At this point, the only thing on which Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo can agree is that they are due to fight each other later this month.
Even that topic has been subject to debate, especially given the circumstances leading to this point.
The pair of bitter junior middleweight rivals remain on course for their title fight rematch, which takes place Dec. 21 at Toyota Arena (nee Citizens Business Bank Arena) in Ontario, California.
Fox aired the the first fight between the two, which ended with Harrison claiming a disputed 12-round unanimous decision to hand Charlo (32-1, 16KOs) his first loss, taking his title in the process. The free-to-air network will also carry the rematch, which was due to rematch in June, only for Harrison to suffer an ankle injury, prompting the postponement.
His challenger in waiting remains skeptical of the circumstances surrounding the six-month delay.
“I was like ‘It’s all BS, man.’ It’s all BS. C’mon man, you know it is,” Houston’s Charlo claimed during Fox Sports’ recent airing of PBC Face To Face: Harrison vs. Charlo II over the weekend. “I don’t want to play back and forth with you about what’s honest. It’s all a game.”
It wasn’t a game to Detroit’s Harrison (28-2, 21KOs), who hasn’t fought since his title-lifting effort over Charlo last December. The rematch will mark exactly 52 weeks to the day of that fight, the last time he’s seen any ring action.
Charlo was able to preserve the June date, scoring a sensational 3rd round knockout of late replacement Jorge Cota at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. Harrison was present at ringside for the Fox-aired event, which Charlo was quick to remind should have been their night to throw down.
“You realized how serious I am about this,” Charlo insisted. “The problem you’re realizing how bad I want this, that they lit a fire under this dude. We talk about June 23 taking place. It didn’t happen. We talking about June 23. You was there. It was my show.”
“It was supposed to be, you was the only one fighting,” Harrison fired back. “It was supposed to be your show. At that moment when I didn’t fight walk through the doors (into the ring), you were the A-side. It was your show.”
Clarification efforts only further fueled the debate, and Charlo’s insistence that Harrison delayed the fight by six months for reasons other than injury.
“He’s the one that has to answer that,” Charlo insisted as to the extent of Harrison’s injury which he insists never occurred. “I ain’t gonna tell you what I believe, I’m gonna tell you what I know. I’m gonna tell you facts. The reality of things, this man of his word, talent and skills, Tony ‘SuperBad’ Detroit native—all of these things he represents and got on his back, goes and fake an injury, then a week later it’s postponed.”
“We doing all this speculation for what.” Harrison wondered aloud.
“We defining where your heart at,” Charlo noted in a putting a point on his claim. “Where your heart at?”
“I’m here, ain’t I,” Harrison noted. “Am I here, sir? Am I here?”
It wasn’t the answer Charlo was looking for, or at least did not want to hear.
“Did you really hurt your ankle,” Charlo once again questioned.
Sensing the conversation wasn’t going anywhere, Harrison attempted to rationalize his opponent’s claims.
“So I pulled out just so I could fight you now,” asked Harrison, who will make his first title defense. “Why would I even be here? I could’ve just gone and fight somebody else then. If I wanted to.”
Not exactly true, insists Charlo.
“You can’t fight somebody else because the WBC ordered it,” noted the ex-titlist, who held the WBC belt from May 2016 through their first fight a year ago. “Homeboy you don’t know nothing.”
Once again, Harrison wasn’t having any of it.
“Homeboy, listen. You don’t know nothing, either,” shot back the defending champ, who took a swipe at Charlo’s Lions Only Promotions label which he shares with twin brother Jermall. “Young lion. You a cub.”
Charlo isn’t buying his opponent’s tough talk.
“This energy he trying to portray, this ain’t really him,” insists Charlo. “I know something about you, boy. You made out of Styrofoam. They made you up to be this clown, and it’s not right. You got a different animal in front of you. The man you fought [last December] is not the same Jermell Charlo.
“The good thing about it right now is, I know the difference about me. You don’t know the difference in me. And the good thing is, I get a chance to show you December 21st.”
His lone career conqueror believes the fight has already been won where it matters most.
“I live in his mind, I’m in his head,” Harrison believes. “I’m in that mug. It’s Monopoly. I’m living mint… I’m dancing. [Charlo’s] mentally weak, you emotional.”
No matter the debate on the validity of the reason for the six-month delay, there’s no questioning the authenticity of their two-way animosity.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox