Down but not out: Jermell Charlo couldn’t top Canelo, but still has meaningful fights ahead

Boxing

LAS VEGAS — Jermell Charlo was ringside at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in November 2021 when Canelo Alvarez faced Caleb Plant for the undisputed super middleweight championship.

During the fight — which Canelo won via 11th-round TKO — Charlo turned to his twin brother, Jermall, and said: “I can beat Canelo.”

Turns out, it’s one thing to say it. It’s quite another to actually do it.

Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KOs) jumped two weight classes on Saturday in an attempt to dethrone boxing’s top star, but he was no match. Alvarez won virtually every second of the fight, scored a seventh-round knockdown and earned a unanimous-decision victory to retain his four titles at 168 pounds.

There’s no shame, of course, in losing to an all-time great like Canelo. Charlo was nearly a 4-1 underdog to upset Alvarez for many reasons.

Charlo struggled in a loss to Tony Harrison in 2018 and a draw with Brian Castano in 2021, quality boxers who are levels below Alvarez. Charlo finished both Harrison (2019) and Castano (2022) inside the distance in rematches, which spoke well of his ability to make adjustments. But there didn’t seem to be a Plan B on Saturday and he oddly seemed content after the bout to have lasted until the final bell.

“I’m proud of myself,” said Charlo, who fights out of Houston. “He didn’t knock me out; he knocked all the other guys out.”

Charlo predicted the fight would last the 12-round distance and apparently found a moral victory in not being another Alvarez KO victim. It’s a strange approach for one of the sport’s most outspoken fighters.

After the fight, Alvarez felt that Charlo wasn’t trying to win the fight.

“I think that happens with a lot of fighters,” Alvarez said. “That’s not on my mind, to survive that way. So then I did my job. I think he never [did] something to win.”

As Alvarez piled up rounds, trainer Derrick James implored Charlo to be more aggressive down the stretch. But Charlo never pushed, never landed a punch of consequence and never threatened to be competitive let alone win the fight.

“My head is held high,” said Charlo, who acknowledged he could have been more aggressive. “I am proud of myself.”

Following Charlo’s lackluster performance on Saturday, pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford, who was ringside to watch the fight, had some choice words for his potential future opponent.

“You went out sad,” Crawford immediately posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, while tagging Charlo. “Didn’t even try to win, all you did was try to survive. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“I’m over Charlo, he’s no longer on my hit list,” Crawford added. “He went out there and laid down.”

Charlo said “Crawford could be on the radar,” but it appears the feeling is no longer mutual. And if the matchup did materialize, it certainly lost a lot of luster.

But all is not lost for Charlo. He didn’t seem to take much damage outside of the seventh-round knockdown courtesy of a Canelo overhand right and should be an improved fighter going forward after sharing the ring for 12 rounds with Alvarez.

Charlo still has other meaningful fights in his future. After all, he remains the top guy at 154 pounds. Charlo said he only rehydrated to around 172, 173 pounds on fight night; boxers routinely gain 10-15 pounds overnight.

“I’m going back down to 154 so that’s gonna be major,” Charlo said. “I can do it. I can make the weight easy…. I’m used to moving around much lighter.

However, he’s no longer the undisputed junior middleweight champion. Charlo still holds the WBA, WBC and IBF titles. But once the bell rang on Saturday, the WBO stripped Charlo and elevated Australian star Tim Tszyu from interim champion to full champion.

“Tim Tszyu is the [WBO junior middleweight] champion,” WBO president Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel told ESPN on Monday. “[The fight between] Tim Tszyu with [Brian] Mendoza is for the title. [Jermell] Charlo was notified when we posted the resolution online [August 3].”

That resolution indicated that once Charlo got in the ring to face Canelo, instead of his mandatory challenger, Tim Tszyu, Charlo would be stripped of the belt and Tszyu “will be automatically elevated from interim champion to full champion status.”

“I would like to talk with somebody from the WBO and see what kind of issues they can resolve…,” Charlo said. “I gotta just continue to roll with the punches. Jermell Charlo never gets the fair end of the stick. I gotta go and fight for mine….

“[The WBO] must really got a relationship with the people in Australia. And that’s okay with me. I just gotta continue to be a champion and continue to fight, and barnone put my heart on the line every time I get in there.”

One of the opportunities to put that performance in the past will be, perhaps, a rescheduled showdown with Tszyu, who’s impressed with his power and improved attack in recent fights.

Tszyu, 28, will make the first defense of his WBO title on Oct. 14 in Sydney against Brian Mendoza. The son of Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu, Tim Tszyu was set to fight Charlo in January before Charlo broke his left hand in two places during a sparring session just a month before the scheduled bout.

This was his first fight since his hand was placed in a cast in January, and it was also his first time fighting a truly elite opponent. He had never fought above 154 pounds and despite being taller than Canelo, was the naturally smaller man.

Alvarez himself said he wasn’t 100% confident in his surgically repaired left wrist when he fought John Ryder in May. So it’s unfair to believe that Charlo was at his best on Saturday.

Most of all, perhaps, Charlo was contending with serious ring rust — 16 months. His most-recent fight was in May 2022, an impressive 10th-round KO of Castano. Beginning with 2020, Charlo has fought only once a year. During that same span, Alvarez competed seven times.

Three top fighters recently suffered defeats after long layoffs. Josh Taylor (16 months, UD loss) against Teofimo Lopez Jr., Stephen Fulton (13 months, KO8) vs. Naoya Inoue, and Errol Spence Jr. (15 months, KO9) to Crawford.

If Charlo can compete at least twice in 2024 and return to winning ways at 154 pounds against a fighter like Tszyu, he could still obtain the pound-for-pound recognition he so desperately seeks.

“I think I’m the best fighter in the world,” Charlo said. “I still think that right now.”

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