Full Report on Jermall Charlo’s Houston Homecoming
Sideways sheets of rain. Memories of Hurricane Harvey ran briefly ran through my mind.
But the rain cleared and after a couple wrong turns we found media parking.
Complimentary media parking. Right next to NRG Arena. Thank you, Jesus! (Progress over perfection when it comes what brings me gratitude.)
Check the bags. Walk through medical detectors. Get our credentials.
“Do you know which way we go, or is it self-explanatory once we pass through that curtain?”
“Just walk through there and you’ll see it.”
We then proceed through a cavernous hall that looks more like a parking garage than a venue. Then ask for help. Then some more hallways and asking for more help. Finally, we find the ring.
(It’s always this way, too. Low-level media wandering around like lost puppies, but if we end up in the wrong place we will be scolded.)
Now I sit ringside with a continuous blast of cold air coming from the left. Starting to wish I was a drinker or maybe covered in a thick of layer of hair from head to toe.
The bout sheet has 13 fights scheduled tonight. We arrived to see the first two fledgling pugilists enter the ring. I turned my head to pull out my chair, only to turn around and see Chante Bowens (now 0-3) laid out on the canvas by Cesar Cantu (now 2-0). I wonder if boxing was Bowens’ dream? Or is this just something he does to pay the bills or stay busy? Whatever the case, the canvas is never a respecter of persons; it welcomes anyone with opens arms.
Next two middleweights enter the ring and go all eight rounds. Leon Lawson III from Flint, MI sweeps his opponent, Evan Alexis Torres, taking the fight 82-72 and improving to 11-1. Torres will assumedly head back to Mexico now under .500 with a 7-8 record and wondering if things are going to turn around soon.
Soon lightweights take the stage. Both have records that seem promising, but in boxing you can never tell. It all depends on who their opponents were. The fight goes all six rounds and the fighters’ faces are covered in blood. They gave it their all. Usually these early bouts are completely one-sided, one fighter being propped up while the other is trotted out for slaughter. But one judge sees this bout as a draw. The other two overrule him with 59-55 scores and Nelson Hampton improves to 6-2 with a MD over Dakota Linger, who is now 11-2-2.
Then we’re gifted with some big guys entering the ring. Cruiserweights. And we’re all a bit more interested because in the blue corner is Marsellos Wilder. Yes, the brother of that Wilder. He’s not near as tall or near as long-limbed. And, as it turns out, he’s not near as exciting to watch as his celebrity brother either. He very intentionally practiced his learned skills, rarely deviating to go for a knockout. And there was no knockout. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Wilder who improves to 4-1 and sends Tyler Vogel home with a break-even record of 3-3.
The next two bouts are each scheduled for four rounds and all in the super middleweight division. All the fighters have fought four professional fights or less, one making his pro debut. First is Mychael Teal vs. Mark Beuke, who seem as tall as the previous two fighters who were cruiserweights. Both are very active and bounce all around the ring. They seem loose and free, open to whatever happens, both just giving their best. And we get our first red corner win of the night for Bueke who improves to 3-2 with a MD. Teal takes his first loss, leaving the ring now 3-1.
Next up we have Zamy Larry vs. Raneiri Souza, with Larry making his professional debut. Larry towers over his opponent who is clearly the lamb of this sacrificial bout. Larry knocks down Souza in the first round. Souza clearly isn’t ready to continue but does all the things necessary for the ref to call the fight back to action. Larry stalks his opponent like a lion and goes in for the kill. Souza struggles to get to his feet, looks for his corner, eyes pleading for what he should do next because his brain sure as hell isn’t in charge at the moment. But Souza can’t stay on his feet and the fight ends. Larry will return to Florida with his first win notched on his professional record.
Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” plays and we see Ryan “Cowboy” Karl come out to a very small but very vocal fan base. But no matter what he becomes, this small fan base will always be the most important because they’re here when you get to show you really love someone. His opponent is David Morales from Nicaragua. Karl displays some good defense, able to stick and move and evade punches with ease. Once he gets a sense of his opponent he goes in hard and Morales’ legs splay out like a fawn. He gets to his feet but the ref wisely calls a halt to the bout. Karl improves to 17-2 in the welterweight division while Morales will return home just barely over .500 with a 13-12 record.
Another welterweight bout begins, this one scheduled for four rounds. Omar Juarez is the clear favorite and has the fans here to prove it. Seifullah Jihad Wise takes a slew of punches to the body and goes to his knee. He wisely spits out his mouthpiece buying himself some time, but to no avail. Juarez went on to attack his body like it had bad mouthed his mother the night before and finished off his opponent with a liver shot he couldn’t come back from. Juarez is now 4-0 while Wise goes home 3-7.
Next up are middleweights scheduled for four rounds. Raymond Guajardo from San Antonio is the clear favorite even if this is only his second professional fight. His opponent, Jaime Meza out of Compton, might fare well in a street fight and has brought that same determined spirit to the ring. He comes out of his corner like a bull and attempts to overwhelm his much younger opponent with fast and hard punches. Guajardo is momentarily surprised, but quickly recovers and adjusts—this isn’t going to be an easy win. And it’s not. He takes as many punches as he gives and blood falls from his mouth. The fight goes the distance with Meza seemingly another Homer Simpson who just won’t go down. Guajardo improves to 2-0 while Meza is now 0-2.
