Jermall Charlo (right) nails Brandon Adams en route to his unanimous WBC middleweight title defense Saturday night. Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime
Please click here to read Part One.
Saturday, June 29 (continued): For the second consecutive fight, Jermall Charlo faced a challenger playing with house money. And for the second consecutive fight, Jermall Charlo came out the other side a winner on points.
Last December 22, the older of the Charlo twins fought Matt Korobov, a challenger plucked from the deep undercard after original opponent Willie Monroe Jr.’s pre-fight test produced “an adverse finding.” The sturdy southpaw who had won 28 of his 29 previous fights more than cleared the low bar set for him, pushed Charlo at times and exited the ring with an enhanced reputation. Meanwhile Charlo’s performance was considered disappointing given the massive build-up he and his brother received by the folks at FOX. However those with half-glass-full perspectives would defend Charlo’s performance by stating he had to cope with the shock and anger of his younger twin’s controversial decision loss to Tony Harrison while also having to adjust to a different southpaw style. In any case, Charlo focused hard enough and fought well enough to exit the ring with his WBC “interim” middleweight title intact.
Tonight, Charlo – who was deemed the new WBC middleweight beltholder the previous day thanks to the organization naming previous holder (and current Ring magazine champion) Saul “Canelo” Alvarez as its first “Franchise Champion” – fought a man in Brandon Adams who was accustomed to being universally dismissed but who also was accustomed to beating the odds. After all, Adams, who had to be talked into entering the latest “The Contender” tournament, ended up winning it by beating a pair of 17-1 fighters in Ievgen Khytrov and Eric Walker, then pounded out a dominant decision over Shane Mosley Jr., who was built similarly to Charlo but was ill-equipped physically and emotionally to cope with Adams’ skills, sharpness and determination. Therefore Adams had every reason to believe he was capable of overcoming the challenges of fighting a highly skilled titlist with proven one-punch power in the Houstonian’s first hometown fight since March 2012. Back then, Charlo stopped Sean Rawley Wilson in six rounds in the same arena in which they were fighting on this night (the NRG Arena was then known as Reliant Arena).
Adams did everything he could to turn aspiration into accomplishment but Charlo – fighting with an injured left hand from round two onward – did everything he could to keep his newly bestowed belt. He fought through the pain, piled up the points and won the fight while Adams won accolades for his drive, chin and toughness.
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Adams took a lot of punches and his head was hard enough to injure Charlo’s hand. The CompuBox stats illustrated the level of punishment dished out by Charlo in winning a 120-108 decision on two cards and earning a 119-109 margin on the third: In throwing exactly 300 more punches than Adams (634-334), Charlo led 151-73 overall, 33-31 jabs and 118-42 power and, in doing so, produced double-digit total connects in every round but the first (3 of 29) while limiting Adams to single-digit total connects in every round but the last (10 of 29). Charlo, who usually doesn’t make body punching a priority (body shots comprised only 13.5% of his total connects in his last five fights), attacked the flanks with more relish against Adams as he led 37-20 in landed body shots and raised his body-connect ratio to 24.5% of his total connects, slightly below the 28.5% CompuBox average. Statistically speaking, the major difference between Charlo and Adams was work rate; Charlo averaged 52.8 punches per round (well above the 45.2 he averaged in his previous five CompuBox-tracked fights) while Adams averaged just 27.8 punches per round, barely half of the 54.9 middleweight average. The CompuBox round-by-round breakdown of total connects – relevant because clean punching is a key judging factor – had Charlo ahead 8-4.
Both men were excellent defensively. The typical middleweight lands 30.1% of his total punches, 20.6% of his jabs and 37% of his power punches but each man held his opponent below those levels as Adams landed 24% overall, 13% jabs and 32% power while Adams connected on 22% overall, 20% jabs and 24% power. In beating Mosley, Adams landed a sky-high 57.3% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts but Charlo – who yielded the highest number of overall connects (128) and power punches (119) in 18 CompuBox-tracked fights against Korobov – was much tighter against Adams.
Sure, Charlo didn’t get the spectacular KO he wanted to get before his home fans but, under the circumstances, he fought well, did his job and left the ring with hardware intact.
