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Preview: Jermell Charlo and Jeison Rosario put three belts on the line in unforeseen PPV headliner

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Jermell Charlo looks to cement himself as the top dog at 154, but Jeison Rosario is working on something that could make for the boxing story of 2020.

Tony Harrison v Jermell Charlo Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

If you had told me when 2020 opened that Jeison Rosario was going to technically headline a pay-per-view by the end of the year, I would have told you to get out of my apartment, I don’t know who you are, and would also have suspected that you were inebriated on various and sundry substances.

When 2020 opened, Jeison Rosario wasn’t in anyone’s top 10 at 154 pounds. Well, sanctioning bodies, I guess. And he was lined up to face Julian “J Rock” Williams in a FOX main event on Jan. 18 in Philadelphia, Williams’ hometown.

It was a very “January” type of main event. January has recent history being a lousy month for the sport of boxing, as training to fight in January means you’re training to fight over the holiday season, and a lot of name fighters just don’t want to do that, and they’ve got the money to turn down the idea of doing it. Williams-Rosario was supposed to be a pretty easy win for Williams.

It was not. Rosario stopped Williams in five, still a strong contender for Upset of the Year. And if the 25-year-old Dominican, nicknamed “Banana,” pulls an upset against Jermell Charlo on Saturday, he’ll be making his case for Fighter of the Year.

How to Watch the Charlo Doubleheader PPV

Date: Saturday, Sept. 26 | Start Time: 7:00 pm ET
Location: Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT
TV: Showtime PPV | Stream:
Live Online Coverage:
Price: $74.99

Like brother Jermall, Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KO) has been positioned to become a star by the PBC hype brigade for years. Like brother Jermall, Jermell’s personality has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way over those years.

The brothers don’t seem to care much about that, and as mentioned in the Charlo-Derevyanchenko preview, they seem confident that on Saturday, they can not only silence critics, but turn some of them into fans. And if they perform well and win, they just might be able to do that.

The 30-year-old Charlo hasn’t always been spotless in the ring, though. He had a tough night with Vanes Martirosyan in 2015, and if you think back to his first world title fight in 2016, when Charlo faced John Jackson for the vacant WBC 154-pound belt, Jermell lost almost every round of that fight. He was down 69-64 across the board going into round eight. And then he blasted Jackson, knocked him spark out standing on a clubbing right hand and a left hook behind it. After successful defenses against over-matched Charles Hatley and a young Erickson Lubin, Charlo had some trouble with veteran Austin Trout in 2018, winning a majority decision, though he did drop Trout twice.

All of that set up a controversial loss to Tony Harrison in Dec. 2018. The vast majority felt Charlo was robbed on the cards, but even if you felt Jermell won — and I did — there was an idea that he let Harrison hang around and gave the judges the opportunity to shade rounds to the skillful Harrison. And that’s what the judges did, all three of them in Brooklyn edging the fight Harrison’s way. It was a defeat that had some wondering if Jermell would really be able to bounce back. There have certainly been fighters who talked a huge game on the way up, get humbled somehow or other, and just never were “themselves” again. They were front-runners, and the psychological toll became too much. They never regain the confidence, and they never approach the greatness they, and perhaps others, saw in their future.

But Charlo wanted right back in with Harrison. The fight was planned for mid-2019, but a Harrison injury delayed it. Jermell instead fought Jorge Cota and scored a third round knockout. When he did meet Harrison again just about one year to the day after their first bout, he wasn’t flawless, because Harrison’s a good fighter, but he was different. He came to make a statement. And he did that, scoring an 11th round stoppage in a fight where he was up on two of three cards. It was not just arguably the best win of his career, but it was a fight and a victory that proved Jermell Charlo wasn’t going to go away just from taking a single L; it would not wreck him, and it would not define his boxing story.

Julian Williams v Jeison Rosario Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KO) can lose two belts on Saturday, but ultimately still doesn’t have a lot to lose. He wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place. His shocking upset of Williams has put him in position now to stake a claim as the top 154-pound fighter in boxing today. Again, this is a guy who wasn’t top 10 at the start of the year, and not only that, he wasn’t on anyone’s radar to make his way into the top 10. Yeah, he had the fight on the schedule, but nobody thought he was going to win it.

There was good reason for that. Rosario not only was stopped by Nathaniel Gallimore in 2017, dropped three times in the sixth round, but he’d gone to a draw with Marcos Hernandez, a club-type fighter, in 2018. He did come back from that with decent wins over Justin DeLoach and Jamontay Clark, plus a rematch stoppage of Hernandez, but then he struggled mightily against Jorge Cota, winning a 10-round split decision in Apr. 2019.

There was just nothing about Rosario that seemed like a threat to Williams. And maybe Williams got ahead of himself, too, dreaming of his own potential money fight with Jermell Charlo with the three belts on the line, or even a possible rematch with the man he’d upset to win those belts, Jarrett Hurd.

But one way or another, Rosario didn’t just beat Williams, he beat him down. And Williams opted not to exercise the immediate rematch clause, too, leaving Rosario open to search for something else. He might have wound up taking a sort of “victory lap” title defense if not for COVID-19 shutting down the sport and putting everyone’s situation in the air for a while. Instead, he’s going right in with Charlo, and has the chance to cement himself as a serious player in the sport.

Rosario has said that his hiring of a new trainer after the Cota fight has sharpened him to a point that he’s better than he ever thought he could be, and he always felt he could be good. He’s said that his last two training camps are the two best of his career, that they’re night and day compared to what he was doing before. And that’s all interesting talk, and gives the impression that many may still be underrating Rosario, who is still expected by most to lose to Charlo.

