ONTARIO, California – Jermell Charlo claimed in the immediate aftermath of his controversial loss to Tony Harrison that he’d pay closer attention to the selection of judges for their contractually mandated rematch.
As of Thursday night, the former WBC super welterweight champion still didn’t know the identities of the three judges who’ll work their second 154-pound title fight Saturday night at Toyota Arena. A confident Charlo also promised Thursday that the judges’ opinions won’t matter this time around.
“I’m gonna knock you the f--k out,” Charlo yelled at Harrison during an inevitably combative press conference in the main lobby of Toyota Arena.
Heidi Androl, FOX’s moderator, quickly followed up and asked Charlo if he feels he must knock out Harrison in their rematch due to the debatable result of their first fight.
“No, I want to knock him out,” Charlo replied. “I’m going to knock him out.”
Harrison has heard all this before, of course. Charlo predicted he’d knock him out prior to their fight last December 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Charlo had developed into one of the 154-pound division’s biggest punchers prior to their initial encounter a year ago. Harrison had been stopped by Jarrett Hurd – the unbeaten IBF, IBO and WBA champ this time last year – and previously by Willie Nelson.
Charlo’s confidence seemingly was warranted against an 8-1 underdog.
Harrison withstood Charlo’s power, however, and made the most of his second shot at a junior middleweight world title.
Judges Julie Lederman (115-113), Ron McNair (115-113) and Robin Taylor (116-112) each scored their thoroughly competitive contest clash for Harrison, who won a unanimous decision. Unofficially, CompuBox counted more punches overall for Charlo (160-to-128), who vehemently protested the decision.
Once he had time to dissect his performance, Charlo realized he rushed himself too much versus Harrison. Charlo thinks he was trying too hard to knock out Harrison in his first fight after going the distance with former champion Austin Trout.
Houston’s Charlo (32-1, 16 KOs) had become accustomed to scoring spectacular knockouts like those he produced in back-to-back victories over Charles Hatley and Erickson Lubin in 2017.
Eventually, losing to Harrison had a positive impact on Charlo. It made him hungrier and more attentive to game plans.
Charlo intends to take a more patient approach against Harrison in a main event FOX will televise Saturday night (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
“I’m gonna set up the right shots,” Charlo told Androl. “I’m gonna set up what he ain’t gonna see. And you’re gonna be interviewing him after, you know, [me] knocking him out, knockout. You gonna see.”
Harrison cannot envision that happening. The defending champion promised Thursday that “leopards don’t change they spots” and “zebras don’t change they stripes.”
In other words, Detroit’s Harrison (28-2, 21 KOs) expects Charlo to go head-hunting, which will help Harrison out-box him again.
“He’s hoping to catch me with a shot, that’s all,” Harrison said. “That’s all he can do, hope and pray to catch me with something. And that’s his game plan. His game plan is to hope he catch me with something.”
Charlo caught Harrison with something, a left hook, in the 12th round last year. That shot seemed to hurt Harrison, who held and survived until the final bell.
Harrison both confirmed and disputed during the press conference that Charlo “rocked” him at times in their 12-rounder.
“You know what, man?,” Harrison said. “Like, the only people he can convince of that stuff is the people on his team. He had 12 rounds, never stumbled me, never rocked me.”
Charlo called out Harrison for being dishonest about what happened in their 12-round battle.
“He knows that power,” Charlo said. “He knows it. Them knees was all flapped all over the ring.”
An incredulous Harrison interrupted Charlo, who quickly shot down Harrison’s contention.
“I’m not rockin’ you this time,” Charlo said. “I’m sleepin’ yo ass.”
Above all else, Charlo obviously wants to win back his title. That’d allow him to pursue a title unification fight against Julian Williams, who’ll make the first defenses of the IBF, IBO and WBA crowns he won from Hurd against optional opponent Jeison Rosario on January 18 in Philadelphia.
Charlo doesn’t want there to be any doubt about him avenging his only loss, which a decision win in at least a reasonably competitive fight could cause. Skepticism regarding his victory, according to Charlo, is the reason Harrison hasn’t really been embraced by boxing fans as a legitimate champion.
“This is professional boxing,” Charlo said. “This is not amateurs. We’re not here to score points. And some of the things that he did in the last fight, it didn’t satisfy the fans. And that’s why he’s not looked at like a pure champion. Even if he has the title, he doesn’t even get the recognition that he deserves because of the fact that he didn’t even come in and take it. And my job is to do what he should have done, and that’s to really come in, knock out the champion, take it from him and so I leave no doubts for you guys.”
The 29-year-old Charlo has no doubt following a tremendous training camp that he is prepared to take back the WBC belt from Harrison.
“I’m one of the fastest, hand speed-wise,” Charlo said. “I’m one of the sharpest IQ, ferocious power. Don’t know where it came from, just knock out a lot. I knocked guys out in this camp with 16-ounce gloves. And now I’ll put on some 10s and hit Tony, who’s been I know brain-shot already. We fittin’ to go knock him out. … I really wanna get him out of there just because I wanna prove [it] to the world.”
Harrison reminded anyone swayed by Charlo’s confidence that he has already proven he can take Charlo’s strongest shots.
“That’s him telling you what he think,” Harrison said of Charlo’s knockout prediction. “He said that sh-t before the first fight. Whatever he gonna say, he gonna say. Whatever his team is gonna do, they gonna do. He’s got two nights [left] to prove it to you and prove it to me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.