In the three years since he vacated his 154-pound title and moved up to middleweight, Jermall Charlo has chased the recognition of being considered the best in the world at his weight class, which can only come by defeating the truly elite.
Despite scoring a trio of impressive knockouts and even capturing the WBC title through five appearances at 160 pounds, Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) had largely been a population of one on his own middleweight island. Any cries or callouts for the best in the world at his division to come face him largely fell on deaf ears because of his standing on the wrong side of the street within boxing's promotional and political sphere.
What didn't help was that in Charlo's most critically acclaimed bout to date (in terms of his opponent's standing -- a 2018 title defense against former champion Matvey Korobov) he ended it with a decision some felt Korobov should've won.
Yet as he enters the biggest and most difficult fight of his career on Saturday (Showtime PPV, 7 p.m. ET) against former two-time title challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs), Charlo finally gets a shot to quiet all the extraneous talk about how good he is or how his resume compares by defeating a fighter who might be the best kept secret in the entire sport.
"Fighters like Canelo [Alvarez], [Daniel] Jacobs, [Gennadiy] Golovkin; all those fighters on the big stage, I'll be there soon," Charlo said. "Hopefully, a victory over Derevyanchenko will open up the eyes of the division and they'll get a chance to see who the real deal is. I'm coming.
"No fighter Jermall Charlo fights will ever be the same after we fight. Derevyanchenko wants to be a big bully but if he doesn't step back, we are going to fight fire with fire."
Respect box? Subscribe to our podcast -- State of Combat with Brian Campbell -- where we take an in-depth look at the world of boxing each week, including a complete breakdown of Showtime's PPV doubleheader with Rafe Bartholomew below.
While Charlo's impressive combination of size, speed, power and athleticism has long helped him pass the eye test as a fighter poised for stardom, the challenge that Derevyanchenko brings as a tough, crafty and aggressive fighter is one he has needed all along.
Derevyanchenko, a 34-year-old Ukranian with a decorated amateur background, pushed both Jacobs and Golovkin to the limit in recent years despite coming up short in close decisions. While his split-decision defeat to Jacobs felt deserved during a close fight in which Derevyanchenko was dropped early, his ability to rally back to hurt Golovkin in their all-action brawl seemed like it was deserving of the judges' nod.
"Derevyanchenko is a come-forward fighter. He's going to bring a lot of power and speed with good technical skills," Charlo said. "He calls himself 'The Technician' but we'll see how technical he is once I start putting my jab in his face. I'm going to use all my natural skills in this fight."
Charlo will co-headline this weekend's pay-per-view card along with his 30-year-old twin brother Jermell, who faces fellow junior middleweight champion Jeison Rosario in a unification. But one thing Jermall, the older brother by one minute, has stressed throughout the build that he and his brother might not be long for the game after all.
With a growing business outside the ring throughout their #LionsOnly branding, Charlo knows it's time to make the career-defining fights now while he's in his physical prime and believes Derevyanchenko will be his ticket to get there regardless of promotional entanglements.
"After I win this fight, the sky is the limit. I know people will respect me a lot more after this," Charlo said. "This fight is another big stepping stone toward even bigger fights to come. I'm telling those other middleweights to buckle your seatbelts. It's lift off. Everyone that doubted me, everyone who wants a chance, you'll get your turn. I'm running the show. You just stay locked in.
"We don't have too much longer to be doing this. Where are the rest of the belts at? I'm ready. Watch me Saturday night because I'm making this statement loud for everyone who doubted me."