If Saturday's hometown title defense for WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo was supposed to be an easy showcase fight, nobody bothered to tell unheralded Juan Macias Montiel.
Although it will go down in the books as a wide unanimous decision for Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs), who made the fourth defense of his 160-pound title, Montiel (22-5-2, 22 KOs) greatly exceeded expectations by walking through tremendous punishment and mounting a late rally in which he cut Charlo above his right eye and challenged his gas tank.
In the end, Charlo stood his ground to take home scores of 118-109, 119-109 and 120-108 inside the Toyota Center in Houston after rocking Montiel multiple times in the early rounds but proved unable to finish him. The bout served as the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card.
"It took a real warrior to get in the ring with me and [Montiel] fought each and every round as hard as he could," Charlo said. "He wanted to fight no matter what I hit him with. I love that spirit and he is going to be great."
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Charlo, 31, the twin brother of unified junior middleweight champion Jermell, relied on his power jab and body shots to control the first half of the fight with ease. He went on to outland Montiel over 12 rounds by a margin of 258 to 127, according to CompuBox, including a career-best 201 power shots.
But the unorthodox Montiel, a 27-year-old native of Mexico, routinely switched stances and had an almost zombie-like ability to keep coming despite being cornered and taking heavy punishment. The constant pressure forced Charlo to forego his jab and trade with Montiel at close range over the second half of the fight that played into Montiel's hope of landing something dramatic.
"I needed a fight of this level and I know with this experience, later on down the line, I will become a world champion," Montiel said. "Like all the Mexicans, we die on the line. I had a great preparation and like I say, viva Mexico."
Body shots from Montiel in both Round 8 and 9 appeared to hurt Charlo. In Round 9, Montiel also cut Charlo above the eye with a short hook inside.
"No, I never got concerned. I just thought the best fighters in the world make the best adjustments," Charlo said. "We have to adjust and that's why we are still here. That's why June 19 is a federal holiday now. That's why we are still here. I knew he was putting in that work. He put in that work to fight me.
"I seen the crowd behind me. My city was behind me and I put them on my back. I just went to work."
Although Charlo avoided a late falter, his best shots proved unable to floor or finish Montiel.
After the fight, when asked whether he might move up to 168 pounds to seek bigger names, Charlo declined and said his focus is on landing bouts against fellow middleweight champions, with mentions of Gennadiy Golovkin and Demetrius Andrade.
"160 is my weight division. I want to unify. I want to get Golovkin in the win, I want to bring him to Houston," Charlo said. "I want to bring Canelo down here to Houston if he wants to make 160. Golovkin is about to unify [against titleholder Ryoto Murata] so maybe we can fight for all of those belts if he wins. The other one [Andrade] is hiding in the weeds so we ain't worried about him. There is a difference between chasing and hunting and we are on the hunt."