Of all the matchmaking story lines in boxing, prospect versus veteran is probably the most frequently used. Most of the time the onus is on the prospect to deliver but every once in a while the old dog manages to rise up one last time. Saturday's match between undefeated junior middleweight Jermell Charlo and 13-year veteran Demetrius Hopkins, still stunningly young at 32, could answer several questions surrounding both but the main queries are these: (1) Is Charlo ready to make the next step upward and (2) Does Hopkins still have enough to stop him?
CompuBox factors that may reveal those answers include:
Battle of the Jabs: The typical junior middleweight throws 58.3 punches per round, and of those, 33.7 -- or 57.8% -- are power shots. However, Charlo and Hopkins are fighters who rely heavily on their jabs.
In his most recent fight against Harry Joe Yorgey, 257 of Charlo's 411 punches -- 62.5% -- were jabs. The pattern held in his bouts against Dashon Johnson (66.8%), Denis Douglin (50.9%) Francisco Santana (56.5%) and Luis Grajeda (68.3%). When one combines all five CompuBox-tracked fights, the jab comprises 62.8% of his total offense (35.8 of 57 punches per round). It's not a bad jab either, for its combined 21% accuracy is slightly below the 21.8% junior middleweight average.
While Charlo's jab has always worked frequently and fairly effectively, Hopkins has been around long enough to experience the ups and downs in terms of performance. When the Hopkins jab is in rhythm he can be extremely effective. In his most recent outing against 39-year-old Charles Whittaker, Hopkins' jab was devastating in terms of controlling distance and setting up the rest of his game. The jab, which made up 70.5% of his total offense, achieved double-digit connects in all six rounds and landed a mind-boggling 48.4% of the time -- more than double the 154-pound average. It led to connect bulges of 117-31 (overall), 88-21 (jabs) and 29-10 (power) and helped achieve 38% power punching accuracy.
Against southpaw Mike Arnaoutis, Hopkins' jab still controlled the landscape as he fired 42.2 of them per round. Yes, it landed just 17% of the time but it was quick enough to limit Arnaoutis' attack. The connect gaps (135-65 total, 71-26 jabs, 64-39 power) were more than enough to win the unanimous decision.
The bad news for Hopkins is that a quirky, herky-jerky style can short-circuit Hopkins' jab. That's what Brad Soloman did in winning a wide decision and the numbers tell a compelling story -- Hopkins threw just 10.8 jabs per round and though he landed 19% of them and led 21-13 in jab connects, those factors weren't enough to overcome Soloman's superior work rate (46.7 to 37.9 per round) and connect advantages of 134-113 (overall) and 121-92 (power). Charlo is capable of jamming Hopkins' jab with his speed and athleticism.
The Pivotal Factor?: While they represent mirror images of each other stylistically, one phase may prove decisive -- defensive skills.
Both are tough to hit but Hopkins has been a little more reachable as of late. In his three most recent CompuBox-tracked fights against Arnaoutis, Soloman and Whittaker, Hopkins has been struck with 23% of his opponents' total punches and 35% of their power shots -- the latter figure being just below the 37.4% junior middleweight average. Meanwhile, in five CompuBox-tracked fights -- albeit against lower-level opposition -- Charlo has tasted 21% of his opponents' total punches and 28% of their power shots. Will Hopkins' savvy be enough to penetrate Charlo's guard or will Charlo's youth and reflexes prevail?
Prediction: This fight will be one for the purists, which can also be interpreted as one that won't be the most TV-friendly in terms of action. More than most other fights, the outcome of Charlo-Hopkins will rely on reflexes. Charlo hopes his youth and physical resources will rule the day while Hopkins hopes his experience will frustrate the youngster into mistakes. One other factor that will swing the pendulum is this: Charlo is the naturally bigger man with the potential of hurting Hopkins more than Hopkins -- who campaigned for years at 135 and 140 -- can hurt him.
Younger and bigger usually beats older and smaller. Charlo by unanimous decision.