Sunday, March 26, 2023  |


Jermall Charlo’s KO speaks loudly: Weekend Review

Photo by German Villasenor


Jermall Charlo: A number of elite fighters recorded important victories over the weekend but no one made a bigger statement than Charlo. The IBF 154-pound titleholder took on Julian Williams in a compelling matchup of two unbeaten, talented and super-quick young fighters Saturday in Los Angeles. And although the fight was competitive for the most part, Charlo’s punching power ultimately became the deciding factor and raised the 26-year-old Texan’s stock considerably. First came a stiff jab in the second round that put Williams down and actually stunned him. The gifted Philadelphian survived and held his own for a time but then came a right uppercut from hell, one that found Williams on the chin and put him face first on the canvas. Williams, badly hurt, got up but fell again under a barrage of punches. That was that: A fifth-round knockout that has prompted me, for one, to look at Charlo (25-0, 19 knockouts) somewhat differently. He called out Canelo Alvarez after the fight; that isn’t likely to happen because of promotional alliances but it sure would be interesting. And Charlo expects to move up to 160 pounds soon, which could set up a meeting with Gennady Golovkin. Somehow that doesn’t seem so outrageous now. I’m not saying Charlo is in the class of Alvarez and Golovkin just yet. I am saying that his performance against Williams (22-1-1, 14 KOs) makes that notion just a little bit more palatable.


Terence Crawford-John Molina: I would enjoy watching Terence Crawford fight just about anyone but I became more and more uncomfortable as this fight progressed. I have nothing but admiration for John Molina, who doesn’t understand how to give up, but he had no business in the ring with Crawford on Saturday in Omaha. The gap in skill level was so pronounced that the fight bordered on ridiculous. Molina should stick to fellow brawlers, against whom he is still capable of giving us entertaining wars. And Crawford must face at least semi-legitimate challenges lest his victories will be next to meaningless, as this one was. That said, Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) looked like Crawford, a superb all-around fighter who is destined to dominate many more opponents going forward. The RING 140-pound champ is No. 5 on our pound-for-pound list but I’m not sure four fighters are actually better than he is. I’m convinced that he and Vasyl Lomachenko – not necessarily in that order – will end up at the top of the heap, although we also should keep an eye on young Errol Spence. Now all Crawford has to do is continue his ascent. He’d like to face Manny Pacquiao next; a victory over the great Filipino would do wonders for his reputation. And he called out Ricky Burns and Julius Indongo, the other junior welterweight titleholders. Crawford wants more belts. They’ll come, as will more accolades.


Anthony Joshua-Eric Molina: This was less a fight than a regrettable prelude to a very big announcement Saturday in Manchester, England. Molina (25-4, 19 KOs) wanted nothing do with Joshua once the opening bell rang, seeming to be more concerned about keeping his head connected to his neck than actually competing in a sporting event. Molina landed six punches – total – before Joshua sent him crashing to the canvas and soon ended the fight, giving Joshua 18 KOs in his 18 fights. Official time: 2:02 of Round 3. Then came the true main event: The formal announcement that Joshua will face former champion Wladimir Klitschko on April 29 at Wembley Stadium in London. That’s exciting news. Tyson Fury pumped life into a dormant heavyweight division when he ended Klitschko’s long championship reign in November 2015. And then Fury imploded, sending the division back into uncertainty. Joshua-Klitschko is the kind of matchup we were hoping for. It’s not perfect. Joshua is unproven as he has fought no one of note. And Klitschko will have been out of the ring for 17 months, a particularly long layoff for a fighter who will be 41 and looked lousy in his last fight. At the same time, this is a perfect passing-of-the-torch matchup – young, rising royalty against the former king. It’s not exactly Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson but it’s big – very big.


Abner Mares: I don’t know if it made sense to write off Mares after he was knocked out in the first round by Jhonny Gonzalez in August 2013. It was his first loss and he was relatively young, only 28 at the time. People wondered, though. And his split-decision loss to Leo Santa Cruz in August of last year added urgency in his ongoing quest to remain a legitimate contender and marketable commodity. That’s why his nationally televised fight against Jesus Cuellar on Saturday in Los Angeles was so important; there were no guarantees of more such opportunities. Mares (30-2-1, 15 KOs) was up to the task. The Mexican Olympian reverted back to a more cerebral style against Cuellar (28-2, 21 KOs), a strong, tough Argentine bent on pushing Mares into a brawl. The challenger didn’t bite; instead, he outboxed Cuellar, engaged him enough to do damage and put him down to win a split decision that should’ve been unanimous. Judges Max DeLuca and Dave Moretti had it 117-110 and 116-111 for Mares, respectively. I had the same score as Moretti. Judge Kermit Bayless somehow scored it for Cuellar 115-112, eight rounds to four. That was an injustice to Mares, who definitely earned a victory that demonstrated he has plenty left to give the sport and the fans.


The crowd in Los Angeles booed Charlo after he refused to shake Williams’ hand after the fight. He deserved the derision; sportsmanship is still important. We shouldn’t be too hard on him, though. One, he apologized immediately afterward. And, two, it’s not difficult to understand his ire after a long war of words with Williams. The guess here is that Charlo learned his lesson. He’ll shake his opponent’s hand the next time. … Richard Schaefer deserves credit for a good card in his first foray as an independent promoter. The main event (Mares-Cuellar) and co-feature (Charlo-Williams) were compelling fights, as were several on the undercard in Los Angeles. … Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (50-2-1, 32 KOs) has a lot of work to do to become relevant again. He lost his last two significant fights, he has fought infrequently and no one believes he really cares about realizing whatever potential he has. He outpointed a light-punching German named Dominik Britsch (32-3-1, 11 KOs) on Saturday in Mexico, an exercise in spinning his wheels. One thing he’ll always have going for him: his name. … We can’t read too much into Ray Beltran’s domination of Mason Menard on the Crawford-Molina card because Menard was taking a significant step up in opposition. That said, Beltran (32-7-1, 20 KOs) looked as if he was possessed. He aggressively and efficiently tore Menard (32-2, 24 KOs) apart  before stopping the Louisianan with a single left hook in the seventh round. Beltran, 35, never looked better. …

The news out of Mexico on Friday was heartbreaking. Alejandro Gonzalez Jr., a junior featherweight, was found dead in Guadalajara. Two others also were found dead inside a Jeep, the apparent victims of execution-style murders. Gonzalez was only 23. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. … Joseph Parker (22-0, 18 KOs) and Andy Ruiz (29-1, 19 KOs) probably will never challenge Joshua and Deontay Wilder for preeminence in the heavyweight division but they gave us a good fight Saturday in New Zealand, Parker’s home country. Parker defeated Ruiz by a majority decision to win the vacant WBO title in a give-and-take fight between two good boxers, particularly for men their size. Ruiz doesn’t have the power to go far. And while Parker can punch, he doesn’t have the natural gifts of Joshua and Wilder. The jury is still out, though. … Khalid Yafai’s victory over Luis Concepcion got lost on a deep Joshua-Molina card but he deserves credit. The British Olympian defeated a very good fighter in Concepcion (35-5, 24 KOs) by a wide decision – a shutout on one card – to win the vacant WBA junior bantamweight title. Yafai (21-0, 14 KOs) is an excellent all-around fighter and is just getting started. … Super middleweight contender Callum Smith (22-0, 17 KOs) scored one of the most violent knockouts of the weekend, stopping countryman Luke Blackledge (22-3-2, 7 KOs) with a perfect left hook in the 10th round on the Joshua-Molina card.