Jermall Charlo Is Running Out of Time to Burnish His Legacy

Middleweight champion Jermall Charlo has made good money but seen prime years vanish without a significant fight to show for it.
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Jermall Charlo is irritated. Can’t say I blame him. I irritate a lot of people. Friends, co-workers, boxers, definitely boxers, especially boxers who demand you recognize them as elite without offering the resume to back it up.

That’s Charlo. On paper, Charlo is impressive. He’s undefeated (30-0), with a 73% knockout percentage. He’s got tremendous skills, as evidenced by a four-fight junior middleweight title reign that concluded with a knockout win over Julian Williams. He’s got a great story, with his twin brother, 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo, fighting right alongside him.

But he doesn’t have much of a resume, especially at middleweight.

And he doesn’t like when you ask him about it.

“I'm 30 years old,” Charlo told the SI Boxing Podcast. “I'm great. I feel strong. I'm going to beat the shit out of whoever they put in front of me.”

Jermall Charlo (blue and red trunks) reacts after knocking out Dennis Hogan of Ireland (white trunk) in the seventh round during a middleweight world championship fight at Barclays Center.

Jermall Charlo reacts after knocking out Dennis Hogan of Ireland in the seventh round during a middleweight world championship fight at Barclays Center.

Let’s backtrack a little. Last week, Charlo sat down for a satellite tour. On Saturday, Charlo will defend his version of the 160-pound title against two-time title challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko. It is, easily, the toughest test in Charlo’s three years at middleweight—and perhaps the most difficult fight of his career. On the same night (Showtime PPV, 7 ET), his brother Jermell Charlo will seek to unify the 154-pound division against Jeison Rosario. It’s the rare boxing doubleheader with two terrific main events.

It’s worth talking about, and we did. I asked Charlo if he viewed Derevyanchenko as his stiffest test. Derevyanchenko is a bona fide middleweight contender. In 2018, he lost a narrow split decision to Daniel Jacobs. In 2019, he lost a grueling decision to Gennadiy Golovkin. He’s an ex-Olympian with high level skills and stinging power backstopping them.

“If the fans like to say this is my stiffest test, then yes,” Charlo said. “I've had a lot of hard fights. Every fight is a hard fight, so I don't judge a fight until you get in there and get done with it.”

Fair enough. I asked Charlo about how his body feels at middleweight. In 2017, fresh off a knockout win over Williams, Charlo left the 154-pound division behind. He has had five fights since then, all wins, three by knockout.

“Yeah, I'm a lot more comfortable now,” Charlo said. “I'm a lot more comfortable knowing that like the body frame, like these 160-pounders, I'm still a lot bigger than those guys. I'm stronger, I'm faster. I'll just have to continue to use my gifts.”

I asked Charlo about his recent opposition … and this is where things started to get a little bit testy. Charlo’s resume at 160 pounds is paper thin. He has not fought one contender, unless you count Brandon Adams, whom Charlo blew out last June, who used to be "The Contender," the Season Five winner of the long running reality series anyway. Dennis Hogan, whom Charlo stopped last December, was a blown up junior middleweight.

When people ask why boxing viewership has fallen somewhere between UFC and lacrosse in the U.S., this is why. Talented, charismatic fighters like Charlo fighting opponents who would need a steel chair to beat him. Charlo’s win over Adams averaged 379,000 viewers on Showtime. His win over Hogan averaged 249,000. Re-runs of Ray Donovan would net comparable numbers.

What’s frustrating about Charlo is that he has had opportunities. Oscar De La Hoya claimed he made an offer for Charlo to fight Canelo Alvarez. Eddie Hearn publicly offered Charlo $7 million to face Demetrius Andrade. The opportunity for Charlo to catapult himself into boxing superstardom was there … wasn’t it?

“That's all crap,” Charlo said. “None of that, none of that's legit … whatever numbers they gave my team, my team was like, is this a joke? Or, you know, what's up with this? It is what it is. You know? If they made the right decisions, then we would be in the ring. None of those guys have made no offer to me, have given me no real legitimate offer where if it's something that I have to force myself to do. Like they haven't put me in a position to be able to fight those guys. Don't listen to the B.S. You heard it from my mouth. I would have [taken] those fights if that was the case.”

Dennis Hogan of Ireland (white trunks) trades punches with Jermall Charlo (blue and red trunks) during a middleweight world championship fight at Barclays Center.

It’s unclear what kind of offer Golden Boy made for Charlo to face Canelo. But Hearn was very public with his offer to fight Andrade, and he has a history of making deals just like it. In 2019, Hearn paid Jose Ramirez, who is aligned with Top Rank, $4 million to cross the aisle and fight Maurice Hooker. Ramirez took home a second junior welterweight belt—and a career-high purse. There’s little reason to doubt Hearn would have opened up his checkbook to make Andrade-Charlo happen.

The failure of Andrade-Charlo isn’t all on Charlo, of course. Last January, Andrade signed a multi-fight extension with Matchroom Boxing. He had an option to sign with Premier Boxing Champions, with Showtime, to get the Charlo fight. He passed, choosing the more lucrative long term deal with Matchroom. But, Andrade told me at the time, he re-signed with the understanding that if PBC put up the money for a fight with Charlo on Showtime, he was free to go across the street for one fight.

(An aside: I have an unhealthy obsession with Charlo-Andrade. Beyond a heavyweight fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, it’s the fight I want to see made the most. Two undefeated middleweight champions, the winner would instantly have a case to be considered the top guy at 160 pounds … what’s not to like?)

“One day it’s going to happen, sooner or later,” Charlo said. “Sooner or later they make the offers, they make the money right. We're going to get in there and fight, regardless.”

Charlo, though, needs these fights. The clock is ticking. Derevyanchenko is a good start; he gave Golovkin all he could handle last fall. But what comes next? Is it a discussed matchup with Chris Eubank Jr., which will generate minimal U.S. interest? Or will Charlo chase bigger fights?

“I'm in no rush,” Charlo said. “I'm in no rush to be the one of the greats. I am one of the greats. I consider myself to be one of the greats of my division. I've been boxing. I've been doing this. So I don't know where you been all my career. But if you haven't noticed that everyone who does say what they want to say and talk what they want to talk. I'm knocking them out. I've got 30 fights, 22 knockouts. I'm not worried about what they think about me. I never cared about what they thought about me. I don't know where you been. You asking me questions that's irrelevant to what I got going on in front of me.”

Except they are not. For three years, Charlo has been fighting in relative anonymity. He has made good money but seen prime years vanish without a significant fight to show for it. He has all the tools to be a breakthrough star but lacks the will to chase the fights that can get him there.

“If they want to fight us, they'll fight,” Charlo said. “If they don't, then we gone.”

Gone, indeed.

Chris Mannix is a senior writer with Sports Illustrated and an on-air analyst with DAZN.