Antwone Smith calls himself "The Truth" and in terms of identifying where his opponents are in their careers he may indeed be that. Perform well against him and most of the time you will win. But if there are chinks in the armor, Smith is good enough to expose them and inflict boxing's scarlet letter -- "L."
Smith has won two straight since a 3-3 slide and on Friday he will meet up-and-coming junior middleweight prospect Jermall Charlo, who is undefeated in 14 fights.
Statistical factors that may shape the outcome include:
Look Alike, Fight Alike: Not only do Jermall and Jermell Charlo share the same DNA (at 6-0 Jermall is one inch taller but their 73-inch reaches are identical), their ring styles are stunningly similar. Both rely more far heavily on the jab than most fighters. The typical junior middleweight throws 58.3 punches per round, of which 24.6, or 42.2%, are jabs. However, in three CompuBox-tracked fights, Jermall's jab makes up 61.1% of his 64.1 punches per round while in Jermell's six CompuBox-tracked fights, the jab makes up 63.9% of his 53.7 punches per round.
Not only is Jermall's jab prolific, it's also accurate. In stopping Gilbert Venegas in three rounds, he averaged 58.7 jabs and 14.2 connects per round (far above the 24.6 and 5.4 junior middleweight averages) en route to 31.2% accuracy (above the 21.7% division norm) and cavernous connect gaps of 64-5 (overall), 35-2 (jabs) and 29-3 (power).
Against the sieve-like Orlando Lora (KO 4), Charlo averaged 45.6 jabs and 17.7 connects per round, landing 39% of them and helping to create connect gaps of 140-47 (total), 54-10 (jabs) and 86-37 (power). Most of that pattern repeated in his two round TKO over Luis Hernandez (34.5 jabs and 15 connects per round, 44% connects and 37-16 total, 30-5 jabs but a 11-7 power connect deficit).
The success of his jab produced two other excellent results from Charlo's standpoint. The first is increased accuracy in other phases of the game (50% overall and 60% power vs. Lora, 31% and 48% power vs. Venegas and 41% overall and 33% power vs. Hernandez). The second is that his shorter, less skilled opponents could barely lay a glove on him, for in three fights Charlo landed 19.2 more punches per round overall (26.8-7.6), 11.2 more jabs (13.2-1.9), 7.9 more power shots (13.6-5.7) and a far higher percentage in all phases
(41.8%-16.2% overall, 33.7%-10.8% jabs, 54.5%-19.3% power).
Make no question however: Smith is a definite step up in competition and time will tell whether Charlo can get close to his previous dominance. If he can, we may have an excellent new face on the junior middleweight title scene. But if he can't, then "The Truth" will again prove the truth of his nickname.
Smith's vs. Volume: In three fights, Charlo averaged 64.1 punches per round, slightly above the 58.3 junior middleweight average. That may be good news for the prospect, for Smith has historically struggled with fighters who throw high-octane volume at him.
Roberto Garcia (L 10), Kermit Cintron (L 10) and Lanardo Tyner (KO by 9) all used high-volume attacks to counteract Smith's excellent power connect percentages (41% vs. Garcia, 40% vs. Cintron and Tyner.) Garcia uncorked 100.5 punches per round to outdo Smith's 68.7-per-round pace and created connect gaps of 275-256 (total) and 95-57 (jabs), overcoming Smith's lead in power connects (199-180).
Cintron fired 112.8 punches per round -- far above the 58.7 junior middleweight norm -- enabling him to out-land Smith 338-278 (total), 84-32 (jabs) and 254-246 (power) while Tyner threw 84.8 per round en route to connect leads of 273-245 (total), 69-53 (jabs) and 204-192 (power).
When Smith is allowed to dictate the pace, he fares much better. Against 38-year-old ex-titlist Jose Luis Castillo, Smith threw more per round (70.5 to 68.8), out-landed his rival 279-251 total and 218-188 power to counteract Castillo's 63-61 edge in landed jabs, and connected at a higher percentage (40%-36% total, 45%-37% power to counterbalance Castillo's 34%-28% jab lead).
Smith's fight with Ronald Cruz is a statistical exception, for Smith managed to win a split decision in Cruz's adopted hometown of Bethlehem, Pa. despite being out-landed 253-186 (total) and 207-126 (power) and being the less accurate fighter (Cruz led 41%-28% overall, 22%-20% jabs and 50%-34% power). The reason Smith might have won was because he threw more punches (66.6 per round to Cruz's 62.3) and never seemed to be overwhelmed. That he managed to out-work Cruz while scaling three pounds over the contracted weight is quite the accomplishment.
Prediction: Charlo has yet to be seriously challenged by his opponents so it will be interesting to see how he reacts when Smith (who has been stopped only once in four losses) stands up to him. The guess here is that he'll react well, for his jab-heavy offense suggests above-average patience, a firm grasp of what he does well and a determination to stick to a fight plan. Also, Smith is not a big puncher, so the threat of a sudden KO is minimal. Thus, Charlo will pile up sufficient points to win a solid decision.