ON Saturday night, September 30, unified 168-pound champion Canelo Alvarez pounded out a lopsided unanimous decision over Jermell Charlo at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The victory raised Canelo’s record to 60 wins against 2 defeats with 2 draws and 39 knockouts. Charlo suffered the second loss of his career and his ledger dropped to 35-2-1 with 19 KOs.
For most of the past decade, Canelo has been the greatest show in boxing. But plying his trade on DAZN moved him away from the spotlight to a smaller audience than he’d enjoyed before. Nine of his most recent ten fights were on DAZN with Matchroom (on six occasions) or Golden Boy (three) as his promoter. The network paid him several hundred million dollars but his mainstream exposure was diminished.
On June 22, 2023, Canelo announced on Instagram that his next fight would be with Premier Boxing Champions on Showtime PPV. He later disclosed that this would be the first of three fights pursuant to a multi-bout contract with PBC. The widespread assumption was that Canelo would fight WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo on September 16 to coincide with Mexican Independence Day Weekend. But on June 30, the world learned that opponent #1 would be Jermall’s twin brother, junior-middleweight titleholder Jermell Charlo, on September 30. Canelo is reported to have been guaranteed a minimum of $40 million for the encounter.
Operating exclusively within the PBC universe, the Charlos have been big fish in a protected environment. Jermall hasn’t fought in more than two years and his title fights have been against pedestrian opposition. Jermell has yet to fulfill the promise he showed in an electrifying first-round knockout of Erickson Lubin in 2017 and his opponents, for the most part, have been ordinary.
The Canelo and Charlo camps were respectful of each other at the kick-off press conferences in New York and Los Angeles. Charlo acknowledged Canelo’s body of work but declared, “It’s my time now.” Canelo responded with the thought, ‘I’m going to put everything – my experience, my power, my skills – together to win this fight.”
Asked where he thought he ranked in relation to Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue in boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings, Canelo answered, “We all deserve to be at the top.”
There was the expected hype about both Canelo and Charlo being “undisputed” champions in their respective weight divisions. But boxing’s belts have been so devalued in recent years that most fans didn’t care about the titles. As Regis Prograis (who’s slated to fight “undisputed” lightweight champion Devin Haney on December 9) recently said, “That undisputed shit really don’t matter. It depends on who you beat to be undisputed.”
Some family drama was injected into the proceedings with talk about Jermell’s relationship with Jermall and the unspecified “mental health issues” that have kept Jermall out of the ring for more than two years.
“I really don’t know,” Jermell told Showtime’s Brian Custer when asked if he thought his brother would “bounce back.” “I’m not in his household. I don’t talk to him every day. We just never really seen eye to eye on certain things. I hope he bounce back. He got a family to feed, got a lotta children he gotta take care of. And he got bills to pay and a life to live. I don’t want it to be, when it’s all said and done, everybody coming in the family to ask me for some bread. They need to be goin’ to ask Mall.”
Later, when asked at a sitdown with reporters about his relatively calm, respectful attitude toward Canelo during fight week, Jermell added, “I guess I can say, not having my rowdy-ass brother around me every – my brother ain’t been in camp. Ain’t seen him, talked to him, nothing, throughout this whole camp. I think that might’ve, you know, slowed me down as far as how rational I can be.”
Adding to the drama, Jermell acknowledged that his girlfriend and Jermall’s wife got into a physical altercation outside T-Mobile when they were in Las Vegas in late-July for Errol Spence vs. Terence Crawford.
There was considerable talk in the media center during fight week about possible fights down the road. If Canelo won, would Jermall seek a “revenge match” to salvage his fractured family’s honor? Would Terence Crawford move up in weight to challenge the winner of Canelo-Charlo?
Unanswered questions regarding the extent to which Showtime will continue in boxing after this year were also in the air. PBC’s contract with the network runs through the end of 2024, But there has been considerable talk of Paramount (Showtime’s parent company) wanting to exit from the boxing business and negotiating a buy-out.
Both Canelo and Charlo weighed in at 167.4 pounds. Each man is 33 years old. Canelo was a 4-to-1 betting favorite and the odds kept inching higher.
