By: Hector Franco
Often times the current era of boxing is maligned and castigated as being less than eras of the past. While no one would describe this period as a “golden era” or compare it to the 1980s, there are a few standout positives that should be appreciated.
This weekend at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, unified WBC, WBA, and IBF junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo (34-1, 18 KOs) will step in the ring against WBO junior middleweight champion Brian Castano (17-0-1, 12 KOs) to crown an undisputed champion in the division.
Charlo has arguably been the most consistent junior middleweight over the last decade. He has been in the world title scene for over the previous five years. The Texas native was tested climbing up the rankings towards a world title facing the likes of Demetrius Hopkins, Gabriel Rosado, and Vanes Martirosyan.
When he first won the vacant WBC junior middleweight title, stopping John Jackson in eight rounds in May 2016, Charlo went on to make three defenses which included a win over former junior middleweight champion Austin Trout and a first-round knockout over the up and coming Erickson Lubin.
The first bump in the road for Charlo came against Detroit, Michigan’s Tony Harrison. Charlo would lose a close unanimous decision to Harrison in December 2018. However, almost a year to the day later, in December 2019, Charlo reclaimed his WBC title by stopping Harrison in eleven rounds.
After becoming a two-time WBC junior middleweight champion by stopping Harrison, Charlo would face the Dominican Republic’s Jeison Rosario, who at the time held the WBA and IBF junior middleweight titles.
Incredibly, Charlo stopped Rosario with a jab to the body in the eighth round to hold three of the four major titles in the division.
Charlo’s experience and level of competition have given him a sense of confidence that has emboldened him not to feel any pressure going against Castano.
“I don’t have any pressure on me,” Charlo said at the final press conference. “I’ve been in this position so many times in my life. If I felt the pressure, I wouldn’t be in this moment. He has to come and do his thing.
“He has to put the pressure on me and avoid these bombs I’m throwing.”
A victory for Charlo would put him in a rare category as being an undisputed champion. Still, it could place him amongst the best fighters to have fought at junior middleweight.
The junior middleweight division has a dynamic history as it has featured some of the best fighters in the sport’s history.
The weight class first came to fruition in 1962, crowning Emile Griffith as its first champion. Some of the best fighters to ply their trade in the division include Ronald Wright, who was the premier fighter at 154 in the 2000s, Mike McCallum and Thomas Hearns reigned in the 1980s, and Terry Norris, who ruled in the 1990s.
Hearns was named the greatest junior middleweight of all time in 1994 by Ring Magazine.
The weight class has also been a pit stop for some of the most notable names in boxing. Ray Leonard defeated Ayub Kalule in 1981 to win the WBA junior middleweight title before his mega-bout with Hearns.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. used junior middleweight for a majority of his highest-grossing bouts against the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez, and even Conor McGregor.
Charlo is aware of the historical significance of becoming the undisputed champion at junior middleweight and what it would mean for his career.
“This is a major fight because it’s history for me and my family,” Charlo said. “It’s huge for everyone that I represent, and that’s been supporting me for all these years. It was due time to get in there for this fight.
“The belts and the money are not on my mind. What’s on my mind is the legacy.”