Jermell Charlo will not be the first, nor the last boxer in modern boxing history to move up two divisions to confront an established champion.
Most recently, there were two stars who did the same: Manny Pacquiao and Guillermo Rigondeaux. The two fought against great opponents with different outcomes. Pacquiao forced Oscar De La Hoya to quit before the ninth round. Rigondeaux lost a one-sided bout against Vasiliy Lomachenko when Rigondeaux quit in his corner after the sixth round.
Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) arrives for this super middleweight fight against Canelo Alvarez at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, as the junior middleweight undisputed champion. He took the place of his twin brother, Jermall, whom initially was going to move up from middleweight to face Alvarez, butwithdrew as he continues to deal with personal issues.
“Now is the right time for this fight,” Charlo, 33, said during a workout on Sept. 11. “We’re in our primes and at our best. I wanna shake the doubters off and prove to the world why I’m in this position. There’s a reason I made it this far. I’m gonna show what I’m made of. Everything I’ve done since I was eight years old, I’m putting it all on the line now.”
As of Tuesday, Alvarez (59-2-2, 39 KOs) was a -420 favorite according to Caesars Sportsbook. Still, there is a history of fighters who managed to beat the odds and beat higher division champions.
Alvarez himself is the closest reference of a boxer going up two divisions and winning. He did it against Sergey Kovalev in November 2019. Alvarez, who six months before had beaten Daniel Jacobs to unified three middleweight world titles, jumped from 160 pounds to 175 to snatch the WBO light heavyweight title from Kovalev.
Pacquiao did something similar in December 2008 with his debut in the welterweight division against the De La Hoya. Although the fight was at a catchweight of 145 pounds, Pacquiao’s previous fight had been at lightweight (135 pounds) when he knocked out David Diaz to win the WBC belt.
His victory against De La Hoya becomes more relevant because just in March of that same year, Pacquiao retained his WBC junior lightweight title against Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao jumped three divisions in a span of nine months (March to December). That fight was one-sided. The small guy devastated the big guy.
It was a superb beating until De La Hoya did not come out to fight in the ninth round.
“I’m not going to have to worry about losing too much weight,” Charlo said. “I’ve been sparring bigger guys for a very long time and now it’s about bringing that same mindset that I have at 154-pounds and bringing it up with me to 168-pounds.
“We’ve done so much sparring and conditioning. I’m working on the mental as well, because I know it’s not only about the physical. I’ve been training 14 weeks and making sure I do everything I need to.”
Other notable fighters who moved up two divisions for a title fight and won: Roy Jones (from light heavyweight to heavyweight vs. John Ruiz); Sugar Ray Leonard (welterweight to middleweight vs. Marvin Hagler); Michael Spinks (light heavyweight to heavyweight vs. Larry Holmes).
When the bigger guy won
Rigondeaux, the two-time Olympic champion for Cuba, could not find opponents to defend his junior featherweight title and decided to go up two divisions for a big payday against the also double Olympic champion from Ukraine Lomachenko, then a junior lightweight champion.
That decision cost Rigondeaux his undefeated record.
‘The Jackal’ rose from 122 pounds to 130 pounds for the fight on Dec. 9, 2017 at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. On that stage, Rigondeaux quickly understood that he had no chance against a fighter as skilled as him, but bigger, stronger, and younger by seven years.
The heavily promoted fight was one-sided due to the disproportionate difference between both fighters. When Rigondeaux felt Lomachenko’s power punches, he only limited himself to move away from Lomachenko until the end of the sixth round. He did not come out to fight the seventh round.
Other notable fighters who moved up two divisions for a title fight and lost: Sugar Ray Robinson (middleweight to light heavyweight vs. Joey Maxim); Jose ‘Mantequilla’ Napoles (from welterweight to middleweight vs. Carlos Monzon); Juan Manuel Marquez (lightweight to welterweight vs. Floyd Mayweather); Kell Brook (welterweight to middleweight vs. Gennadiy Golovkin); Amir Khan (welterweight to middleweight vs. Canelo Alvarez); Mikey García (lightweight to welterweight vs. Errol Spence Jr.)
Will Charlo be Pacquiao or Rigondeaux?
It’s difficult to answer. But what is evident at first glance is that the younger of the Charlo twins will not have the size disadvantage against Alvarez, something that both Pacquiao and Rigondeaux had to deal with. Physically, Charlo (6 feet) is bigger than Canelo (5-foot-8) and has the reach advantage (73 to 70½″). With these physical characteristics, one might think that his anatomy Charlo can move up in weight without problems.
“Jermell’s advantage is actually his size,” his trainer Derrick James said. “You have to maximize that advantage. It’s about what Jermell is able to do. He doesn’t have to become the guy, he has to be the guy.
“You win the fight in the gym. You’re not pulling a rabbit out of your hat. You have to go in the ring having done it the right way.”
The biggest question is, can Charlo take Alvarez’s power at super middleweight? Accustomed to dealing with the punches of welterweight and junior middleweights (the only two divisions in which he has campaigned professionally), it is hard to predict if he can take the power of a man who, although physically smaller, is used to knocking out super middleweight fighters. and even light heavyweights, as he did with Kovalev.
We will know on Saturday.