In a thrilling shootout, Jermell Charlo stopped Jeison Rosario in the eighth round on
Saturday to win a third belt at 154 lbs. Despite being dropped three times in the fight, Rosario
cut an imposing figure whenever he was marching forward. Featuring heavy hands
and a relentless body attack, he forced Charlo into tying up a number of times
throughout the bout.
In my opinion, the fight turned in the sixth round when Charlo connected with a left hook/right hand combination for his second knockdown of the match. That sequence badly hurt Rosario, who spent the seventh round going through the motions with ineffectual pressure. At the beginning of the eighth, Charlo landed a simple jab to the head and jab to the body, with the last punch being partially blocked. However, that punch to the gut sent Rosario to the canvas, where he briefly convulsed and never got close to beating referee Harvey Dock's count.
|Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott
Perhaps Charlo's last punch hit the perfect spot, but more likely it was that Rosario was a spent bullet; the grueling nature of the fight, not to mention his significant weight cut, had depleted all of his energy reserves. The ending looked similar to last year's Kovalev-Yarde fight, where Kovalev stopped the proceedings with a jab. After both of these knockouts, the losing fighter stayed on the canvas for several minutes. Although Charlo and Kovalev do have excellent jabs, it was not the punch itself that led to such devastating consequences, but what came before it, both the fights themselves and the losing boxers' fight preparation.
Jermell's win was not a certainly
or a formality. He had to earn it. Employing a risky strategy against a big
puncher who knew how to impose his size on a smaller fighter, Jermell had little
margin for error. He counted on two factors for the victory: his belief in
his power punching and the sturdiness of his chin.
As mentioned earlier, Charlo had
to tie up on a number of occasions. Some of that could be attributed to simply
resetting the action, but there were a few occasions, specifically after body
barrages, where Charlo looked like he had truly felt Rosario's power, and that had
made him uncomfortable. But unlike many fighters who fall apart against
punchers, Charlo acted like a seasoned veteran. He stopped the action and
bought time. He didn't hold or clinch excessively, but he did it strategically,
and he wasn't too proud or too macho to use those tactics. They helped win him
From the opening seconds of the
fight, Charlo made it clear what his game plan would be. He was winging hooks
with full force and trying to knock out Rosario with almost every shot. He wasn't
going for a points victory or doing the things necessary to put rounds in the
bank. He and trainer Derrick James believed that the knockout would be their
best way to win the fight. In a battle of chins, they thought that Jermell's
Charlo lost a number of rounds in
the fight, as his employed strategy would normally dictate. Most rounds he threw less
than 40 punches, a meager total in the 154-lb. division. But perhaps even more
telling was the geography of the fight. Charlo invited pressure from
Rosario. He backed up slowly toward the ropes, looking for opportunities to
land counter left hooks and right hands. He absorbed a ton of big shots while
waiting for openings. That style only works if the fighter's knockout power
is real and he has the chin, conditioning and ring smarts to withstand heavy
Despite stopping seven of his
last nine opponents, Jermell’s knockout percentage is only right above
50%. (And keep in mind that his recent stoppages have been against world-class opposition. Usually when a fighter faces better opponents, his knockout rate drops.) Yet, our eyes do not deceive us. His power is
legitimate, threatening and devastating. His recent string of stoppages has
coincided with his switch to Derrick James as his trainer. Jermell's style with James differs markedly from how he was developed as a pro under
Ronnie Shields. With Shields, Jermell was known for his legs and jab. He was a
classic boxer-puncher who won fights more with his athletic and technical skills
than his power. But with James, Charlo has focused on holding his ground,
sitting down on his shots and inflicting damage.
Derrick James also trains Errol
Spence, one of the most dynamic power punchers in the sport. For whatever
reason, there are few trainers who make punching their forte. Some trainers
favor aggression, defensive responsibility, tactical brilliance or overall well-roundedness. But James is one of the few notable
American trainers who believes in punching more than any other factor in
a fight. It's not that he ignores issues of defense or strategy, but he
believes at the end of the day that the guy with the more devastating offensive
arsenal is the one who wins fights. It leads to high-risk game plans like
Spence against Kell Brook and Shawn Porter, and Charlo against Tony Harrison in the rematch and Rosario.
And James's philosophy is more than
just "hit hard." His fighters stay calm under duress. They expect
incoming fire. They don't run out of the pocket in a frenzy of panic. James's
fighters understand that the moments when opponents engage in battle is where
damage can be inflicted. That's when a fight can be decided. He's not a proponent
of the "hit and not be hit" style of boxing. He believes in "hit
harder and hit better." It takes a special kind of boxer and individual to
thrive in James's preferred style. Most don't have the whiskers or the desire to try it. But it
creates thrilling, entertaining fights and to this point James's success speaks
for itself; he now has two of the top fighters in the sport.
Jermell Charlo has quietly put
together one of the better resumes in the sport. With wins over Rosario,
Harrison, Trout, Lubin and Martirosyan, he has tested himself against many of
the best in a deep division. The one mark against him on his record, a
debatable loss to Harrison, was avenged with a memorable knockout last year. Yes, there will be opponents he won't be able to knock out and he will struggle to win
enough rounds in those fights; however, he has ridden his new style to the top echelon of the sport. He's must-see television and has genuine star power.
And unlike many in boxing, he's
had to make his own luck. He believed he needed to make a trainer switch, and that he would be more successful as a puncher. He adapted his style
mid-career. These are hard changes to make, and he deserves full credit for
envisioning his career in a way that few others did.