The hopes of Charlo’s partisans were rooted in the fact that, in Canelo’s most recent three outings, he’d lost to Dmitri Bivol and turned in solid but unspectacular performances against Gennady Golovkin and John Ryder. Maybe the master was slipping.
Also, one had to go back nine fights to Canelo vs. Danny Jacobs to find a Black opponent on Canelo’s ring resume. And his seven fights before that were also against white opponents. Canelo, the argument ran, might have trouble against a good fighter with a “Black style” (whatever that meant).
Freddie Roach gave a lift to the promotion when he told reporters, “I love the attitude that Charlo brings into the ring. He’s mean and defiant. And he backs that attitude up with his talent. He cannot be intimidated. He has a great chin and doesn’t get fazed by getting hit. I think Charlo will have too much firepower for Canelo to handle, especially at the higher weight. The question is, can Canelo stay away from Charlo’s left hook? I don’t think he can, which is why I’m picking Charlo by stoppage.”
But the arguments favoring Canelo were more persuasive.
First, there was the matter of size. This was a super-middleweight title fight with a contract weight of 168 pounds. Charlo was three inches taller than Canelo but had never weighed in at more than 155¾ pounds. Canelo had tipped the scales at 160 to 175 pounds for his most recent thirteen fights.
“One-sixty-eight is considerably, still, kind of like not my weight division,” Charlo conceded as the fight approached. “I have to gain weight, and gaining weight when you’re working really hard is really tough.”
Also, one had to consider the quality of opposition that the two men had faced. Charlo had never fought a puncher like Canelo. And he was unlikely to bring anything to the table that Canelo hadn’t seen and conquered. Canelo’s victims in the most recent five years included Gennady Golovkin (twice), Danny Jacobs, Sergey Kovalev, Billy Joe Saunders, and Caleb Plant. During that same time frame, Charlo beat Jorge Cota,Tony Harrison (who beat Jermell in an earlier bout), Jeison Rosario, and Brian Carlos Castano (who fought Charlo to a draw in an earlier encounter).
“We’ll see if it’s true that I’ve lost a step,” Canelo said at the kick-off press conference in Los Angeles. “I didn’t look my best in my last two fights, but I know why and I’m ready for this fight. We’ll see what happens.” At the final pre-fight press conference, he added, “I have nothing to prove. But this time, I have something to prove to him. He’s not used to being in there with a fighter like me. It’s gonna be good; believe me.”
A Canelo Alvarez fight is always an event, and a heavily pro-Canelo crowd filled T-Mobile Arena to witness this one. For Charlo it was the biggest fight of his ring career. For Canelo, Jermell was just another opponent. But they fought as though those stakes were reversed.
The assumption was that Charlo would move, jab, and fire fast left hooks up top. But for the most part, he just moved and fought like he was intimidated by Canelo’s power. He avoided engagements and was in retreat for most of the fight.
If there’s a flaw in Canelo’s arsenal, it’s that he tends to throw one punch at a time rather than combinations. But against Charlo, that didn’t matter. When Jermell let his hands go, he was reasonably effective. But he didn’t let them go often enough. Canelo cut off the ring, backed Charlo into corners, and landed the punches that mattered most (hellacious body blows mixed in with overhand rights). Overall, he outlanded Jermell 134 to 71 and his were the heavier blows.
In round seven, a big right hand stunned Charlo, and Jermell took a knee. On the occasions when Charlo did land, Canelo’s granite chin served him well. Canelo fought to destroy. Charlo fought to survive. The judges’ scorecards (119-108, 118-109, 118-109) were on the mark.
“I could have been more aggressive,” Charlo acknowledged. Later, he added, “I wasn’t me in there.”
But it was Jermell in there. Terence Crawford posted his take on social media after the fight.
“You went out sad,” Crawford said, addressing Jermell. “Didn’t even try to win, all you did was try to survive. You should be ashamed of yourself.” Then, addressing a wider audience, Terence declared, “OK y’all. I’m over @TwinCharlo. He’s no longer on my hit list. He went out there and laid down and let Canelo spank him like he was his daddy with no type of resistance. Congratulations @Canelo. You made the so called lion look like a baby cub.”
Thomas Hauser’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His most recent book – The Universal Sport: Two Years Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, Hauser was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.