Prior To Jermell Charlo’s Majority Decision Against Savvy Veteran Austin Trout, The Super Welterweight Division Looked Like A Two-Man Race
Watching WBC Super Welterweight champion Jermell Charlo, this past Saturday night, as he discussed his fight against 32-year old former champion Austin Trout with his corner was just another reminder that, in boxing, we just never know. Charlo knew the win was in the bag, but his body language hinted at some disappointment he would be exiting the ring with an empty net.
He knocked the gritty southpaw from New Mexico down in rounds three and nine, but Trout gradually picked up on Charlo’s telltale, and fought his way back into the fight. Following his third title defense Charlo said, “Sometimes you knock them out, sometimes you just beat them.”
He won the fight. He retained his belt. A unification bout with IBF, IBO and WBA champion Jarrett Hurd is still intact. However, the way Charlo won the fight may have affected the Houston native’s rise to the game’s elite status, and raised a few concerns. Let’s look at three.
The lion’s den went to “aight den”
Fighters can’t knock every opponent out. And, Trout was well aware that a bad loss in this bout would have likely signaled the end of dates for him on the game’s biggest stages. With the potential unification fight with Hurd looming, most observers’ interest in the fight centered on the matchup providing an outcome to compare to Trout’s 10-round technical knockout loss to Hurd in October at the Barclays Center.
Prior to the fight Charlo said he was prepared to go 12 rounds. After he scored the knockdown in round three, it briefly looked like the opportunity might come for Charlo to close the show. A quick knockout would have surely served as a major impetus for Hurd-Charlo to be made. However, once Trout got to his feet, it became evident he wasn’t badly hurt.
Over the balance of round three, and through the next several rounds, Charlo’s offense became repetitive, predictable and left quite a bit to be desired. Part of the problem was Trout stopped fighting like his mind was set on having one eye on an exit at all times, and he started to work his jab more, following it up some work with his left hand. He found some opening for his right hook at times too.
Charlo’s a very economical puncher. He stalked Trout all night, and mainly worked his way inside behind either a jab or double jab to unleash his powerful hooks – with the majority targeted upstairs. After the first knockdown Trout handled these moments in close quarters better. He didn’t allow Charlo’s rush and the extra action to cause him to lose sight of Charlo’s intended kill shots. The champion never really adjusted by creating some different angles, or going to the body more, and lastly by not varying his punch selection.
Elite fighters are less likely to simply be overwhelmed by Charlo’s aggression. They also can’t be expected to make the same mistake as Erickson Lubin, and mismanage their range too early in the fight. Most importantly, other elite fighters are either going to take Charlo’s power better, or in the event they do get hurt many will also find ways to survive better than Charles Hatley.
Big cats often avoid bodies of water, but they must weather storms like the rest of the jungle.
One of boxing’s most oft repeated axioms is styles make fights. On paper, Charlo-Trout wasn’t going to tell us many details about how Hurd vs. Charlo may look. But, after Saturday’s performance, this writer was left with considerable concern regarding Charlo having a Plan B or C. We know both men will come forward, but how does Charlo counter Hurd’s volume and 3 1/2 inch reach advantage?
After the win Charlo looked ahead to a showdown with the unified champ from Accoceek, Maryland.
“Trout will tell you who will win that fight,” Charlo said of a potential unification with IBF and WBA 154-pound titleholder Jarret Hurd. “That’s why he survived 12. If Hurd sat in front of me and took those shots he’s done.”
Charlo came into the Trout fight after an extremely short night of work versus Lubin back in October, and he mentioned going through an extended training camp. Perhaps he trained for and expected a less game Trout. Predicting Charlo’s approach with Hurd now would be premature. However, trainer Derrick James will have to develop a more versatile game plan for Hurd, and improve the team’s in-fight adjustments. Hurd is a young champion who embodies a lot of resilience, determination, and he’s built up a lot to protect over the past 18 months.
In a pre-recorded interview Monday on Sirius-XM’s At The Fights, Hurd admitted that he’s learning the game on-the-job, but in 22 bouts he’s yet to go home sick. Who knows whether James will look to increase Charlo’s punch output, or which fighter loses the expected game of “chicken” and swerves first. But come fight night, Charlo could benefit from more lateral and upper body movement.
Those are probably big asks, and this writer doesn’t see Charlo accepting many significant changes to his game. We will see how a lion responds to lightning and/or whether it walks into the eye of the storm.
It was supposed to be Big Cat Week
Maybe fans thought Trout’s loss to Hurd meant time was up for the former champion – despite some of his early success during Hurd’s first title defense. A plausible reason to be somewhat down on Trout going into the fight was, while the veteran is a true professional who boasts a credible resume, the odds were low he was really going to summon enough of himself to actually win the fight. Boxing fans get impatient from time to time, especially when a matchup featuring two power-punching fighters in their prime can, and should, be made.
Judging by Saturday night’s third round, in conjunction with the rising power numbers of the Charlo brothers witnessed the last several months, the chances Monday’s narrative would be all about another devastating Charlo knockout was good money.
After watching the fight play out Saturday night, this writer was compelled to immediately move from zoology to focus on geology. Geology as in recent IBF-eliminator winner Julian “J Rock” Williams.
Back to that ol’ styles make fights thing.
As a fight fan, the thought of Jermell facing another previous opponent of his big brother Jermall just made it easier to acquiesce to the Hurd camp expressing strong interest, via social media, in fighting former Welterweight champion Kell Brook. Brook recently picked up the vacant WBC Silver Super Welterweight title with a second round knockout of Siarhei Rabchanka.
You can “@” me about Jermell facing Williams, the WBC’s current No. 1-ranked Super Welterweight, but predicting when a storm might happen isn’t an exact science.
Header photo and body photos by Stephanie Trapp/Showtime