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In a different boxing lifetime, Jermell Charlo found encouraging words from legendary former middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins as the inspiration to become a world champion himself.
But Charlo lost his belt late last year, before his acquittal on felony assault and misdemeanor domestic assault charges in March. Following that harrowing year, Charlo found himself face to face with Hopkins again May 3 at Hublot’s “Night of Champions” fundraiser in Las Vegas.
Hopkins was long ago incarcerated for five years after he was convicted of nine felonies. He’s no longer in business with Charlo after Charlo’s manager, Al Haymon, split from Hopkins’ Golden Boy Promotions. But, as their recent encounter revealed, he still cares for Charlo, whose victories include one against Hopkins’ nephew Demetrius Hopkins.
“I knew that he always has considered me a world champion,” Charlo said. “Now, I just need to go get my title back.”
Charlo (31-1, 15 knockouts) says he was distracted by the looming trial when he suffered a narrow loss by unanimous decision to new World Boxing Council super-welterweight champion Tony Harrison on Dec. 22 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Charlo and Harrison (28-2, 21 KOs) will stage a rematch June 23 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and they gathered last week at L.A. Live for a news conference announcing ticket sales.
The clean slate “is definitely going to provide justice for me, and I feel it’s given my drive back. I feel strong. I’m loving training. I know for a fact that I’m fired up and I’m going to use that stuff that [Harrison] said … it just gives me the urge to beat him,” Charlo said.
Harrison was quite crass in seeking to trigger Charlo with swear words and insults at The Conga Room session.
“He’s tried to take me there calling me all these bad, foul things with no respect for anything,” Charlo said. “OK, that’s fair game, but he didn’t even respect our company with all that. He’s trying to come at me from different angles, trying to make it so personal … I know I’ve had an attitude that can explode, but I’m trying my best to not step out of bounds.”
Charlo maintained his cool.
“I can only keep it for so long,” he cracked. “I heard going out there [to the stage], ‘Don’t get too crazy,’ don’t do this or that, and then they let him do it to me. It’s making me a better man outside of boxing. I’ve made changes. This was a great thing to show I know I need to be a role model. I look at all this differently now and I take it seriously.
“When I got acquitted, I knew if I was loyal to myself, I could make it through that all right, and now that it’s behind me, I’m enjoying my life and my training. I’m so ready for this guy. He doesn’t even understand how much this fight will be different. I’m going to apply more pressure, put my hands together, take more chances.”
The Hopkins meeting only enhanced his determination. Charlo answered “yes” when asked if he would still have sought to become a champion if he knew how difficult life as a champion would be.
“Everybody’s dream is to win fights, get rich and win titles,” Charlo said. “They didn’t say it came with all this other stuff of getting cheated, lied to and all that happens when fame encounters stupidity … I know I can do more for the community, and nothing’s going to stop me from rising above all of this drama.”
Charlo saw Saturday that unbeaten, two-belt, 154-pound champion Jarrett Hurd, whom Charlo was eyeing after Harrison, was upset by Julian Williams, who previously lost a title bout to Charlo’s twin brother, current unbeaten middleweight Jermall Charlo.
“I’ll fight anyone and I’m here to knock everyone out, so when I stop [Harrison], you’ll know I mean what I’m saying,” Charlo said.
The loss of Lederman
Boxing lost one of its finest and most enthusiastic characters this past weekend when former HBO scorer Harold Lederman succumbed to an extended cancer fight at age 79.
Lederman, a 2016 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, was both a well-schooled former boxing judge and a giant of a figure, but he always made time away from the moments of a fight to chat with whomever approached, including myself, to discuss that week’s fight or whatever topic was on the table.
The heart aches for the people at HBO who loved him, including publicist Ray Stallone, former executives Lou DiBella and Ross Greenburg, and those who worked beside Harold: Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, Larry Merchant, Roy Jones Jr. and George Foreman.
“It was one of the greatest privileges of my broadcasting career to work with Harold Lederman, whose unique humanity and lifelong love of boxing brought joy to the hearts of millions of fans, show after show after show,” Lampley said. “They waited for his moments,” starting with Lederman’s famed greeting point, “OK, Jim … ,” “they were thrilled by his insights, they gloried in imitating his voice.
“No one in the sport had more friends, because no one in the sport was more deserving of friends.”
