By Robert Aaron Contreras
Two years ago, Jermall Charlo (29-0, 21 KO) assumed a lot in jumping from the super welterweight division to middleweight. Not only appropriating the nickname of one Tommy Hearns—billing himself as the new “Hitman”—but the lofty expectations that come with it. While his initial run as done little to evoke the image of Hearns, Charlo is this weekend back in the ring in defense of his WBC title against surprise contender Dennis Hogan (28-2-1, 7 KO) on Dec. 7.
Charlo, 29, faces Hogan in the main event of a Barclays Center bill in Brooklyn, New York that includes three world title fights. The championship contests represents both the undefeated American’s third title defense and third start in Brooklyn.
Photo Credit: Brooklyn Boxing Twitter Account
Just his second fight of the year, Charlo showed concern in his two previous outings. He has not demonstrated the same might that he flexed over the 154-pounds class. That he was extended the full 12 rounds by a nondescript challenger in Brandon Adams was bad enough but Charlo was continually prevented from landed much of anything cleanly. Every round belonged to him, winning by unanimous decision, but his offense was waning by the final two rounds.
Before that, Charlo fought evenly with Matvey Korobov (who appears on the same card). The result was not so shocking given the Russian’s violent reputation but it was disappointing nonetheless. Between Jermall and his brother, he has generally been considered the more fearsome of the two. Demonstrated tenfold by a huge fifth-round knockout over Julian Williams, who later unified the division. However there have been fewer fireworks from Charlo at 160 pounds.
He bashed up Jorge Heiland, who had long been worthy of a title shot, but the Argentinian brawler was visibly injured, limping around the ring. With little balance under him, Charlo ended the feeble challenger’s night in four rounds.
The Charlo bros have never been shy. Echos of “lions only” continues to make for soundbites. But talking a big game has a soother ring to it when the results are equally resounding. Charlo’s blamed his uninspiring effort over Adams on a hand injury. Excuses never go over well with boxing fandom, never sweet to the ear. As a peculiar encore Charlo heads back into the spotlight against a man coming off a loss, a loss that requires context, but a loss nonetheless that came in a lower weight category.
Hogan, 34, is a Australia-based Irish workhorse. This April Hogan had the misfortune of meeting Jaime Munguia in Mexico and was subsequently robbed of championship gold. Despite a middling run over the majority of his career, Hogan blew up Munguia’s homecoming, flinging a mean right hand, and exposing the Golden Boy Promotional star’s inaptitude for cutting off the ring. The underdog clearly edged out the champ in the opening couple rounds as well as the entirety of the action from the seventh round on.
A robbery plain and simple, the WBO still rejected Hogan’s appeal. Nearing his mid-30s, that would close the book on the careers of most veterans. But Charlo is need of a squash match, some kind of redeeming performance. So Hogan is back on the title stage. Charlo’s team is banking on the assumption Hogan’s last performance was a fluke.
If they’re right, there’s not much to be gained. If they’re wrong, that much more will be lost.
Interim belt on the line between Iwasa and Tapales
Though it is a damn shame a fine champion like Daniel Roman is on the shelf until next year, it’s always welcome consolation that a southpaw melee shapes up like the one between former belt-holders Marlon Tapales (33-2, 16 KO) and Ryosuke Iwasa (26-3, 16 KO) for the IBF interim strap.
Iwasa, 29, once enjoyed status as world champion. After a failed title bid in 2015, two years later, the Japanese warrior pulverizing his countryman Yukinori Oguni into such a bloody mess that it took the ringside physician to call things in the sixth round. One defense followed before Iwasa ran into TJ Doheny, who took his belt before losing it to Roman. Part and parcel for Iwasa, he turned in another violent affair with Cesar Juarez, and the judges were on his side when the eliminator was ended on a cut.
Tapales, 27, has had a lot more time to think about the loss of his belt. It was on the scales not in the ring. Dethroning Pungluang Sor Singyu in brutal fashion did nothing to motivate Tapales for a successful weigh-in ahead of his first scheduled title defense. The Pinoy bombardier still pounded away at Shohei Omori for an eleventh-round stoppage. But he went quit fighting just once in 2018.
Now with Manny Pacquiao as a promoter behind him, Tapales punched in two knockouts this year alone and should be prepared for another. Because the KO finish is coming. In there with a fellow lefty banger, whether that’s in his favor is to be decided.
Eubank Jr. arrives stateside
Talented, freewheeling, and bred for the limelight, Chris Eubank Jr. (28-2, 21 KO) is back where he belongs: in the middleweight division and on centerstage, in the United States where boxing stardom awaits like nowhere else.
His first official fight at 160 pounds since 2016, Eubank makes his debut on American soil opposite perennial contender Matt Korobov (28-2-1, 14 KO). The exciting British swarmer took the IBF belt off James DeGale earlier this year but never looked like an imposing force in the super middleweight ranks.
Having just turned 30, Eubank is smart not to waste anymore time at 168 pounds. His signature wins in the weight class have come at the expense of aging fighters. First he outworked a 37-year-old Arthur Abraham to a decision victory then seemed outclassed at the hands of George Groves before defeating James DeGale who clearly had one foot out the door, retiring immediately afterwards.
Korobov, 37, is the older of the two. He maintains a high standing in the division despite his having not win a fight since early 2018. He lost a bid for the WBC belt against Jermall Charlo, but as was previously mentioned, hacked away to steal the first half of the bout. It came at a cost as the Russian’s offense deflated in the latter stages. It could be called a poor gas tank. Korobov was also running away with the cards his most recent fight, in what would turn out to be a majority-decision draw, with Immanuwel Aleem, after again losing all momentum in the final three rounds.
On paper, chances lean toward Eubank. Younger, carrying more momentum and a distinct advantage in conditioning, the British slugger lives on jumping his opponents in the closing frames. Oddsmakers are on top of it, listing “Junior” the two-to-one favorite.