As Jermell Charlo sees it, this weekend's blockbuster showdown in Las Vegas for the undisputed super middleweight championship is the moment he has been preparing for since he first turned pro back in 2007.
Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs), who captured his first 154-pound title in 2016 before eventually securing undisputed status in 2022, will move up two weight divisions to challenge Mexican icon Canelo Alvarez (59-2-2, 39 KOs) inside of T-Mobile Arena on Saturday ().
"My whole career has kind of been all about chasing Canelo," Charlo said. "When I got the call for this fight, there was nothing I could say other than 'let's go.' He has been the top guy for a long time. The fight has presented itself now and I just have to get in there, do my job and be the best that I can be."
The crazy part about Charlo attaining the biggest and most lucrative fight of his 16-year career is that he wasn't the first choice. Alvarez, the former pound-for-pound king who has won titles in four weight divisions, was expecting to face Charlo's twin brother, Jermall, in the first of a new three-bout deal with Premier Boxing Champions, but the WBC middleweight champion, who has been idle for two years due to injuries and mental health challenges, wasn't ready to return.
Subbing in the smaller and younger (by one minute) Charlo twin also added more hype and history to the event, which represents the first time two reigning four-belt undisputed champions will square off in men's boxing history. From Alvarez's perspective, he also expects it to be a more difficult fight.
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a complete preview of Canelo Alvarez vs. Jermell Charlo live from Las Vegas below.
"I think both Jermell and Jermall Charlo are great fighters. No disrespect to Jermall. But I think Jermell has had better opposition in his fights," Alvarez said. "I think he is the better fighter. That's just what I think.
"I think Jermell Charlo is the perfect fight right now. He has been calling me out for a long time and I never forget. He's said a lot of things. He never believed in my skills, but he's gonna find out soon."
One thing neither fighter appears to be worried about is the size difference between them. While it's true that Charlo is making a dramatic move up in weight, it wasn't that long ago that Alvarez was considered a small middleweight (who would go on to win world titles as high as 175 pounds). Charlo is not only the taller (4 inches) and longer (2.5 inches) of the two fighters, he is huge for the 154-pound division.
CBS Sports will also have live coverage of the fight with round-by-round scoring and blow-by-blow updates to keep you up to date throughout the night.
Derrick James, the 2022 trainer of the year who has worked with Charlo since 2015, has gone as far as defining this 168-pound showdown as really being a fight between two junior middleweights.
"Jermell's advantage is actually his size," James said. "You have to maximize that advantage. It's about what Jermell is able to do. He doesn't have to become the guy, he has to be the guy."
"He's going to find out that I'm the big Charlo. I am what I say I am," Charlo said. "Canelo will see that I pack good punching-power, that I have good lateral movement and that I'm a ring general, just like he is. He'll see that it won't be a walk in the park. He says he's going be better in this fight, and it's the same thing for me."
"Charlo will be good at 168 pounds," Alvarez said. "I've made that jump before so I know. I think that when you're a great champion like he is, it doesn't matter."
In addition to the jump in weight, Charlo will also need to shake off a 16-month layoff after a broken hand suffered last December in training forced him to twice postpone undisputed title defenses against Tim Tszyu. But Alvarez, who claims a chronically injured left hand kept him from training at full speed ahead of his last three fights, has his own set of questions to answer regarding his recent performances.
Although Alvarez has gone 2-1 over the past two years, with his lone loss coming by close unanimous decision to unbeaten light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol, it has been hard to ignore just how human Alvarez looked in subsequent decision wins over Gennadiy Golovkin (in their trilogy bout) and John Ryder.
"We spent three months training for this fight and had no setbacks whatsoever. It's been a while since Canelo has been able to train so intensely. We've left behind the injuries and setbacks and we're ready to show that Canelo is prepared to put on a great fight for the fans," Alvarez's trainer Eddy Reynoso said this week.
"We're very motivated to be here in Las Vegas for a great fight. We're going to prove how motivated we are by giving the fans a great fight."
Both fighters are the same age at 33, but the miles on Alvarez are quite different from that of Charlo considering the former made his debut in 2005 at the age of 15 and enters this weekend with more knockouts than Charlo has professional fights.
"We'll see if it's true that I've lost a step. We'll see," Alvarez said. "I understand what the people said and I agree. I didn't look my best in my last two fights, but I know why and I'm ready for this fight. We'll see what happens. We're going to see something different."