Lampley said he takes comfort that Lederman bowed out along with the entire crew when HBO staged its final boxing card Dec. 8 in Carson.
“Nothing was more important to the legacy of HBO Boxing, so in that we can all take solace. Now, his scorecard is complete,” Lampley said.
In a span of five weekends, unbeaten heavyweights Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury will fight, starting with Wilder’s World Boxing Council title defense Saturday against Eastvale’s Dominic Breazeale. But when will the three face each other?
“I promise you the fights are going to happen,” Wilder told The Times.
Earlier this year, officials for DAZN and Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn made overtures to match the three-belt heavyweight champion with Wilder, but those talks didn’t work out and now Joshua is fighting replacement foe Andy Ruiz Jr. in his June 1 U.S. debut at Madison Square Garden after positive drug tests submitted by Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller.
Lineal champion Fury, after interference from Las Vegas promoter Top Rank, withdrew from talks with Wilder for a rematch of their Dec. 1 classic at Staples Center, and is meeting massive underdog Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas on June 15 on ESPN.
Although there were whispers in the industry that efforts to stage a Joshua-Wilder showdown in December will intensify should both win these next fights, Wilder wouldn’t commit.
“December? That’s kind of cutting it close, and I’m not going to guarantee that,” he said. “Those guys can say they want to make it, but how many times have they said that? So you can’t really believe that.
“So I’m not going to promise that and then lower my standards to keep the promise. I’m in a different position now. I’m in the driver’s seat.”
Wilder is referring to the slim pickings Joshua would have for a fight later this year.
Meanwhile, Tuesday, Fury and Top Rank heavyweight Dillian Whyte of England expressed interest in meeting each other for a secondary WBC belt that would position the winner to fight Wilder in 2020.
“One thing in life, you don’t burn bridges and you don’t get disrespectful if you want to get things done, and that’s what Hearn did, calling my people names,” Wilder said of Joshua. “Now he has to eat all his words. DAZN wasn’t ready for us. If they had handled things right in the first place, we would’ve had this fight done.”
For now, Breazeale waits on a Showtime-televised card from Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“Dominic Breazeale does not belong in the ring with me,” Wilder said. “I really feel like he’s just in here for the money. He’s an opportunist. I have the power to end his career and knock him senseless.
“And he picked the wrong time to mess with Deontay Wilder.”
Diaz to fight in Anaheim
Pegged for the co-main event of the Aug. 17 UFC card in Anaheim, popular Nate Diaz of Stockton is scheduled to return to the octagon for the first time since his epic rematch loss to Conor McGregor in August 2016, when he meets former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in a welterweight bout.
The UFC also announced that on June 8 in Chicago, former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson of Costa Mesa will make his return against veteran Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, who will fight for the fourth time in seven months.
Promoter Tom Loeffler’s Hollywood Fight Nights series at the Avalon Theater resumes Sunday with unbeaten super-welterweight Serhii Bohachuk (13-0, 13 KOs) of Ukraine meeting Mexico’s Freddy Hernandez (34-10, 22 KOs).
Bohachuk is the latest power-punching prospect to emerge from trainer Abel Sanchez’s Big Bear gym, “The Summit,” after the defection of former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. Hernandez is 40.
With a 4 p.m. first bell, Loeffler’s series is looking to post a seventh consecutive sellout as it also offers a 10-round super-middleweight bout between Alem Begic (22-0, 19 KOs) and Benjamin Simon (27-3, 26 KOs).
Four other undercard bouts are dotted with Southern Californians.
The World Boxing Super Series continues Saturday morning at 10 on DAZN when unbeaten 140-pounders Josh Taylor (14-0, 12 KOs) of Scotland and Ivan Baranchyk (19-0, 12 KOs) of Belarus meet in the semifinals in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Taylor-Baranchyk winner will meet unbeaten Regis Prograis in September.
The card also includes a WBSS bantamweight semifinal between Japan’s unbeaten World Boxing Assn. champion Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15 KOs) and Puerto Rico’s International Boxing Federation champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs).
The Inoue-Rodriguez winner will meet WBA champion Nonito Donaire, possibly in September, and an Inoue victory probably would place the finale in Japan, an official said. Donaire, of the Bay Area, is expected to attend Saturday’s fight.
Until next time