Charles Conwell's Instagram declares him “Boxing's Best Kept Secret.” If he gets his way, these words can't disappear fast enough.
The 25-year-old Cleveland resident nicknamed “Bad News” won his 18th professional bout last December, grinding out a victory against tough veteran Juan Carlos Abreu. Cut at the left eye from a headbutt in the first and fourth rounds, Conwell refused to let the fight become a no contest, grinding out a majority decision. The 2016 Olympian nearly stopped Abreu on a body shot.
Once his cut healed, Conwell declared himself ready for a title fight in the super welterweight division. The response? Crickets.
Conwell Losing His Patience
Conwell isn't waiting around. Manager Lou DiBella has petitioned the World Boxing Council (WBC) to make him the mandatory challenger for current titleholder Jermell Charlo. Charlo, the unified, undisputed champion in the division, hasn't fought since his rematch win over Brian Castano on May 14, 2022. That's more than 400 days ago.
It's not a happy situation for anyone in the division. Rising star Tim Tszyu isn't waiting around. He impressively blasted Carlos Ocampo out in 77 seconds for the WBO interim title in Australia on June 17. Conwell was impressed Tszyu pressed forward with the bout despite a severe dog bite just days prior.
Brian Mendoza took the WBC interim title from Sebastian Fundora, who'd won it against Erickson Lubin and defended it easily against Ocampo before losing a shocking knockout upset to Mendoza.
Jesus Ramos, Israil Madrimov, and Magomed Kurbanov all have undefeated records like Conwell and remain stuck behind the logjam at the top. While injuries have partly stalled Charlo, the lack of opportunity frustrates Conwell.
“Sometimes it gets hard when you're getting promoted, and promoted, and promoted and not making big fights. Like, sometimes that part can really be frustrating, said Conwell. “We're looking for a fight by the end of the summer. I'm just staying in the gym, staying busy, staying sharp till the time comes.”
Charlo Holding Titles Hostage
Conwell has reigned in any animosity toward Charlo for holding his titles hostage – so far. “I never had words with the Charlo brothers or nothing like that like that. So many guys have mandatories and don't want to risk records until they get world title shots or till they vacate. So there's a lot of different things going on with opponents. But title fights still gotta be made. Fighters should be fighting each other.”
Meanwhile, Conwell has stayed busy, sparring with his friend and former world champion Tony Harrison. “We've been sparring for years, I always get good sparring with the champ,” said Conwell. How about a fight with Tszyu if he's left without a dance partner later this year? Conwell says he's 100% willing to make that trip to Australia.
“I wouldn't mind fighting there as long as it makes sense, giving me a big opportunity to prove I the best, I'm cool with that,” said Conwell.
Conwell blames the reluctance of undefeated fighters to risk their records on the man who calls himself TBE.
The Mayweather Effect
“I think it's common because we barely, because we don't fight often. Then when we finally find somebody who's a real challenge, it's like it took so long. Everybody wants to keep their Oh – the “Mayweather Effect,” not staying undefeated.
“If you are fighting the best people in the division, you're holding your own. you can definitely stay at the top mix of the division. This is how boxing goes, the best fight the best. If you're the best you're going to stay in the mix. If not you, get back up and return again,” said Conwell.
Conwell says he admires the women professionals who are bolder about taking on top competition – and they're giving the men a lot to think about. “I think men are taking note of the women on their side of the sport. Women who are 130 pounders are going up to 140 and challenging, like the undisputed champions.”
Conwell says the chip on his shoulder is there for a reason.
“You're young in the game and got a lot to prove. You believe in yourself, and you're confident. You want to get the top fights, you want to prove that you're the best. So, you always got a chip on your shoulder when you're younger, and you're not a world champion, or you're a fresh world champion. You want to fight the best guys out there to be the best.
“I know guys younger than me feel the same way toward me, it just that's just how the game goes.”
Different, Hungry, Motivated
Conwell hopes a little national media will jump-start opportunities for him. “I feel like once I get that type of exposure, I got national media on me, all that and things like that. I'm a fan-friendly fighter. So I've just needed that last little push mainstream media, and then I'll be there.”
But he can't wave a magic wand and make it happen. Until then, Conwell says he'll stay active, seek title eliminators and regional titles, “smaller belts to get me in position for those bigger belts.” Conwell says he'll also work outside of boxing on community projects.
“In Ohio, we fight with a chip on our shoulder, and we fight like we got a lot to prove. Ohio and Cleveland, you don't get (the) recognition we deserve. Ohio breeds different types of fighters. Different. Hungry. Motivated fighters. It's about time. I think I'm ready.”