After 29 months out of the ring and struggling to make a catchweight limit, it didn't matter once Jermall Charlo stepped into the ring Saturday for ten rounds against Jose Benavidez Jr. Charlo of Houston (33-0, 22 KOs) shook off his ring rust to dominant the smaller Benavidez Jr. of Phoenix (28-3-1, 19 KOs) for a decision on wide scorecards of 100-90, 99-91, and 98-92.
Charlo's form, handspeed, and volume were a pleasant surprise given his long absence, injuries, family difficulties, and admission of mental health issues. Benavidez Jr. came in as a significant underdog, but promising in the weeks leading up to the fight, he had the drive and training to ruin Charlo's return. He gave it a good effort, but he lacked enough power to threaten Charlo. After several rounds, the fight took on the appearance of a sparring session for Charlo.
Emotions Flow From Charlo After the Punches Stop
After the victory, Charlo was emotional speaking about his return, answering questions while fighting back tears. He refused to grade himself for the fight but said he was proud of himself.
“I thought about it every round. Time lost, time you never get back. But God got me. Man, thank God that both of us go home healthy. I get to go see my family and kids.”
Charlo Offers Thanks to WBC
After a week when the WBC took hits for a variety of issues, which included allowing Charlo to retain his middleweight title during his long ring absence, Charlo thanked the WBC team “for standing with me and going through what I went through. They went through it with me.
“Mauricio (Suleiman) and the whole team, everybody that stayed by my side, you know, thanks a lot for understanding me. I know it's like – when you're a lion, you're a man, it's hard to explain this to somebody.
“I went through what I went through. Because I just showed myself that anything can be done. I mean, it is what it is. I'm ready.”
Asked which division he intends to pursue, Charlo called himself a conqueror. “Whatever division it is, I'm going to do what I need to do. Man, bring me the best fights. I promise my fans. I promise the people of boxing. If you love boxing, I'll be back. I'll give you all more fights in 2024. I promise to be in the ring three to four times,” said Charlo.
Subriel Matias Makes Ergashev Say No Más After Five
There may be no one with a belt in the 140-pound division willing to fight Subriel Matias of Puerto Rico (20-1, 20 KOs) after his performance on Saturday. Matias started slowly against power-punching Shohjahon Ergashev of Uzbekistan via Detroit (23-1, 20 KOs), taking several hard shots from Ergashev.
But once Matias got down to work, he broke Ergashev down so swiftly and efficiently the Uzbek fighter retired in the corner after five rounds, giving Matias the win and another successful defense of his IBF World Super Lightweight title. Matias didn’t score any knockdowns, but the damage being done to Ergashev was evident with every punch.
Ergashev reported a problem with his leg, causing the stoppage. But it could have been Uzbek for no más.
Matias credited his team for making his impressive victories possible. He said when he first started feeling Ergashev’s first punches in the first round, “I knew he didn’t have the power to knock me out. That’s when I started attacking.”
Matias said it takes him three or four rounds to decipher his opponents. “Then what you saw tonight is what usually happens.”
If anyone wants to test themselves against the Boricua Boogeyman Matias in a unification fight, he’s ready for them.
“Regis Prograis, Haney, Gervonta – if you want this, come over and here and fight,” smiled Matias as he flashed his belt.
Lamont Roach Jr. The Newest Champion at 130
Lamont Roach Jr. of Maryland (24-1-1, 9 KOs) waited 14 months to get his title fight opportunity. It paid off with a split-decision victory over Hector Garcia of the Dominican Republic (16-2, 10 KOs). Roach Jr. is now the WBA World Super Featherweight champion.
Roach Jr.’s excellent offensive effort in the 11th and 12 rounds won him the bout in a fight with a long, slow fuse. Scores were 116-111 and 114-113 for Roach Jr., and 114-113 for Garcia.
Roach Jr. let the tears flow as he embraced his father Lamont on hearing those magic words, “And the new!”
Roach Jr. landed a left cross that landed high on Garcia’s head to score the knockdown. Garcia claimed it was a rabbit punch, but his complaint was ignored. Roach Jr. shut down Garcia’s offensive output to single digits per round until late in the fight when it was too late for anything but a stoppage, and the champion couldn’t get it done.
“Man, it’s been a long time coming. Y'all see why the fight didn’t happen when it was supposed to. He’s been ducking this work the whole time. I congratulate him, he’s a great champion, but like I said, this (is) my shit,” said the victorious Roach Jr.
Garcia said he respected the decision but pointed out if the knockdown punch had been ruled an illegal punch, the outcome might have been different.
Roach Jr. said the game plan was to break Garcia down, calling him “a quitter.” Roach Jr. now has his sights set on the three titleholders. “Whoever wanna fight, let me know. There’s some cool champions at 130,” naming Emanuel Navarrete, O’Shaquie Foster, and Joe Cordina.
Vito Mielnicki Jr. of New Jersey (16-1, 11 KOs) delivered the flashiest win of his career, drilling Alexis Salazar Flores of Mexico (25-6, 10 KOs) to the canvas three times in the first two minutes of the fight before the super welterweight fight was waved off by referee Robert Hoyle at 1:11 of the first round.
Super lightweight Michel Rivera of the Dominican Republic (25-1, 14 KOs) got the decision victory over veteran Sergey Lipinets of Kazakhstan (17-3-1, 13 KOs). Judges gave Rivera scores of 96-93 on two cards and 96-94 on the third. Rivera recovered after his first professional loss to Frank Martin one year ago.