By Michael Rosenthal
BIGGEST WINNER I
Jermell Charlo: Jermall Charlo is the Charlo brother with the particularly bright future, the one who could crack the pound-for-pound Top 10 and continue to climb. At least that’s the prevailing wisdom.
More and more, though, Jermell Charlo is becoming impossible to overlook.
Jermell made the biggest statement of his career on the junior middleweight triple-header Saturday in Brooklyn, where it took him only 2 minutes, 41 seconds to discombobulate then-undefeated Erickson Lubin with a single right hand and retain his WBC title.
That followed knockouts Charles Hatley and John Jackson, meaning Charlo has established a theme of fan-friendly, dramatic endings as he continues to maintain a perfect record (30-0, 15 knockouts).
Detractors point to the Jackson fight as evidence of Charlo’s limitations, as Jackson – leading 69-64 on all cards – outboxed Charlo through seven rounds before Charlo stopped him in the eighth.
That’s a reasonable concern, maybe even a red flag. The idea is to win, though. And he did that in emphatic fashion. He stalked the elusive Jackson until he finally caught him and then put him away to win his world title.
Indeed, Charlo (30-0, 15 knockouts) might not be perfect but he has proved that he knows how to win against increasingly tough foes. We’ll see if that continues as he takes another step up in quality of opposition.
Charlo called out IBF titleholder Jarret Hurd, who stopped Austin Trout in the bout that preceded his Saturday in Brooklyn. Hurd is raw but he has talent and is extremely durable, as Trout learned.
Those strengths could tell us a lot more about Charlo.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Jarret Hurd: The impressive thing about Hurd’s performance on the junior middleweight card is that he remains a work in progress yet beat up a good fighter in Austin Trout.
Hurd (21-0, 15 KOs) doesn’t have the best fundamentals. Among obvious problems: He keeps his hands too low, his feet are often out of position and he doesn’t move his head much. He simply walks you down like a robot, takes more punches than any titleholder should but lands his own punishing shots and gradually wears you down.
That was the fate of the battered Trout, who couldn’t come out for the 11th round. It was an impressive performance for a such a raw fighter.
I don’t know whether that formula – get hit but hit more – will work against a quality opponent who can punch harder than Trout (30-4, 17 KOs). It doesn’t matter how good his chin is: If Hurd takes such hard shots against Jermell Charlo, it will be extremely difficult for him to win or even survive 12 rounds.
The same could be said of superior boxers like WBA titleholder Erislandy Lara and Demetrius Andrade, who are a level above Trout and might have the ability to confound Hurd.
Bottom line: The jury is still out on the 27-year-old from Maryland. He’ll probably be able to beat good fighters like Trout consistently but could struggle against very good ones if he doesn’t improve.
Erickson Lubin: This was the slick 22-year-old’s big opportunity, his chance to prove that he could deliver on a big stage and claim his place among the best in his division. In the end, he didn’t have time to show anything.
The fighters were still adjusting to one another when Lubin walked into a short right that left him on the canvas and unable to continue.
There wasn’t much the Floridian could say immediately afterward other than the obvious: “That’s boxing.”
The temptation is to say that Charlo was too much, too soon for Lubin (18-1, 13 KOs). After all, Charlo was a significant step up from his previous opponent, Jorge Cota. One response to that notion: We’ll never know.
Anyone can get caught with a big shot. On Saturday, Lubin was anyone.
There are questions, though. The obvious one is whether Lubin has the chin to succeed at the highest level. We’ll see. That judgment can’t be made based on a single knockout by a big puncher.
A more important question might be how Lubin will handle such a monumental disappointment.
He no longer has the confidence that comes with being undefeated. And his first loss was the result of one punch in the opening round before a national audience on Showtime. That’s embarrassing.
Lubin’s mental toughness could determine his future.
Santa Cruz, Mares and Groves fights: The good news is that three notable fights on Saturday – Leo Santa Cruz vs. Chris Avalos, Abner Mares vs. Andres Gutierrez and George Groves vs. Jamie Cox – will lead directly to compelling matchups.
The bad news is those fights weren’t competitive, which undoubtedly left a lot of fans unfulfilled.
Mares, hungry to climb back to the top of featherweight division, wanted to face Santa Cruz rather than Gutierrez but Santa Cruz and his team wanted a tune-up before meeting his Los Angeles-area rival in a rematch after eight-plus months off.
The result was two mismatches in Carson, California, Mares (31-2-1, 15 KOs) stopping resilient but so-so Andres Gutierrez (35-2-1, 25 KOs) in 10 rounds and Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 KOs) doing the same to equally tough but limited Chris Avalos (27-6, 20 KOs) in eight rounds in what amounted to televised sparring sessions.
Meanwhile, in London, Groves, the WBA 168-pound titleholder, put away spirited but overmatched Jamie Cox in four rounds in a first-round fight in the World Boxing Super Series.
Another public workout.
Now back to the good news. Santa Cruz and Mares reportedly will meet in March. Doesn’t get much better than that. Santa Cruz is the hotter fighter but Mares is motivated. He hasn’t had an important win since he was stopped by Jhonny Gonzalez in 2013.
And Groves will face countryman Chris Eubank Jr., who is coming off a sensational third-round knockout of Avni Yildirim (another mediocre opponent) in his quarterfinal WBSS fight. Huge fight in the U.K.
Those compelling matchups could make up for the nonsense we watched on Saturday.
Erislandy Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs) demonstrated again that he’s a superb boxer, putting capable Terrell Gausha (20-1, 9 KOs) down and easily outpointing him in the main event in Brooklyn. The Cuban also demonstrated again that he’s not fun to watch, as he takes just enough risks to win handily. I still hope he gets at least one more big fight after losing his first two – against Paul Williams and Canelo Alvarez – by disputed decisions. He has earned it. … Gutierrez was the fighter who was supposed to fight Carl Frampton in July but was injured when he fell in the shower and had to pull out. The shower proved to be tougher than Mares, who pounded Gutierrez but couldn’t put him down.