A year’s time has made quite a difference for Jermell Charlo.
In December of 2018, while preparing for a title defense against Tony Harrison, the then-incumbent WBC 154-pound champion barely acknowledged his foe during a full-length interview.
And when he did, he wasn’t exactly showering the challenger – then ranked fifth and not long removed from a stoppage loss to Jarrett Hurd – with compliments.
“(Harrison) doesn’t get acknowledgement for losing from me,” Charlo said. “I’m not going to be honoring a guy that didn’t do what he had to do to beat a guy (Hurd) that I know I could beat. Tony Harrison is a guy that’s going to get in there and try to dethrone me and take my title. I’m excited for that. I’m excited to get in and be able to beat somebody without getting in trouble.”
Things didn’t go quite as planned.
Rather than going gentle into the Brooklyn night, Harrison worked his way through 12 full rounds and found himself on the winning end of a narrow but unanimous title-winning decision.
The scores were 115-113, 115-113 and 116-112 in his favor, and, suffice to say, Charlo disagreed.
So it’s really no surprise that his enmity hasn’t lessened.
In fact, it’s intensified.
“I'm a passionate person,” Charlo said, in a recent PBC preview special. "I'm a winner. When they took that one from me, of course a passionate person is going to have a different reaction than he would have had. I found out where your heart was. I've been able to make more investment into myself to destroy you ever since then.
“I don't like 'phony' Harrison. It's easy to explain why the rematch will be different. I'm knocking him out. I can't let them judges make any decisions. That's what I need. He's going to sleep. Cold."
The return get-together was scheduled for the summertime but was scrapped at the last minute when Harrison injured an ankle and left Charlo to vent his frustrations on an overmatched Jorge Cota.
That fight ended in three rounds. Charlo, who suggests Harrison’s injury claim was dubious, said his engine was revved further by the new champ’s decision not to appear.
“He wasn't really injured, we're all boxers and we all go through things," said Charlo. "It's a wear and tear sport. It puts a lot on our mind and on our bodies. If you don't do it the right way, it's going to tear you down. Maybe he used the smallest excuse and used it to get him out of the fight. There's no easy routes in this thing. When you're at the top, you have to fight.
“He's a fraud. He manipulated the system and he isn't the real champ like I am. I'm the real champion and it will take me going in there and showing why I am the champ. I get to do that on December 21."
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant WBC flyweight title – Phoenix, Arizona
Julio Cesar Martinez (No. 1 WBC/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Cristofer Rosales (No. 2 WBC/No. 5 IWBR)
Martinez (14-1, 11 KO): Second title fight (0-0, 1 NC); Never lost a 12-round fight (1-0, 1 NC)
Rosales (29-4, 20 KO): Fourth title fight (2-1); Held WBC title at 112 (2018, one defense)
Fitzbitz says: The young Mexican is skilled, can punch and was successful on the world level – until the title win in August was changed to a no contest. He gets it back here. Martinez by decision (90/10)
WBC super welterweight title – Ontario, California
Tony Harrison (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Jermell Charlo (No. 1 WBC/No. 4 IWBR)
Harrison (28-2, 21 KO): First title defense; Defeated Charlo to win title last December (UD 12)
Charlo (32-1, 16 KO): Sixth title fight (4-1); Held WBC title at 154 (2016-18, three defenses)
Fitzbitz says: It was one of 2018’s biggest upsets when Harrison nipped Charlo to win the belt last year, but it’ll be looked at sideways unless Harrison repeats it. He won’t. Charlo by decision (85/15)
IBF flyweight title – Kanagawa, Japan
Moruti Mthalane (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Akira Yaegashi (No. 14 IBF/Unranked IWBR)
Mthalane (38-2, 25 KO): Third title defense; Held IBF and IBO title belts at 112 pounds (seven defenses)
Yaegashi (28-6, 16 KO): Thirteenth title fight (8-4); Held WBA title at 105, WBC and IBF titles at 112
Fitzbitz says: Yaegashi is a decorated veteran – and actually a year younger than the champion – but he’s suffered more recent losses and the tread wear is showing a bit much. Mthalane by decision (65/35)
WBC light flyweight title – Kanagawa, Japan
Kenshiro Teraji (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Randy Petalcorin (No. 12 WBC/Unranked IWBR)
Teraji (16-0, 9 KO): Seventh title defense; Five stoppage wins in nine 12-round fights
Petalcorin (31-3-1, 23 KO): Second title defense (0-1); Five wins in six fights outside the Philippines
Fitzbitz says: Teraji has separated himself in barely more than a dozen pro fights, and reached a level the Filipino hasn’t gotten to in more than 30. That won’t change here in any way. Teraji in 10 (99/1)
This week’s trash title-fight schedule:
WBA “world” middleweight title – Kanagawa, Japan
Ryota Murata (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Steven Butler (No. 8 WBA/No. 17 IWBR)
Why it’s trash: No one would suggest that Murata can’t fight. He’s shown that he can. But with a marquee champion like Canelo on the WBA roster and all the talent available elsewhere in the division, there’s simply no reason to consider this a title fight. It doesn’t warrant the billing or attention.
Last week's picks: 1-2 (WIN: Crawford; LOSS: Commey, Canoy)
2019 picks record: 98-22 (81.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,109-365 (75.2 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.