouts before he fought Austin Trout.
There’s no chance of Charlo fighting Hurd like he did Trout, because he’ll lose if he does. More importantly, Hurd’s presence and pressure works against it.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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