Jermell Charlo looms at least 3 inches above Canelo Álvarez when they stand face to face. When they pose side by side for photos, their upper torsos laden with their championship belts, Charlo clearly has longer arms.
Anybody who doesn’t know better would just assume Canelo is the fighter moving up two weight classes next month to take on a bigger man, both in stature and in achievement.
But that risk-taker is Charlo, the undisputed 154-pound world champion and the self-described “little brother” of his identical twin, 160-pound champion Jermall Charlo. Álvarez surprised the boxing world when he chose the smaller Charlo as the next challenger for his 168-pound world titles, but Jermell made it clear he’s ready to greet this opportunity with the performance of his life.
“I’m not just a little Charlo,” Jermell said with a grin. “I’m a big Charlo. Canelo will see I’ve got good punching power, good movement. I’m a general in the ring, just like he is. He’s going to see something different from me, too. I’m going to be prepared. I’ve always been the little train that keeps going.”
Both fighters were polite and respectful when they met in the garden of the Beverly Hilton on Wednesday. Álvarez doesn’t usually initiate bad blood in his promotions, and Charlo is openly grateful for the opportunity to test his skills against the biggest star in boxing.
Charlo became the first undisputed champion at 154 pounds last year with a victory over Brian Castaño, but a shot at Canelo carries exponentially bigger rewards, both for his wallet and his legacy.
“My whole career has been about chasing Canelo, basically,” Charlo said. “This is what I’ve been working toward, even back in his Golden Boy days. The whole goal in this game is to get in the ring with the best, and he’s the best. … I want to thank Canelo for even considering me.”
Jermall Charlo was the more obvious choice for Canelo’s next bout, but it couldn’t happen. Jermall hasn’t fought since 2021 while dealing with mental health issues, and the middleweight champion said he couldn’t prepare for this fight in time.
Álvarez will be fighting for the eighth time in less than three years, and he was pleased by Jermell’s willingness to take the risk.
“Both of (the twins) are great fighters, but I think Jermell has better positioning, better movement in the fights, and I think he’s the better fighter,” Álvarez said.
Although Canelo is a former light heavyweight champion who hasn’t fought below 168 pounds in four years, this bout isn’t the physical mismatch it seems. Canelo is stronger, thicker and more comfortable fighting at super middleweight and above, but both fighters’ trainers agree Charlo is already big enough to perform well at the weight.
Charlo said he weighs about 168 pounds when he isn’t training for a fight, so he’ll have the luxury of preparing for this bout without cutting weight. He’s taller, longer and leaner than Álvarez, and he thinks he would be a natural middleweight at 160 pounds if his brother moves up to 168 pounds in the future.
“I’m ready for this,” Charlo said. “I’m physical enough and mature enough to do it. I never thought: ‘I can’t move up.’ I’ve been ready.”
The pressure in the bout sits squarely on Álvarez, who wants to rejuvenate his career after an unimpressive three-fight stretch since he claimed all four super middleweight title belts in late 2021.
Canelo took his first loss since 2013 when he was outclassed last year by light heavyweight star Dmitry Bivol. He subsequently won a moderately entertaining decision over Gennady Golovkin in their trilogy bout, followed by a return to his native Guadalajara for a victory over John Ryder that didn’t excite his fans.
Canelo is redoubling his efforts, partly by moving his training camp from his full-time home in San Diego to the relative isolation of Lake Tahoe.
“I understand what people are saying, and I agree,” Álvarez said. “I didn’t look my best in my last few fights, but I also know why. You’re going to see something different this fight. It’s going to be good.”