This past Saturday the Charlo brothers boasted massive reputations, certainly among the highest and most respected in the sport today. Both unbeaten champions, born one minute apart from one another, they carried highlight-reel power, which they recently put on display by violently vanquishing the likes of Hugo Centeno Jr. and Erickson Lubin. With Jermell facing off against former two-time knockout victim Tony Harrison, and older twin Jermall taking on late replacement Matvey Korobov, their dance partners were intended to be the sacrificial lambs necessary to send a vivid message to the 154 and 160 pound divisions en route to some truly huge high-stakes match-ups: namely, Jermell Charlo vs Jarrett Hurd and Jermall Charlo vs Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
But somehow, neither Harrison nor Korobov got the memo. Despite both having been stopped in their most noteworthy fights against Hurd and Andy Lee, respectively, each man not only lasted the 12 round distance, they also exposed a side of the Charlo brothers that many fans have been reluctant to acknowledge. Jermall and Jermell are unquestionably highly talented boxers, but both also center their tactics around their knockout power instead of focusing on some of the finer points of fisticuffs. They are, in a sense, victims of their own success, and on Saturday it showed.
And while Harrison and Korobov largely exposed the Charlo brothers’ technical shortcomings, it shouldn’t have come as a shock. Earlier this year, Jermell struggled to put away former champion Austin Trout, and in the process, was made to miss three quarters of his punch output as he over-zealously tried to capitalize on two knockdowns. And two years prior, when he took the WBC title from John Jackson, Charlo had in fact won just a single round on all three judges’ scorecards as he unsuccessfully stalked Jackson before managing to put him away in round eight.
Jermell’s unanimous decision loss against Tony Harrison was just another example of Charlo’s technical deficiencies, although this time Jermell was forced to face career-altering consequences. To be clear, I personally am of the opinion that Harrison was not effective enough to merit a points win, but that said, there is no doubt that Harrison was highly competitive as he managed distance and countered effectively, even at times exposing Charlo’s lackluster footwork.
On those occasions when Jermell did have his man hurt, Charlo got over-excited and ended up smothering his attack rather than setting up the finishing touches. Harrison being able to last the distance was just another example of the distinction between a great puncher and a great finisher; while Jermell Charlo has been successful in one punch knockouts against Lubin and Jackson, his lack of finishing skills were on display twice this year against Trout and Harrison.
But if we will now likely miss out on what would have been a hotly anticipated showdown between Jermell and Jarrett Hurd, Saturday’s outcome should not be seen as definite proof that Charlo would not present serious risks to Hurd should they meet anytime soon. What made a Hurd vs Charlo fight so interesting, and still does, was the fact that neither fighter has ever been forced to take a backwards step, and Jarrett Hurd, despite his whirlwind, volume punching approach, has never had his chin tested by someone with the natural power of Jermell Charlo.
But unfortunately it’s difficult to hype a fight coming off a loss, though it’s not unprecedented. Erik Morales suffered an upset defeat to Zahir Raheem in 2005 but that didn’t derail a pay-per-view rematch against Manny Pacquiao in 2006 any more than Zab Judah’s stunning defeat to Carlos Baldomir cancelled his clash against Floyd Mayweather. So while it’s possible that Haymon can sweep Charlo’s controversial defeat under the rug and proceed with a Hurd fight in spite of it, a Jermell vs Jarrett fight can no longer be promoted as a unification battle between two unbeaten champions. So it goes in boxing. This is why promoters should think twice before choosing to sit on big money opportunities and allow attractive matches to “marinate.”
And while Jermall Charlo was more fortunate than his brother and left Barclay’s Center with his record unblemished, his technical shortcomings were in fact put on display as well. Back in 2016, he had also struggled to find his distance and adjust against the elusive Austin Trout. One of the key deficiencies in the Charlo’s game is their footwork, or lack thereof, and whether it is their difficulty in cutting off the ring or their inability to attack in any direction besides a straight line, the Charlo brothers have fallen victim to their own flat-footedness on more than one occasion.
While Jermall has been outspoken in his desire to face the very best at 160, it’s unclear where his struggle to beat former contender Matt Korobov places him. He certainly showed his flaws, but he also showcased his trademark power, and at the end of the day, a brash, aggressive puncher with technical shortcomings is not a whole lot less marketable than one without them.
In fact, his public display of vulnerability might even help Jermall secure some of the bigger fights at 160. Whether or not Al Haymon will be willing to put the budding star in against the likes of Danny Jacobs, Canelo, or Demetrius Andrade following this performance is an open question, but there’s little doubt that Charlo’s appeal has risen from the perspective of the rest of the middleweight division. If there were reasons to avoid him in the past, they would appear to be less compelling now.
So the myth of the Charlo brothers being the future of the 154 and 160 pound division may have been exposed, but they can still be regarded as explosive, knockout punchers, even if higher level opposition may be able to nullify their greatest assets. And at the end of the day, boxing has a way of keeping arrogant young knockout artists relevant for as long as they wish to be. So while their stock may have fallen in the immediate aftermath of what took place on Saturday, it’s unlikely boxing fans will hold it against the Charlo siblings moving forward. They remain two pugilists who come to rumble, who answer the bell gunning for the big knockout. And the simple truth is that it’s hard for any boxing fan to turn their back on fighters like that. — Alden Chodash