Not that he’s naming names, because he isn’t. But if you still have Manny Pacquiao or Gennadiy Golovkin or Oleksandr Usyk or anybody else that’s barely been active on your pound-for-pound list, Jermell Charlo would like to call bullshit. Even though he doesn’t really care.
“You have some guys on the pound-for-pound list, high up, that haven’t fought in two years,” says Charlo. “That’s why I can’t even care about the pound-for-pound list. My mind is set on my goals and trying to get this victory this weekend and let my hands fly.”
It’s brought up with the WBC/WBA/IBF super welterweight champion of the world, who’s Zooming from the back of his Maybach, because he’s been on the cusp of earning the arbitrary but honorable status by boxing observers—including us—for what feels like a few years now. Win Saturday, in a potentially historic bout, and only a fool would leave the 154-pound champ off of their list of 10 best fighters in the world regardless of weight class.
That’s because Charlo (34-1, 18 KOs) could become just the sixth man in the four-belt era to become an undisputed champion and the first at 154. He would join the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, Terence Crawford, Usyk, and most recently Josh Taylor to pull off the incredibly difficult feat. Hardcore fans know Teofimo Lopez belonging amongst those names makes for a heated debate.
To do it Charlo will have to take down Brian Castano (17-0-1, 12 KOs), the WBO super welterweight champ from Argentina, who hopes his bullying/attacking style nets him the upset. Holding those four belts will mean infinitely more to Charlo, as they should, than any inclusion on a list curated by those of us who have never put our life on the line in the ring.
“I’m like not really interested in the pound-for-pound list because I don’t even know who operates or makes this list,” says Charlo. “It’s just weird to talk about something that’s not even a real thing.
“Bro, Gervonta Davis just fought and they didn’t put him on the pound-for-pound list. He just won and beat somebody in a different weight class and they didn’t give him nothing. Man, I don’t care about that list.”
We can argue about Tank’s case another day because there’s more to talk to the 31-year-old Charlo about than the list. We caught up with the Houston native five days before his showdown in San Antonio’s AT&T Center (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, Showtime) to chat about his potentially historic feat, bringing in former world champ Joan Guzman to help him train, and what it was like working with Chad Johnson before the former NFL wide out made his boxing debut on the Floyd Mayweather-Logan Paul undercard.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
This is kind of a big one so talk about the historical significance of this fight.
It’s super exquisite for me since it’s in the state of Texas, in San Antonio, three hours away from my house. So it feels like I’m basically fighting in my backyard. And this moment means so much to me because I’ve got my children growing up, I’m growing up, and I finally got a chance to fight for something as great as being undisputed in today’s era. Right now it’s a huge moment to just embrace, but as well as I’m a warrior so I’m just more than ready for this opportunity.
Forgive the ignorance here—I don’t know how much of an historian you are—but have you allowed yourself to check out all the guys that have been undisputed in the four-belt era and weigh where your name would rank amongst them?
Nah, nah. I haven’t. Everybody’s career is different. Everybody’s life is different. So it’s like I’m just painting my own picture. I haven’t put much thought into it. I know Winky Wright was one of the guys who had it in the three-belt era and right now I basically have what Winky Wright has and I want to strive for more. So I’m not interested in really looking into it so deep. I just want to get it out of the way. I’m ready to fight. I’m more anxious than anything.
Wanted to talk about the pound-for-pound list. Some have you on theirs, others don’t. If you win this weekend you’ll definitely be on more. But why do you think you’re currently not on more pound-for-pound lists?
Maybe I’m just not liked. And that’s ok. I don’t expect everybody to like me. As long as my lady likes me. My kids love me.
I would say that you and your brother are really charismatic, are good for the sport, so I think a lot of people do like you so give yourself more credit than that.
I think they don’t want to root for me. They’d rather see you suffer. See you lose. But we winning. I’m in a Maybach, chilling, my son next to me, just finished training, we trying to stay focused on the task at hand.
You’ve talked about adding some things to your repertoire before this fight. I know you’re not going to give it all away, can you give me a little idea of what you’ve added?
I added a really stylish, perfection guy in Joan Guzman, he was sitting back and training in New York and we’ve always communicated. I added him to my repertoire because in Houston I know Derrick James is training a lot. Derrick James is one man. And he has to do what he has to do. So any time I wasn’t with my main coach I wanted my secondary coach to push me extremely hard. And not that I didn’t already have these skills, but there are some skills that me and Joan kind of put into play that’s going to benefit this fight. It’s like teaching an old dog new tricks.
Was it difficult adding those new tricks? You’re not young, but you’re also not old.
At first it was hard, at first it was a little different. I guess now with being with Derrick for like six years I’ve become what you considered a puncher boxer. Now I’m considered a power-puncher boxer, slick fighter. You’ve got to be able to hit guys with things they can’t see. Brian Castano brings a lot of that to the table where I’m going to have to work.
What do you respect most about Castano?
He a short fighter with short reach so he can throw punches and bring them right back. There’s a lot of shit that he do that’s kind of like, “Ok, that’s a little different.” But that’s why I put on an intensive training camp and I just want to put my life on the line like he doing.
Talk to me about what it was like getting Chad Johnson getting ready for his boxing debut.
I know Chad be all over the place so we tried everything. It was pretty fun showing him what boxing really is. We sparred. Touched him up a few times.
But did you really pummel him the way he said you did? He said you basically jumped him.
I don’t think I went that crazy, but I did hit pretty tough. He a big ass guy so I had to make sure he felt my power. I got power so I really wanted to see if he felt it. So I guess he did.