There have been a lot of comparisons between what Jermell Charlo will attempt to do on Sept. 30, when he challenges Canelo Alvarez for the undisputed super middleweight championship at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and what Sugar Ray Leonard attempted versus Donny Lalonde in 1988.
Leonard was coming off of a 1987 win over Marvelous Marvin Hagler that gave him the middleweight belt. He challenged Lalonde for Lalonde's light heavyweight title but also the then-newly created super middleweight title.
What Leonard attempted, though, wasn't nearly the same as what Charlo will try to do. Leonard and Charlo had to make the super middleweight limit of 168, which both did, so they could fight for that belt. And because both were under 175, the light heavyweight limit, they could fight for Lalonde's 175-pound belt.
Charlo is going straight from super welterweight to super middleweight to fight Alvarez in a historic battle of undisputed champions.
There is no catchweight or agreement to meet in the middle. Charlo is going up two classes in order to challenge for Alvarez's belt, period, end of story.
And that's what makes this so unique. It's a risky move and one that isn't often seen in boxing. Too many fighters, guided by conservative management, stay in their lane and don't attempt to do something outside of the box.
Alvarez originally expected to face Charlo's identical twin brother, Jermall Charlo. Jermall Charlo is a middleweight and holds the WBC 160-pound title, though he's been plagued by private personal issues and hasn't fought since 2021. Jermall Charlo initially agreed to fight Alvarez, but when his private issues weren't able to be resolved sufficiently, Jermell stepped in.
Jermell defeated Brian Castaño on May 14, 2022, to win the undisputed super welterweight title, though he hasn't fought since because of a hand injury. But despite a 16-month layoff, he is eager for the fight and confident in his ability to pull it off.
"He's going to find out that I'm the big Charlo," Jermell Charlo said of Alvarez. "I am what I say I am. 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 said he's going to be better in this fight, and it's the same thing for me."
Jermell has been in or on the verge of being in the pound-for-pound Top 10 for the last few years, and you don't get to that kind of place without oodles of talent and knowing how to win.
He's clearly a threat, which makes the criticism Alvarez has received for taking this fight baffling. Alvarez has consistently sought out the best opposition and toughest challenges he could. And while some preferred that he fight David Benavidez rather than one of the Charlo brothers, anyone who claims Alvarez is ducking and dodging hasn't been paying attention or is simply a hater.
Alvarez is at the stage of his career where he's fighting for the history books and he doesn't want any soft touches. When he faced Avni Yildirim, it's not because he wanted that fight. It was the mandatory for one of his super middleweight belts and he had to take it if he wanted to unify all four 168-pound belts.
So when he sought out a fight with Charlo after a rematch with Dmitriy Bivol proved to be too difficult to get done, he did so knowing it carried a level of threat. Jermell Charlo is four inches taller than Alvarez and has a three-inch reach advantage.
"I think both Jermell and Jermall Charlo are great fighters," Alvarez said. "No disrespect to Jermall, but I think Jermell has had better opposition in his fight. I think he's the better fighter. That's just what I think."
At BetMGM, Alvarez is a healthy -400 favorite, with Charlo at +310 on the buyback. Alvarez deserves to be the favorite, clearly, but that's a big price.
Charlo has the tools to win this fight. The biggest advantage Alvarez may have over Charlo is mental toughness. Alvarez is almost always completely focused and on point, and Charlo hasn't always been that way.
This is an opportunity for Charlo to wash away any negativity that surrounds him about his career. Beat Alvarez and he'll have the last laugh on the doubters and the critics.
"After Sept. 30, people are going to appreciate my skills and what I've been doing for so long, ever since I was a kid," Charlo said. "With every fight, I come to put on a show, and I'm dangerous the whole fight. I want to be known as great."
He will be if he defeats Alvarez, no question. And he has a better chance than many are apparently giving him.