While watching Jermall Charlo's
impressive victory over middleweight contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko on Saturday, I thought to myself a
couple of times, I'm watching one of the most complete fighters in boxing.
Jermall flashed almost every conceivable offensive weapon: a sturdy left jab,
lead left hooks, hard right hands, uppercuts to the head and body,
hooking off the jab, left jab/left uppercut combinations. He offered all the
And it was more than just his
punching. Why Jermall performed better against Derevyanchenko than Gennadiy Golovkin
and Daniel Jacobs did is that he is also a better athlete. At numerous points
in the fight, Derevyanchenko attacked Charlo behind an overhand right, and
Charlo was able to take a brief step back and counter with blistering uppercuts
to the body, the perfect shot to thwart that particular foray. It was his
ability to move just enough where he could hurt Derevyanchenko without getting
hit in return that may have won him the fight. Golovkin and Jacobs couldn't feature the same type of clever movement in close quarters.
|Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott
Now it wasn't as if Derevyanchenko was shut out in the fight, far from it. He knew exactly what he needed to do to win and from about the fourth round on he executed his game plan ably. Charlo was just a little sharper and a little more versatile with his attack. Charlo ultimately won the fight with scorecards that didn't necessarily reflect the competitiveness of the bout (116-112, 117-111 and 118-110), but he deserved the victory. He had to be exceptional to defeat that version of Derevyanchenko, and mostly, he was.
Despite his third defeat, Derevyanchenko remains a tough opponent. His limitations from the outside are of course an
issue, but he has wonderful inside fighting skills and more importantly he
knows that once he's at close range, he won't stop firing. That's where he
makes his money, and he fully understands his strengths and weaknesses. The
only knock on his performance from Saturday is that he overcompensated from his
poor starts in recent fights. He had been
knocked down in the first round against both Jacobs and Golovkin. On Saturday
he seemed wary about engaging too early in the fight and was a little too
cautious as a result. He was already down three or four points by the time he
committed to his attack. Once he did, he was essentially even with
Charlo; however, a fight is 12 rounds, and Derevyanchenko still hasn't found a way
to win enough of them to beat a top opponent.
For Charlo, there are still minor
quibbles one can make. To my eyes, the only thing strategically he could
have done better was to tie up every so often, like his brother did against
Rosario. As a puncher, he was looking for opportunities to land hard
counters. But there were certain exchanges where he took a few more shots than
needed. Tying up would have reduced the potency of Derevyanchenko's
attack to a degree.
Charlo also overshot his
left hook in close quarters. The punch was much better when Derevyanchenko was
at range. Now, some credit needs to be given to Sergiy's ability to fight low
and avoid the hook, but Charlo was never able to use the punch as a weapon on
the inside. But ultimately, it's tough to be perfect against such quality
opposition and Charlo, in my opinion, put together the best performance
of his career.
The Charlo brothers headlined
their first pay per view event on Saturday and they shined. Both had been
displeased with their treatment earlier in their respective careers, believing
that they had star power, but for some reason were being neglected in favor of
other fighters. At this point, it's clear that they were correct with
their self-belief. However, one must note that they came up in a
division teeming with young talent and that their management and representation
had numerous accomplished fighters at around the same age group.
Essentially, they have earned
their status in the sport. Perhaps they were right in believing that other
fighters were being handed opportunities at a younger age than were deserved,
but the Charlos have now backed up their frustration with excellent ring performances.
Less than two years ago, the
Charlos headlined their first major show. It was supposed to be their coming out
party, but both disappointed on the night. Jermell was defeated by Tony Harrison and
Jermall certainly could have lost in a challenging, technical fight against Matvey
Korobov. Twenty-one months later, the Charlos were now finally ready
for their big moment. They thrived in wonderfully entertaining
That experience from 2018 has led
to both fighters further dedicating themselves to the sport. Jermell didn't
believe that his loss to Harrison was legitimate. He now fully understood that
scorecards won't always be friendly, and it's much more advantageous to settle
things in the ring without relying on the judges. As for Jermell, he knew how
challenging that Korobov fight was. He wasn't technically sharp that night and
it was one of the few times in his career (with the Trout fight being the
other) where he seemed the lesser fighter during significant portions of the
action. He had to get sharper.
Jermell and Jermall were both very
good prospects coming up. I would rate them around the A-minus level. They
were talented, but they weren't necessarily sure things to become elite
fighters. Every generation has a lot of A-minus prospects, but most of them
don't make it as far as the Charlos have. The brothers are great examples of how
motivation, desire and self-belief can help get to the next level. Their lack of self-satisfaction is evident: they want more for themselves,
and they know that the level they are at is still far beneath what they can
achieve in the sport.
These intangible factors often are what separate the great from the very good. Both are highly skilled talents, but there's a lot of talent in the sport, and talent is not enough at the top level of boxing. It's Jermell's willingness to soak up punishment to land shots. It's Jermall's ring awareness to neutralize a hard charging opponent. It's their desire to understand the sport and an opponent on a fundamental level. It's having 100% belief in a trainer and the game plan. Lots of guys have hand speed and flashy skills. But to get to where the Charlos are, it takes much more than that. Perhaps the Charlos’ greatest quality is their lack of self-satisfaction. It fuels them. And I wish more fighters possessed that trait; then we'd see a better sport.