The PBC Fighter of the Year: Jermell Charlo

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Charlo's stirring stoppage win over Brian Castano made him the first ever undisputed 154-pound champion in the four-belt era -- and to many, proved he is the best fighter in the sport today.


To some it might seem such a simple word. Who could think that a mere 10 letters and four syllables would carry such far-reaching import and significance? 

But to any boxer with aspirations of being acknowledged as the very best in his weight class, so much so that any claim to such is beyond debate or argument, “undisputed,” or its translated equivalent, is the most cherished word in any language. It elevates a fighter’s status beyond that of a mere alphabet world champion, or a holder of a rung on all those unofficial pound-for-pound ratings which basically boil down to someone’s subjective opinion. Only seven male boxers have ever made it all the way to entry into that ultra-exclusive throne room, and membership should and does have its privileges.

WBC/WBA/IBF 154-pound World Champion Jermell “Iron Man” Charlo attained his golden U-ticket with an action-packed, 10th-round knockout of WBO Champ Brian Castano of Argentina, the other possible claimant, on May 14 at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. They had fought once before, on June 17, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas, with both parties retaining their respective titles on a hard-fought split draw, but neither taking possession of the crown and scepter reserved for the fight game’s undisputed 154-pound ruler.

No such ambiguity exists by virtue of the culmination of Charlo’s thoroughly efficient and workmanlike breaking down of the valiant Castano, who went down twice in the 10th round, referee Jerry Cantu waving an end to an epic two-way demonstration of will and skill after an elapsed time of 2 minutes, 33 seconds.

It was Jermell’s only ring appearance of the year, but it was more than enough for the younger of the two fighting identical Charlo twins – older brother (by one minute) Jermall is the WBC World Middleweight Champion – for the aptly nicknamed “Iron Man” to earn another coveted designation, that of the Premier Boxing Champions Fighter of the Year. Given what was at stake, and the back-and-forth slugfest which was required to separate one extremely worthy fighter from the other, Jermell has ample justification for basking in the glow of his rare undisputed classification.

Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs), who also moved up several places on most unofficial P4P rankings as compiled by reasonably knowledgable media observers, should be delighted with his new and improved place among boxing’s elite performers, and no doubt he will express that in the lead-up to his first defense of his expanded monarchy. But in the immediate aftermath of the most important victory of his career,  Charlo felt it was necessary to alert some of his critics that he had made himself, at least for now, invulnerable to any aspersions as to his ability or his accomplishments.

I’m still growing, still learning. Undisputed Super Welterweight World Champion - Jermell Charlo

“Even if you don’t really respect or like our attitude, or the way I box and how I move, you got no choice but to respect this champion – undisputed!” he told reporters attending the post-fight press conference after his emphatic separation from Castano.

Truth be told, Jermell’s ascension to his sport’s uppermost tier has been as much of a slog at times as it has been an express elevator to the penthouse suite. Initially, he and Jermall were packaged for marketing purposes as a dual entry, each appearing separately on several early cards. But, as is often the case with identical twins, always being viewed as parts of a package deal caused some friction. A split of sort came when Jermell, who had been trained by Ronnie Shields as was Jermall, opted to switch to Derrick James, who believed that Jermell, who had won four straight fights by decision, had an underutilized power component.

In his first bout with James as his chief second, Jermell starched former WBA super welter titlist Joachim Alcine in six rounds on October 31, 2015.

“Derrick James came into the picture and said, `Hey, your punches are there,” Jermell recalled some years ago. `You want to throw them. You want to hit hard. Let’s become a puncher as well as a boxer.’”

Nor were James and Jermell the only forecasters of what the future might hold. In 2014 Jermall said, “Five years from now, we’ll (the brothers Charlo) have every belt in the junior middleweight division.”

That prediction has indeed come true, a couple of years past the envisioned date, but Jermell now holds all the belts at 154 with Jermall continuing to campaign at middleweight, with a possible eye to moving up a weight class or even two.

Not surprisingly, the 32-year-old Jermell doesn’t believe he has plateaued at a weight where he not only feels comfortable, but has a chance to further build upon his newly established foundation as the undisputed king of the super welters.

“I’m still growing, still learning,” he said after finally vanquishing the stubborn and capable Castano. “I can learn from this fight. I learned from previous fights. I got power, I got movement. I’m trying to be great.”

That, too, seems a goal capable of being reached by PBC’s 2022 Fighter of the Year.

For a closer look at Jermell Charlo, check out his fighter page. 

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