Maybe so, maybe not. It’s on Rosario to prove people wrong, but Jermell Charlo is not Julian Williams, either, and I’m comparing that to the fighter we thought Julian Williams was going to be in January. They’re just very different fighters. It’s hard to see Rosario walking Charlo down the way he did Williams, for starters. Charlo’s KO percentage may not be anything special, but he’s got sincere power in both hands, as he’s shown several times in meaningful fights.

This is a No. 1 vs unlikely No. 2 fight at 154 pounds. Rosario’s got a great story going, and a win here would be off the charts unexpected compared to what we thought of him all of nine months ago. For Charlo, it’s the chance to firmly dig in as the top guy in the division. And style-wise, this shapes up to be a potentially explosive fight. Charlo could out-box Rosario, but one gets the sense Rosario won’t settle for being out-boxed, and that if he’s going to lose this fight, he’s going to take the risks to try and win it. We could definitely see some fireworks in this one.


Luis Nery v Juan Carlo Payano Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Villains are nothing new in boxing, be they carefully orchestrated caricatures or fighters that fans genuinely don’t like for one reason or another. Luis Nery is a boxing villain, and he’ll be facing Aaron Alameda for the vacant WBC junior featherweight title on the Charlo-Rosario portion of Saturday’s show.

Nery (30-0, 24 KO) is a former bantamweight titleholder who has taken a bundle of dynamite to his goodwill with a lot of fight fans. It started in 2017, when he went over to Japan and stopped long-reigning bantamweight titleholder Shinsuke Yamanaka inside of four rounds. On the surface, right up front, it was a great win for an emerging, exciting young fighter.

But Nery tested positive for the banned substance zilpaterol after the fight. He claimed that it happened due to food contamination, but the B-sample had the same result, and the WBC dragged ass on actually doing anything about it, waiting three months before making a final ruling on the case, wherein they concluded that it was due to food contamination. Though it’s entirely possible that this was the case, failed drug tests of this sort leave a bad taste in the mouths of fans, and the WBC’s decision to not change the result of the first fight to a no-contest didn’t sit well with a lot of people, either.

Nery made it worse ahead of the ordered 2018 rematch with Yamanaka, as he missed weight by three pounds before destroying the Japanese fighter inside of two rounds. Since then, Nery has had more issues. He initially missed weight for a fight with Juan Carlos Payano in July 2019, though he did get down to 118 after an hour. Four months later, he missed weight again; this time, he didn’t bother trying to make weight, and opponent Emmanuel Rodriguez flat-out refused to take renegotiated terms, canceling the bout, which was set for the Wilder-Fury 2 pay-per-view.

After years of Nery’s bungling of the 118-pound limit, he’s finally moving up to 122, and of course, with the WBC being how they are, he’s fighting for the vacant belt right off the bat against Aaron Alameda (25-0, 13 KO), an unbeaten but untested 27-year-old originally from Nogales and now living in Long Beach, Calif.

Beyond it being questionable that Nery gets an immediate title fight at 122, it’s far more questionable why Alameda is getting one at all. He’s never faced anyone even close to being a legitimate contender, but in the world of sanctioning body rankings, that rarely matters much. On paper, Nery should have no problem in this one. Alameda could prove that wrong, but it’s a long shot.

BOXING: JAN 30 Miami Fight Night Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The better of the two undercard fights on this half of the show pits former 122-pound titleholder Daniel Roman against former 118-pound titleholder Juan Carlos Payano in a WBC eliminator for the belt that’s on the line in Nery-Alameda. That means, yes, we could see Nery-Payano 2, though there’s really no demand for that after Nery’s quite conclusive stoppage of Payano in 2019. (That’s Payano on the canvas behind Nery in the Nery photo.)

But strictly as a matchup, this is a fine fight. The 30-year-old Roman (27-3-1, 10 KO) has had a wonderful journey. After starting his career just 8-2-1 from 2010-13, with a 2-1-1 start in his first four fights, Roman won a secondary world title in 2017, going to Japan to stop Shun Kubo. He followed that up with defenses against Ryo Matsumoto, Moises Flores, and Gavin McDonnell, before unifying the WBA and IBF belts in a cracking 2019 brawl with TJ Doheny.

Last time out, Roman lost a split decision to Murodjon Akhmadaliev, who is probably the real No. 1 fighter in the division right now, what with Rey Vargas heading up to 126. But Roman is the type of fighter who’s been very successful without any great standout attributes, apart from heart and toughness, which are great attributes to have, mind you. That sort of fighter can also have sort of a short prime. Roman was never really expected to be as successful as he has been, so it’s kind of gravy career-wise from here, or at least I can say that in the comfort of not being Daniel Roman, who is an incredibly likable fighter and surely has more big plans going forward.

The 36-year-old Payano (21-3, 9 KO) might not be the guy to show us if Roman is running out of steam, but he’s a tricky veteran fighter, a skilled southpaw who has only been really run over by Nery and Naoya Inoue, both of whom are monster trucks at 118 pounds. Moving up to 122 won’t be easy for Payano, and he’s getting older and has lost two of his last three, both by stoppage. But in between those he gave then-unbeaten Damien Vazquez an eight-round boxing lesson, too; you still gotta be pretty damn good to beat Payano. Of the four undercard fights on this show, this is the one that isn’t for a “world title,” but might also be the best actual matchup.