With today’s political climate in which signal delivery companies play a prominent role and with the WBC’s move to remove Saul Alvarez from obligations expected of its other titlists, boxing fans will probably be denied the next logical fight for both men: Alvarez vs. Charlo. That same hurdle will prevent Premier Boxing Champions’ Charlo from meeting WBO counterpart Demetrius Andrade, who out-pointed Maciej Sulecki on DAZN not long after Charlo turned back Adams. So while boxing is in a good place generally, there are issues that are keeping it from being the best sport it can be, especially for the fans who want the best fighting the best and for the fighters who want to enhance their legacies and challenge their skills to the maximum. To the powers that be, I say this: Stop the nonsense and let boxing be boxing.
In discussing the telecast with colleagues, we agreed that the opening fight between featherweights Eduardo Ramirez and Claudio Marrero could well be the fight of the night. They did not disappoint.
Marrero, portrayed as the “B-side” of this equation thanks to his razor-close decision loss to Tugstsogt Nyambayar in January, won a well-received unanimous decision over Ramirez – the WBA’s “Gold” beltholder – and, with it, a path to WBA titlist Leo Santa Cruz….or WBA “regular” titlist Can Xu…or the winner of July 13’s WBA “interim” title match between Diego De La Hoya and Ronny Rios. (Editor’s note: As a reminder, RingTV.com does not recognize the WBA’s interim, regular or gold titles with legitimacy.)
While the future will take care of itself, the recent past saw an excellent two-way affair in which 1,573 total punches were exchanged (801 by Ramirez, 772 by Marrero) and saw the momentum shift moment by moment. In the end, Marrero’s superior power hitting (he led 136-108 in raw connects and 58-49 in landed body shots) and slightly better accuracy (23%-22% overall, 23%-16% jabs to offset Ramirez’s 27%-24% edge in power precision) led to an overall connect lead of 181-172. The CompuBox round-by-round breakdown of total connects saw Marrero up 8-4, mostly due to his out-landing Ramirez in six of the first seven rounds, but a major key to Marrero’s win was his ability to limit Ramirez’s trademark second-half surge, a surge that allowed him to score a come-from-behind ninth round TKO over the previously undefeated Bryan De Gracia last March in Brooklyn on the Brian Castano-Erislandy Lara undercard. In rounds seven through 12, Marrero trailed just 103-101 overall but led 85-73 power but his rally in the final three rounds (47-39 overall, 41-28 power) helped him nail down the decision.
Although I was counting Ramirez’s punches, I saw that Marrero connected with more force while also producing a more versatile offense. In three previous fights counted by CompuBox, power punches made up 91% of Marrero’s total connects – far more than the 75.4% featherweight average. Against Ramirez, however, power punches comprised 75.1% of his total connects, much more in line with the division average and, because of that, there was enough diversity to keep Ramirez guessing as to what kind of punches he would have to defend. Yes, Ramirez was the better jabber (64-45 in raw connects while averaging 33.6 attempts and 5.3 connects per round to Marrero’s 16.5 attempts and 3.8 connects per round) but Marrero’s stick was sticky enough to increase the accuracy and effectiveness of his power shots.
Marrero proved, in his own way, the truth behind an oft-cited saying: Variety is the spice of life.
Erickson Lubin’s only defeat was a stunning one-punch, first round knockout against then-WBC junior middleweight beltholder Jermell Charlo in December 2017. By scoring a fourth round TKO over 37-year-old Frenchman Zakaria Attou, Lubin might have set the stage for either a crack at Charlo’s conqueror Tony Harrison or a rematch with Charlo, should he try to avenge his loss.
Coming into the fight, the talk wasn’t about whether Lubin would win or lose; it was about which weapon he would use to score the expected TKO victory – the left hand nicknamed “Sledge” or the right hand called “Jack.”
While a fusillade of power shots scored the fight’s only knockdown, an injury to Attou’s right biceps suffered in round three – an injury CompuBox colleague Andy Kasprzak spotted immediately – played a major role in why the Frenchman’s corner eventually threw in the towel. This plot twist was one that had foreshadowing because one member of the truck noted during the pre-fight introductions that Attou couldn’t straighten either of his arms thanks to tightly-coiled biceps that had the look of rubber bands stretched to their limit.
