By Lyle Fitzsimmons
“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
OK, so Frank Sinatra might not have been referring to Brooklyn when he belted out his ode to New York, but for Jermell Charlo the city’s most populous borough has been quite the proving ground.
The WBC’s 154-pound kingpin made the first defense of his title on an April 2017 card at Barclays Center, then returned to the venue six months later for a one-round erasure of tough-talking prospect Erickson Lubin on a three-tiered show with then-fellow champs Jarrett Hurd and Erislandy Lara.
So, on Saturday night, when he makes a third business trip to the land of Coney Island and Jay-Z, the 28-year-old Texan may just feel as if he’s in his professional backyard.
“I like Brooklyn. Especially when you get there and you know it’s time. It’s that moment,” said Charlo, who’ll meet fifth-ranked Tony Harrison in the co-main of a PBC on Fox card that starts at 8 p.m. ET. “The Barclays Center is everything. There’s been a lot of accomplishments for me and my twin brother there. It feels like it’s my home in boxing. I’m excited to be fighting there. I’m excited to be back.”
And seeing how he’s sharing the bill with that very same twin brother, it’s even better.
Though, spoiler alert, he’s planning to go Jermall one better when it comes to leaving an impression.
“I’m excited to be fighting on the undercard and to be accompanied by my twin brother, but I’m expecting to steal the show and own the show and be the show,” he said. “I’ve done that before as the co-main event. People get so focused on my fight that they forget the main event. But this time my brother’s the main event, so it’s gonna be a long night with the Charlos.”
Indeed, Jermall will face late replacement Matt Korobov in a middleweight fight whose initial main-event matchup was scuttled when Willie Monroe had an “adverse” result in a pre-fight drug test.
The heavier Charlo is 27-0 with 21 knockouts, while his brother will climb in to meet Harrison while toting a 31-0 mark with 15 KOs. He knocked out John Jackson in eight rounds to win the vacant belt in Las Vegas, then racked up the aforementioned wins over Charles Hatley (KO 6) and Lubin (KO 1) before going the distance for the first time as champion in a majority decision defeat of Austin Trout.
Meanwhile, Harrison began his career with 21 straight wins, but has since been stopped twice in eight fights – both in nine rounds – including a failed bid for the vacant IBF belt against Hurd in February 2017.
He’s two inches taller than Charlo at 6-foot-1 and has 21 knockouts of his own, but the specter of facing Detroit native doesn’t seem to be causing the WBC champ any undue concern.
“I need to be the same Jermell. Just continue to be me,” he said.
“(Harrison) doesn’t get acknowledgement for losing from me. I’m not going to be honoring a guy that didn’t do what he had to do to beat a guy (Hurd) that I know I could beat. Tony Harrison is a guy that’s going to get in there and try to dethrone me and take my title. I’m excited for that. I’m excited to get in and be able to beat somebody without getting in trouble.
“I can’t predict what he’s gonna do. He doesn’t even know what he’s gonna do. If he gets in there and he wants to box, he’s gonna have a long night. If he wants to fight, I fight very strong and hard. I like to knock people out. I like to get the fight over with.”
Presumably so he can get on with the business of unification.
Charlo has made little secret of the fact that he’d like a bout with Hurd, who added the IBO and WBA titles to his collection with a thrilling split-decision defeat of Lara eight months ago. Hurd called Charlo’s name in the ring after that fight, which was convenient considering Charlo was watching from ringside.
“Hurd’s got the belts,” Charlo said. “It’s easy to pick somebody you want to fight. You want to fight somebody with a lot of belts and I need those trophies at my house, too. So it’d be a great thing for me to get in there and capture the titles and accomplish some goals. It keeps me hungry.”
Hurd is listed first in the division by the Independent World Boxing Rankings, which rate all active fighters in a weight class regardless of the belts they hold. Lara is second and Charlo third on that list, while Ring Magazine has Charlo in between the two fighters in its 154-pound ratings.
Hurd KO’d Jason Welborn in four rounds on the Wilder-Fury show earlier this month in Los Angeles.
“Hurd is one of the top guys because his work ethic is great, and his ability to punch,” Charlo said. “But I’m the best because of my power, my speed, my ability to punch and different things like that. I possess something different in the ring. A lot of people tell me when they get in the ring with me it’s completely different. What they see on TV and what they see in life is not the same. When they get in the ring with me it’s just a completely different animal that they are facing and it messes up the whole game plan.
“I only jaw with people who come at me first. He used my name for hype and entertainment purposes. I guess that’s cool. But I’m really not the type of fighter that you want to be name-dropping on. I’ll show up in the ring, and they make it seem like Jermell Charlo is the big issue, but the big issue is that once you pick on me I’ll never forget it.”
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This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
IBF featherweight title – Manchester, United Kingdom
Josh Warrington (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Carl Frampton (Unranked IBF/No. 2 IWBR)
Warrington (27-0, 6 KO): First title defense; All six career KO/TKO in scheduled 12-rounders
Frampton (26-1, 15 KO): Seventh title fight (5-1); Held titles at both 122 (IBF/WBA) and 126 (WBA)
Fitzbitz says: Warrington’s capable and he won the belt with a stirring victory against Selby, but it seems Frampton does everything he does – only better. Back to the title level. Frampton by decision (90/10)
WBC super welterweight title – Brooklyn, New York
Jermell Charlo (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Tony Harrison (No. 5 WBC/No. 10 IWBR)
Charlo (31-0, 15 KO): Fourth title defense; Two KOs in two fights in Brooklyn (seven total rounds)
Harrison (27-2, 21 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Two TKO losses in eight fights since 21-0 start
Fitzbitz says: Harrison was ahead in both his losses, so he’s not too far from being an undefeated champion himself. But Charlo is a different, more complete animal and he’ll show it. Charlo in 9 (90/10)
WBC flyweight title – Greenwich, United Kingdom
Cristofer Rosales (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Charlie Edwards (Unranked WBC/Unranked IWBR)
Rosales (28-3, 19 KO): Second title defense; Two of three career losses came outside Nicaragua
Edwards (13-1, 6 KO): Second title fight (0-1); First fight at 112 since only career loss in 2016
Fitzbitz says: It’s a bit tempting to pick Edwards, as the home fighter, but he’s not fought in the weight class in two years. And the last time he did so, he lost by TKO. Buyer beware. Rosales by decision (65/35)
Last week’s picks: 3-1 (WIN: Ramirez, Farmer, Dalakian; LOSS: Murat)
2018 picks record: 89-35 (71.7 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,009-339 (74.8 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body’s full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.