By Jeff Zimmerman
Photos: Robert Hughes
On another hot day in Dallas, WBC super welterweight champion Jermell “Iron Man” Charlo strolled into the R&R Boxing Club to lace up for 12 spirited rounds with IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., as both are trained by former fighter Derrick James. Charlo is three weeks out from fighting the powerful Erickson Lubin, considered one of boxing’s hot young prospects, on Saturday, October 14 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY and shown live on Showtime Boxing.
Charlo, out of Houston, had other ideas when he KO’d Dallas native Charles Hatley in a WBC mandatory back in April as he was looking at a potential showdown with Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto. No longer the young gun at 27, Charlo is hitting his prime and was hoping with his first world title under his belt, he could seek bigger paydays with the likes of Cotto who has indicated he will retire after one more fight in December. The WBC had other ideas and instead required a second mandatory against the dangerous southpaw Lubin, who will have just turned 22 at fight time and possesses knockout power in both hands.
Charlo is still not pleased with the decision, but he’s as focused as ever.
“Well I mean as frustrating as it sounds, I have nothing to do with it. I can’t control that. I do feel that, hey, I worked my ass off my whole career and put forth so many years just trying to win a regular belt and I just feel at this level that he’s in, he doesn’t deserve a shot at me but that’s ok I can’t worry about that. I just have to get in there and fight the best and if he’s considered one of the best I am going to get in the ring and do what I do and may the best man win.”
Charlo, who leads a pretty active social life in Los Angeles outside of boxing, is ecstatic how camp is going.
“It’s been great, hardest camp, best camp. We have been grinding, excited, really happy about everything that has been taking place. Stepping in with a great challenger, Erickson Lubin, young fighter and I’m just excited.”
For Charlo’s second camp in a row, he is getting work in with fellow world champion and a southpaw like Lubin in Spence Jr., who is now on many boxing’s top 10 pound for pound list after he captured his first world title against Kell Brook earlier this year with an 11th round knockout.
“Training camp is hard, I don’t really think about how hard it is because I just have to go through it, but EJ is one of the best things to happen in my life and a great friend and great mentor, we’re about the same age, he’s a little bit older than me, but he’s one of the dudes that has helped elevate my game in boxing and stay on my p’s and q’s and staying ready.”
James also likes what he has seen from Charlo this camp.
“Camp is going great, he just sparred 12 rounds with Errol Spence, he did phenomenal, defense was great, his reaction time was there, everything was good. He looked exactly like I needed him to look and with 3 more weeks left, I think he’s only going to get better.”
James added, “Lubin is a big puncher, a skillful fighter and we will just see how it goes on fight night. He [Charlo] is sparring with the best, heaviest southpaw in the world so this will help us get to the next level.”
Charlo never lacks confidence and believes his unpredictability will be a key to his success.
“He may expect me to come in with the power, he doesn’t know what I’m coming for or what I’m coming with, now he’s getting a chance to see my old fights, but I change every fight. You never know what to expect from me and I think that is what has led me to where I am at right now.”
James is doing his part to ensure the best Charlo is ready for Lubin.
“We’re just hoping that Jermell’s timing is right, very sharp, defense is great and that’s the key for us, so as long as my guy is like that he’s going to come out of the fight and he’s going to be successful. I’m not too concerned about all the other things. Lubin is going to be 100% and I believe that and I know that so we just have to make sure were’ 100% and just continue on to be better and be the best that we could possibly be.”
After 10 years as a pro and a world champion, Charlo is still looking for respect.
“I am always going to have that chip on my shoulder, because nothing was given to me, everything was earned in this game and right now in my life and my career, I feel like I could be making millions of dollars and that’s all they see and people don’t really know how to respect this and the levels of competition is and I guess this game is new and this generation is trying to change it, show something else, but boxing is not the same.”
Charlo continued, “When you had that green belt, when you won that green belt, you were considered the big, big top tier, but I see winning the belt is not as important and it’s all about the status and the level and whose there at the time.”