Standing at the summit of the middleweight division is unified world champion Gennady Golovkin and rival former champion Canelo Alvarez.
They are two of the biggest names and most exciting fighters in boxing and are coming off an enthralling fight in September that was ruled a split draw, even if most felt that GGG rightfully deserved to win a decision.
That controversial outcome, not to mention the tens of millions of dollars the event generated, led to the obvious: a rematch, which will take place on May 5.
But since Golovkin owns three of the major title belts, while he is busy dealing with Alvarez once again his mandatory challengers are left waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the winner.
One of them is Jermall Charlo, the undefeated former junior middleweight world titleholder who vacated his belt last year, moved up to middleweight and destroyed Jorge Sebastian Heiland in four one-sided rounds in an elimination fight to become one of Golovkin’s mandatory challengers.
It was the only fight that Charlo had last year, and a fight with Golovkin or Alvarez is a long way away, if either ever happens.
So while GGG and Canelo settle their business, the WBC agreed to sanction Charlo against Hugo Centeno Jr. for the vacant interim title with the winner theoretically getting a crack at the winner of the May 5 fight.
“My goal is to show everybody that I’m the best middleweight in the world. I’m going to keep fighting everyone they put in front of me. I’m going to knock them out one-by-one until Canelo or Golovkin have to face me.”
Charlo and Centeno are scheduled to fight on March 3 (Showtime) on the undercard of heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder’s defense against Luis “King Kong” Ortiz at Barclays Center in Brook, New York, the same site where Charlo took Heiland apart.
Charlo is deep into his training camp at his Charlo Boxing and Fitness Club in his hometown of Houston and he’s fired up to take out Centeno and eventually square off with the Golovkin-Alvarez winner.
“My goal is to show everybody that I’m the best middleweight in the world,” Charlo said at a workout at his gym on Thursday. “I’m going to keep fighting everyone they put in front of me. I’m going to knock them out one-by-one until Canelo or Golovkin have to face me.”
Ronnie Shields, Charlo’s longtime trainer, who is also from Houston, believes Charlo is good enough to beat any 160-pounder in the world.
“Jermall looks great in training camp and we expect him to be at his best come March 3. He’s motivated to put on a good show and prove to everyone he’s a force in this division,” Shields said. “I believe Jermall has the talent and determination to beat any of the top middleweights out there. We’re going to keep working every day so that when the time comes for one of those fights with a Golovkin or Canelo, he’ll be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Charlo (26-0, 20 KOs) has looked nearly unstoppable in recent years. He blew away Cornelius “K9” Bundrage in three rounds to win a junior middleweight title in September 2015 and was dominant in his three defenses: a fourth-round destruction of “Silky” Wilky Campfort, a clear unanimous decision against former world titleholder Austin Trout and a surprisingly easy fifth-round knockout of Julian “J Rock” Williams before leaving the weight class, where undefeated twin brother Jermell Charlo (30-0, 15 KOs) still holds a world title that he will defend against an opponent to be named on Showtime’s June 6 card headlined by the Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares featherweight world title rematch at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Heiland, hobbled by a bum knee from the outset of the eliminator, posed no threat to Charlo. While Centeno (26-1, 14 KOs), 26, of Oxnard, California, is a significantly better grade of opponent than Heiland, Charlo is still a big favorite.
“Hugo Centeno is a quality fighter. He’s well-trained and has length, so Jermall knows he has to be prepared,” Shields said. “Centeno isn’t going to let him win. Jermall is going to have to go in and impose his will on the man.”
Charlo’s aim is to just keep on winning and to make his case for the big fight.
“It’s going to be a tough fight against Hugo Centeno Jr. If he can stand up to my power, we’re going to fight and it’ll be a brutal war. If he can’t, I’ll take him out in the first round,” Charlo said. “We can’t let Houston down now. My brother and I have made it this far. We can’t stop now. It’s my turn to put on a spectacular performance on March 3. I’m trying to one-up my brother’s previous performance each time I step in there.
“I’ve had the chance to work on some improvements to my game since my last fight. I think having even more patience in the ring is going to help step my game up even higher. I want to be a champion at middleweight more than I did at 154 pounds. Hugo Centeno Jr. is another fighter who is in my way. I know he’ll come in prepared, but I’m confident I’m going to walk out of there with the victory.”