USC Galen Center, Los Angeles, CA, Dec. 10
By Peter Lim
Both young, undefeated combatants face their sternest tests to date against each other. Charlo (24-0, 18 KOs) and Williams (22-0-1, 14 KOs), both 26, share similar attributes and styles; both are proficient boxer-punchers with decent power in either hand, who match up pretty evenly in speed, defense and ring generalship.
Charlo is the more stationary and confrontational fighter while Williams is more fleet-footed and agile, but not by much. In Williams, Charlo faces an opponent for the first time in his career against whom he does not have a significant size advantage. Neither fighter's chin has been severely tested at this juncture of their careers.
Charlo won his belt by dethroning someone who can be best described as a caretaker titleholder in Cornelius Bundrage and successfully defended it against someone who can best be described as a fringe contender in Wilky Campfort last year. Earlier this year, he adapted and adjusted to methodically outpoint wily veteran southpaw Austin Trout.
While Charlo's level of competition has been decent but far from stellar, Williams has gotten this far by defeating a garden variety of gatekeepers and unproven prospects. His best opponents to date were Hugo Centeno Jr. whom he was dominating before it ended in a butt-induced no contest and faded former titlist Joachim Alcine, whom he outpointed over eight rounds.
Given Charlo's slight edge in quality of opposition and better knockout percentage, he should, on paper at least, enter the ring as about a 55-45 favorite. But fights are not contested on spread sheets and statistical analysis can only go so far in predicting the outcomes. Mathematical calculations can, and have been, be derailed by a randomness of intangibles when two equally-endowed pugilists violently collide in a 20X20 square foot ring for 36 minutes.
In this instance, though, Charlo's slight edge on paper will play out in the squared circle.
Williams' mobility and spunk might trouble Charlo in the early rounds. But as the fight progresses, Charlo makes the right adjustments to neutralize Williams' speed and stymie his rhythm much like Vernon Forrest did against Shane Mosley in 2002. Charlo offsets Williams by timing him with his stiff jab to get the better of the exchanges and win a close by clear-cut decision in the 116-112 to 115-113 range.
Charlo's momentary lapse of sportsmanship should not detract from the masterful maneuver he executed to win the fight. The level of difficulty of the catch-and-counter Charlo used to separate Williams from his senses cannot be overstated.
It is hard enough to pull off the catch-and-counter with the same fist, let alone score a knockout with it. And the uppercut is probably the hardest punch to set up, let alone deploy as a split-second reaction counter. But it seemed almost second nature to Charlo when he blocked an incoming right cross with his right glove and instantaneously returned fire using the same hand with pinpoint accuracy to seal his victory.
The maneuver was not just brilliant, it might well be unprecedented in the history of championship-level boxing. If anyone knows of a similar catch-and-counter sequence that resulted in a knockout in a major fight, please post a comment and tell us about it.
Charlo's latest victory also unveiled some other interesting qualities about the fighter:
-- When a fighter drops his opponents with a mere jab in three out of four title fights, it is the real deal. Not since Mark Breland has a fighter been able to not just stun, but seriously hurt other men of equal size with the most basic punch in boxing. Pound for pound, Charlo might have the best jab in the sport today.
-- With his latest win, Charlo has scored knockdowns and knockouts with every punch in the book - left jab, left hook, left uppercut, right cross and right uppercut. The only thing that has yet to emerge in his arsenal is body punching.
-- He has a pretty decent set of whiskers. Charlo's punch resistance was a question mark before the Williams fight but he absorbed everything Williams landed with aplomb, unflinchingly returning fire with composure each time he was nailed by a clean shot.
-- In the process of passing the chin test, the fact that Williams was able to connect with flush punches throughout the encounter exposed the holes in Charlo's defense. Slicker, more experienced fighters the likes of Canelo, Triple G and Danny Jacobs might be able to exploit the chinks in Charlo's armor more effectively than Williams.
-- Charlo appears overly concerned about his public persona and what his opponents, the media and fans say about him. Against Williams, he was able to contain his emotions until after the fight was over but as he advances to bigger fights, he might find it harder to keep his psyche in check.