Attou’s injury aside, Lubin produced a powerful performance as a fourth-round “Sledge” set up the final wave that ended the fight at the 1:19 mark of round four. Lubin averaged 51.5 punches per round (well above the 42.4 he averaged in his last five CompuBox-tracked fights) and produced almost comically lopsided advantages in terms of the raw numbers – 51-6 overall, 19-1 jabs and 32-5 power. Lubin also created lopsided accuracy gaps (29%-7% overall, 19%-3% jabs, 41%-11% power) and prevailed 12-1 in landed body punches.
The hardest task for an athlete to fulfill is to blow out an opponent when the world is expecting him to do so. Every metric pointed to a convincing victory for Lubin: He was 14 years younger (23 to 37), boasted the far bigger KO ratio (.714 to .171), had the “southpaw advantage” and, in his most recent fight, on February 9, became the first man to stop Ishe Smith, who, at age 40, announced his retirement immediately afterward. Attou, an impressive athlete for a man his age, simply lacked the guns – no pun intended – to deal with Lubin.
Because the NRG property also was hosting the Gold Cup CONCACAF quarterfinal matches between Haiti and Canada as well as between Costa Rica and Mexico – and because the fight and the latter game ended at nearly the same time – Andy and I felt it made more sense to walk back to the Crowne Plaza. The parking lot was jammed with cars but, with the help of Google Maps, it only took us 15 minutes to complete the trip.
My night’s work wasn’t quite done; I spent the next hour inputting the night’s data into the master database and sending the files to the Draft Kings people. With food and drink from the production office in hand, I wound down by catching up on the news and sports I missed, then turning out the light shortly after 2 a.m.
Sunday, June 30: Yesterday’s efforts resulted in another solid five-and-a-half-hour slumber and because my flight back to Pittsburgh wasn’t to leave until 2:20 p.m., I was able to catch up on all my writing well before leaving for the airport at 11 a.m.
After returning from the venue last night, Andy and I arranged for taxis to take us to the airport. Once I spotted the yellow cab, my driver – a large and jovial Nigerian named Thomas – asked me if I was his 11 a.m. I said I was. He then asked, “Are you Andy?” I told him I wasn’t but that I was the intended customer.
The reason for the confusion was made clear once I entered the cab: The fare monitor to Thomas’ right listed Andy’s name instead of mine. All was settled once I explained to Thomas that Andy was my colleague, that we made our taxi reservations within minutes of each other the previous evening, that Andy’s plane had departed several hours earlier and that the hotel employee who took down our requests must have mixed up our names.
During our 30-minute drive, Thomas told me his life story, a story that included coming to America to earn a business degree and the fact that his father sired children with eight different women. Only a few of his nearly three dozen siblings are still alive and they were either in their 70s or 80s.
Once at the airport – an airport that is as sprawling as Houston itself – I had more than enough time to enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the food courts, after which I spent the remaining time at the gate cranking out words on the laptop. Because I have little frequent flier clout on United, my only seating option was 37C, an aisle seat in the next-to-last row. Every time the bathroom door opened, I got a not-so-fresh reminder of why I appreciate the benefits of better seating on American.
After settling in, the flight attendant got on the loudspeaker and said “Welcome to United Flight 2196 with service to Philadelphia.” A mass look of confusion creased the faces of surrounding passengers but my knowing smirk reassured them that this had to be a ruse most often used by Southwest flight attendants. However when she said “Philadelphia” a second time, we began to wonder whether she was on the wrong airplane or if we were. Finally the pilot spoke into the intercom and welcomed us to our flight to Pittsburgh, which triggered a soft but sarcastic cheer. To her credit, the flight attendant, after finally stating we were flying to “The Steel City,” good-naturedly quipped, “I guess it’s a good thing I’m not flying this plane.”
The plane touched down – in Pittsburgh – at 6 p.m. and I arrived home shortly before 9, closing the curtain on my 12th Travelin’ Man trip of 2019. Number 13 will begin in less than two weeks’ time and I’ll be logging many more miles because the next destination will be the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington, where the “ShoBox: The New Generation” series will air a tripleheader topped by heavyweights Jermaine Franklin and Jerry Forrest, supported by heavyweights Otto Wallin and BJ Flores and junior lightweights Giovanni Mioletti and Luis Porozo.
Until then, happy trails!
Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 16 writing awards, including two first-place awards, since 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics” (available on Amazon) and the co-author of the newly released book “Muhammad Ali: By the Numbers” (also available on Amazon). To contact Groves about a personalized autographed copy, use the email [email protected] or send him a message via Facebook.
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