One thing Charlo also has going for him is hunger and an ability to rise to the occasion when his back against the wall. Case in point, the only two blemishes on Charlo's resume -- a disputed 2018 decision loss to Tony Harrison and a controversial 2021 draw with Brian Castano -- were both avenged by late and emphatic knockouts in title rematches.
"Now is the right time for this fight. We're in our primes and at our best," Charlo said. "I want to shake the doubters off and prove to the world why I'm in this position. There's a reason I made it this far. I'm gonna show what I'm made of. Everything I've done since I was eight years old, I'm putting it all on the line now."
Let's take a look at how these top fighters match up ahead of the 168-pound showdown.
Tale of the tape
|Fighter||Saul Alvarez||Jermell Charlo|
|Hometown||Guadalajara, Mexico||Houston, Texas|
|Record||59-2-2, 39 KOs||35-1-1, 19 KOs|
|Titles||WBA/WBC/WBO/IBF super middleweight||WBA/WBC/WBO/IBF junior middleweight|
|Reach||70.5 inches||73 inches|
|Best wins||Miguel Cotto (UD12, 2015), Gennadiy Golovkin (MD12, 2018), Sergey Kovalev (KO11, 2019)||Austin Trout (MD12, 2018), Tony Harrison (KO11, 2019), Brian Castano KO10 (2022)|
What's at stake?
The working title of "Undisputed versus Undisputed" for Saturday's showdown seems to suggest it all as Charlo has the chance to join Terence Crawford and Claressa Shields as the only boxers to become undisputed champions in two weight divisions since the advent of the four-belt era in 1988.
Although this is just another big fight in a career littered with them for Alvarez, it's an important one in terms of retaining his elite status as one of the five best P4P boxers today. Charlo, meanwhile, is fighting for much more, namely the critical respect and commercial breakthrough that he has circled near in recent years but has been unable to break through.
An upset win for Charlo would not just make him a simultaneous two-division undisputed king, it would catapult him into consideration for P4P kingship alongside Crawford and unified junior featherweight star Naoya Inoue. It would also cement Charlo as an indisputable Hall of Famer after making the kind of divisional leap against an elite foe that few fighters in history could match.
Who has the edge?
1. Power: Considering he knocked out Sergey Kovalev in 2019 to capture a world title at 175 pounds, it's fair to say Alvarez holds the edge here. Not only is he thicker than Charlo and a threat to knock anyone out to the body, just the threat of Alvarez's heavy and accurate counter shots tend to naturally lower the output of his opponents. Charlo can still crack and typically carries his power late, but moving up two divisions should compromise some of his danger. Advantage: Alvarez
2. Speed: Alvarez was once considered slow as a junior middleweight but has done well to improve his timing and defensive trunk movement to offset such a disadvantage, especially when fighting at higher weights where it's less pronounced. But Charlo is the better natural athlete of the two and brings the type of hand and (more importantly) foot speed that Alvarez hasn't seen in many years. Advantage: Charlo
3. Defense: Although Charlo is responsible defensively, he has evolved from a careful boxer to such a menacing power puncher under James that he's often not hard to find once he gets inside the pocket to attack. Some of that could be muted should Charlo rely heavily on movement and his jab to try and offset Alvarez's power advantage. Either way, Alvarez is among the most effective defensive fighters in the game and does so efficiently through subtle head and upper body movement without yielding position by needing to move his feet. Advantage: Alvarez
4. Technique: Alvarez has evolved into a historically great boxer who can do it all. He relies on fundamentals and is never in a bad position to be easily countered by reaching or over extending. His timing is superb and the variety of his punching selection is virtually unmatched. But the gap between him and Charlo isn't seismic. Charlo is a capable boxer who has adopted an efficient counter punching style that is similar to Alvarez and rarely sacrifices technique for power. Advantage: Alvarez
5. Intangibles: Both fighters have legitimate questions to answer concerning topics like size, current form and inactivity. And both fighters feature all-star trainers in their respective corners. But even though the combination of Alvarez's ring IQ and unmatched experience in big fights is hard enough to overcome for most, there's a wild card entity surrounding Charlo that can't be ignored. Fueled by his "Lions Only" mantra and marketing scheme, Charlo fights with a nasty edge. He's willing to take educated risks within a fight when time is of the essence and has continued to get better in recent years. Charlo has also done well to control his emotions of late and seems to be entering the most mature, dangerous and calculated stretch of his prime. Advantage: Even
Who wins Canelo Alvarez vs. Jermell Charlo, and which prop is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see Peter Kahn's best bets for Saturday, all from the boxing specialist who has netted his followers a profit of nearly $4,000, and find out.