By Peter Lim
World junior middleweight titleholder Jermell Charlo (29-0, 14 KOs) has raised his profile fighting from coast to coast on national TV over the last few years. But a lesser known fact is that, on the local front, Charlo founded a 8,700-square-foot gym, Charlo Boxing and Fitness three years ago in the Houston neighborhood where he grew up.
On Sept. 28, Charlo hosted a canned food drive benefiting the victims of Hurricane Harvey at the 8,700-square-foot facility in conjunction with a media workout to promote his Oct. 14 title defense against Erickson Lubin (18-0, 12 KOs).
"The goal was to get as many people out to the gym and support what's going on and bring food," Charlo said.
Operating under the "Lions Only" slogan, Charlo Boxing and Fitness was set up to cultivate local talent, amateur and pro, and continue to enhance Houston's reputation as one of the training Meccas of the sweet science, Charlo said.
"We're bringing boxing back to Houston to show more fighters that's in the city, promote the fighters that's in the city and just keep that going," Charlo said. "I want to fill this place up. I want everybody that thinks about boxing in Houston to know that this is the place to be."
Former world cruiserweight titleholder Vassiliy Jirov (38-3-1, 32 KOs) currently trains his stable of three fighters - light heavyweight Medzhid Bektemirov (19-1, 13 KOs), heavyweight Darlington "Chi" Agha (10-0-1, 7 KOs) and middleweight Radmir Akhmediyev (11-1, 8 KOs) - at Charlo Boxing and Fitness.
The club's amateur program is headed by Genaro Alarcon (5-0-1, 4 KOs).
Despite having substantially raised his income bracket as a professional athlete, Charlo remains firmly attached to the nitty-gritty blue collar neighborhood of Alief, a suburb southwest of Houston, where he spent his formative years. It was imperative that he set up his gym close to home.
"I couldn't leave Alief," Charlo said. "I couldn't leave where my roots are at and where I grew up."
Ironically, Charlo only occasionally hits his own punching bags and shadow boxes in his own ring. He trains primarily at Derrick James' gym in Dallas where he is free of hometown distractions and spars regularly with one of James' other fighters, world welterweight titleholder Errol Spence (22-0, 19 KOs).
"I actually like the fact that I have to leave and go to a different city to train because I can focus," Charlo said. "I'm like train, wake up, eat protein, rest and then it's back to training again. When I'm home I get four wheelers, I get nice cars. I want to make sure that I keep my body to a point where training camp is training camp when I'm only fighting twice, three times a year. When training camp is in, we've got to go hard for 10 or 11 weeks."
"I've fought three southpaws. I've knocked them all out. I've knocked every southpaw I've fought out. Errol Spence Jr. is the perfect sparring partner. He's been one of the best sparring partners that I've had even when I'm fighting right-handers because of his dominance. He's very strong, he's fast and he's punching.