Jermael Charlo will not be the first or last boxer in modern boxing history to move up two divisions to face an established champion.
More recently, there were two stars who did the same: Manny Pacquiao and Guillermo Rigondeaux. The two fought against formidable opponents with varying results. Pacquiao forced Oscar De La Hoya to quit before the ninth round. Rigondeaux went down in his corner after the sixth round, losing a one-sided bout against Vasily Lomachenko.
Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) enters this super middleweight bout against Canelo Alvarez on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as the junior middleweight undisputed champion. He replaced his twin brother, Jermal, who was initially going to move up from middleweight to face Alvarez, but withdrew as he continued to deal with personal issues.
“Now is the right time for this fight,” Charlo, 33, said during a workout in September. 11. “We’re in our prime and at our best. I want to shake off the doubters and prove to the world why I’m in this position. There’s a reason I’ve made it this far. I’m going to show what I’m made of. My eight Everything I’ve done since I was a year old, I’m putting them 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 were able to defeat the odds and defeat champions of the upper division.
Alvarez is a boxer himself, moving up two divisions and winning. He did this against Sergey Kovalev in November 2019. Alvarez, who combined three middleweight world titles six months ago by defeating Daniel Jacobs, moved up from 160 pounds to 175 pounds to wrest the WBO light heavyweight title from Kovalev.
Pacquiao did something similar with his debut in the welterweight division against De La Hoya in December 2008. Although the fight was at a catchweight of 145 pounds, Pacquiao’s previous fight was at lightweight (135 pounds) when he knocked out David Diaz to win the WBC belt.
His win over De La Hoya became even more relevant because in March of the same year, Pacquiao retained his WBC junior lightweight title against Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao jumped three divisions in the span of nine months (March to December). That fight was one-sided. The little guy destroyed the big guy.
It was a great beating until De La Hoya came out fighting in the ninth round.
“I don’t have to worry about losing too much weight,” Charlo said. “I’ve been sparring with big guys for a long time now and bringing that same mentality that I had at 154-pounds and bringing it with me to 168-pounds.
“We’ve done a lot of sparring and conditioning. I’m also working mentally, because I know it’s not just about the physical. I’ve been training for 14 weeks and making sure I’m doing everything I need to do.”
Other notable fighters who moved up two divisions for a title fight and won: Roy Jones (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 big guy wins
Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic champion for Cuba, could not find an opponent to defend his junior featherweight title and opted to move up two divisions for a big payday against then-junior lightweight champion Lomachenko, also a double Olympic champion from Ukraine.
The decision cost Rigondeaux his undefeated record.
‘The Jackal’ moved up from 122 pounds to 130 pounds for a fight in December. 9, 2017 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. On that stage, Rigondeaux quickly realized he had no chance against a fighter as skilled as him, but bigger, stronger and smaller by seven years.
The widely publicized fight was one-sided due to the disparity between both fighters. When Rigondaux felt Lomachenko’s power punch, he limited himself to pulling away from Lomachenko until the end of the sixth round. He did not fight in 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 Maxime); Jose ‘Mantequilla’ Napoles (Welterweight to Middleweight vs. Carlos Monzon); Juan Manuel Marquez (light to welterweight vs. Floyd Mayweather); Kell Brook (welterweight to middleweight vs. Gennady Golovkin); Amir Khan (welterweight to middleweight vs. Canelo Alvarez); Mikey Garcia (light to welterweight vs. Errol Spence Jr.)
Will Charlo be Pacquiao or Rigondeaux?
Difficult to answer. But what’s clear at first glance is that the smaller of the Charlo twins won’t have a size disadvantage against Alvarez, something that both Pacquiao and Rigondeaux have had to deal with. Physically, Charlo (6-foot) is bigger than Canelo (5-foot-8) and has the reach advantage (73 to 70½″). With these physical characteristics, one would think that Charlo could gain weight without problems with his anatomy.
“Jermel’s advantage is his size,” said his coach Derrick James. “You have to maximize that advantage. It’s about what Jermell is capable of. He doesn’t have to be the guy, he has to be the guy.”
“You win fights in the gym. You’re not pulling a rabbit out of your hat. You’ve got to get in the ring the right way.”
The biggest question is, can Charlo take on Alvarez at super middleweight? Accustomed to dealing punches at welterweights and junior middleweights (the two divisions in which he’s campaigned professionally), it’s hard to predict he’ll be able to take on a man who, while physically smaller, is used to knocking out supers. Middleweight fighter. And even light heavyweights, as he did with Kovalev.
We’ll find out on Saturday.