Bravura: Jermell Charlo crushes Erickson Lubin, targets Jarrett Hurd

Undefeated WBC junior middleweight titlist Jermell Charlo (above) vs. Erickson Lubin. Photo credit: Tom Casino/Showtime

 

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – On a busy Saturday night at the Barclays Center, featuring three 154-pound title fights, WBC beltholder Jermell Charlo joined his twin brother Jermall in the family business of trouncing talented upstarts by knocking out much fussed-about Erickson Lubin in the first round.

 

The fight followed an entertaining slugfest between IBF titlist Jarrett Hurd and Austin Trout that ended with the latter, bruised and puffed up, unable to come out of his corner for the 11th round. But like a lavish party cut short by fire sprinklers, whatever pomp and pizzazz that was in the air on this night spectacularly fizzled out by the time WBA titleholder Erislandy Lara and Terrell Gausha entered the ring in a fight that should’ve been relegated to the off-TV undercard. Halfway through one of the more anticlimactic main events in recent memory, Lara-Gausha sent droves of spectators to the exits and elicited a drunken chorus of “This is boring!” from those who remained. A night of great action was overshadowed by apathy, leaving the arena feeling like the grounds of a sloppy state fair. Yet the night still belonged to Charlo and not even Lara’s usual brand of comedown was going to change that.

 

Just as Jermall once sneered and strutted his way around the ring after he dispatched blogosphere-favorite Julian Williams last year, Jermell too showed a similar lack of decorum toward his felled foe. Boxing could use the edginess exhibited by the Houston siblings. It would be a mistake, however, to regard their vindictive attitude as a mere publicity stunt. As Jermell Charlo’s trainer Derrick James put it after Saturday’s fight, the bad boy bravura is rooted in the belief that some corners of the boxing world continually underrate or malign them.

 

“Everybody counted the world champ out,” James told UCNLive.com after the fight. “That’s crazy but they did. I don’t know what made them think that he would lose.”

 

Indeed, when his fight with Lubin was first announced in September, Charlo made it clear he did not believe the then-21-year-old deserved the opportunity. After all, it took him six years before he received a title shot, as opposed to Lubin’s three. “Hey, why is this motherfucker fighting me?” he asked, rhetorically, in an interview with BoxingScene.com. “How did this kid get an opportunity to face someone like myself?” For most fighters today, the prospect of facing an up-and-comer is neatly sidestepped by offering the usual host of excuses: “He brings nothing to the table,” or “He needs a few more fights before he can see me.” Although he was offended by the offer, Charlo accepted. “I’m not just a businessman. I’m a fighter as well, so sometimes I have to jump back into my fighter mode and say, ‘Fuck everybody and let’s beat everybody up.’”

 

To add further insult, Lubin and his coterie made it a point to discredit the Houston native in every interview. When little-known junior welterweight rookie Richardson Hitchins entered the chorus, Charlo took note. On his way to the locker room, after he scatterbrained Lubin, Charlo noticed Hitchins in a crowd and called him out, malevolence in his eyes, “You! You a doubter!” James recalled this with a smile. “That little kid was talking trash…How Lubin was going to win and knock (Charlo) out and all that.”

 

“The way everyone was treating Jermell…and they were kind of like launching Lubin into something, trying to make him into something that he hadn’t proven himself to be. I was really kind of upset. Then the fight happened and (Charlo) made the most profound statement that you could make. I mean, he cleared it up. You can say that this guy (Lubin) is that but, in actuality, this guy wasn’t that. I mean, make him into a rock star, make him into a whatever, the second coming, whatever, but we were prepared.”

 

What has become especially clear after Saturday is that the Charlo brothers constitute boxing’s most vindictive duo. Repression does not weigh them down, so much as drive them. Indeed, apart from their obvious physical gifts, what stands out about the brothers are their psychological capacities to harbor criticism, while carefully holding off any attempt to retaliate until they get inside a ring, the ultimate release. As such, the victories these days have become very cathartic. James too was caught up in his emotions, mentioning that Saturday was the most satisfying fight of which he had been a part in his career, as trainer, and that includes the time his charge Errol Spence Jr. took the IBF welterweight title from Kell Brook in Sheffield.

 

“Think about this,” James said. “I went over to England (with Errol) facing 30,000 fans, yelling, fighting, cursing us and I just (battled through it) because it is what it is. It’s my job…But this (Charlo-Lubin fight) was more emotional because we were tired of seeing people doubt your guy and people who don’t really don’t know much about boxing talk about how they know the ending of your fight, as if they’re prophets or something.

 

“You know it’s a perfect night.”

 

For Charlo, who has repeatedly said that he wants only the big names now, the question is how many of those names will be made available to him. Hurd, whom he called out, is the easiest unification to make but, from there, the options thin out. In the past, Charlo has mentioned that he has no desire to fight Lara, as they are friends, and the last beltholder of the division, Demetrius Andrade, recently signed an exclusive deal with HBO. The Hurd fight should be the priority but that also does not appear to be imminent. Hurd’s trainer Ernesto Rodriguez explained that the team is looking to face Lara, since their mandatory, Cedric Vitu of France, is also a southpaw. “Fighting a southpaw is hard. We don’t wanna go back to fighting a right hand and then fighting a southpaw, so they say Lara’s the best. So let’s get Lara.”

 

Still, whatever names that are eventually brought to the Charlo twins, the sense is they are too proud to simply settle only for what the sport’s political divides can offer them. And that attitude alone gives hope that some semblance of bipartisanship might be in the offing.

 

 

 

Sean Nam is a contributor to The Cruelest Sport and UCNLive. He also writes about film for Slant Magazine and Mubi Notebook.

 

 

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