And finally, the last of the non-televised bouts. A 10-round fight in the super featherweight division. Miguel Flores is the favorite out of Houston with a 23-2 record. His opponent, Luis May, hails from Cancun, Mexico with a record of 21-14-1. Our first fight of the night where both opponents look like real boxers in the ring. Good footwork and skilled offense. Every round they’re giving it their all, sweat dripping down in buckets. Flores may be taller and lankier, but this is certainly no walk in the park. He was probably as happy to see the proverbial white flag waving from his opponent’s corner as May was himself. The fight was stopped at 1 minute, 33 seconds of round five with Flores taking the win.
We have a 12-round championship bout in the featherweight division as our first televised bout of the night. The crowd has begun to build at NRG Arena in Houston, TX, while IT guys and ring techs make sure everything is in place before Showtime goes live at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 29th.
In the blue corner we have Eduardo Ramirez (22-1-3, 9 KOs) out of Sinaloa, Mexico. His opponent, Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17 KOs) hails from the Dominican Republic. Both fighters walk to the ring with very little fanfare but as soon as Jimmy Lennon, Jr. says “Houston, Texas” the crowd is quick to cheer their hometown.
The bell tolls for the first round and a quiet falls across the arena as we all turn our attention to the two fighters in the ring. This began as your typical boxing match, emphasis on the word boxing. Both fighters using a variety of skills and leaving very little to chance. As the fight wore on, Marrero asserted his dominance, even dropping his hands while he bobbed and weaved. He was happy to take punches straight to the face if it meant he had a shot to do the same. It became clear that Marrero no longer thought his opponent had anything to give that he couldn’t take, and proceeded to walk him down the rest of the fight.
Despite walking backwards most of the night, and his mouth agape as he assumedly gasped for air, Ramirez continued to give all he had. But that seems to be the best he could do. He kept doing the same thing again and again, while Marrero changed up his approach all night long. He began the fight by feeling out his opponent, then let go of any pretense of defense, and then began fighting off the ropes. No matter what he did though, he just couldn’t seem to put a definitive end to his opponent by way of knockout.
Marrero took the win by UD with scores of 116-112, 115-113, 118-110 and was absolutely elated. So much so, he ran around in a circle while the ref refused to let go his arm that he had yet to raise in victory. Awkward? Yes. But Team Marrero didn’t care as they left the ring with their newly won hardware and their hearts light with triumph.
Next up on the televised undercard is Erickson Lubin (20-1, 15 KOs) from Orlando, Florida against Zakaria Attou (29-6-2, 7 KOs) out of Paris, France. This is a championship fight in the super welterweight division and the first fight on American soil for the frenchman.
The fight began with the typical “feeling out” of the opponent that boxers do, but Lubin seemed the more assertive fighter while Attou was content to be the fighter walking backwards. Lubin landed a hard shot to the body that Attou clearly felt, and seemed to be a foreshadowing of what would come later.
Round two was full of hard body punches and menacing head shots from Lubin. Attou stays on his feet and makes it out of the round, although one has to wonder if it’s for the best because we can all see the writing on the wall. Round three sees Lubin keep his cool but throwing shots with a heavy and quiet power behind them. And in roundzz four the Frenchman took a beating in the corner where he eventually sprawled across the ropes and to the canvas. He got up quick for the count, but mercifully his corner threw in the towel and the fight was stopped.
Lubin improves to 21-1 and tacks on his 16th KO with a fourth round stoppage versus Attou who will return to France now 29-7-2. Lubin continues to show that maybe his loss to Charlo was more a case of too much, too soon than a true mark against his fighting potential. But only time will tell.
Twenty-four fighters have come and gone tonight at NRG Arena in Houston, Texas. Now we’re set for the final fight of the night. Jermall Charlo (28-0, 21 KOs), the hometown fighter, takes on Brandon Adams (21-2, 13 KOs) from Los Angeles, California in the middleweight division for Charlo’s recently received WBC title belt.
The 2018 Epix Contender-series champ, Adams, makes his way to the ring greeted by a chorus of boos before his ringwalk music kicks on. Charlo receives waves of cheers and the crowd is on their feet trying to catch a glimpse of their hometown champ. When Jimmy Lennon, Jr. announces both fighters, you can barely hear him over the crowd as they shower Charlo with their praise. But when the bell sounds for round one the crowd falls quiet as they watch and hope for fireworks from one of their own.
Round one begins and both fighters look at ease, even if Charlo has a considerable height and reach advantage over his opponent. They took turns moving forward and backward, keeping their cards close to their chest for the time being.
The second round saw Charlo come out with more force and walking his opponent down. He looked to land shots meant to end the fight but was careful to keep his defense intact. The end of the round saw Charlo taunt his opponent but the bell rang leaving no time for anything else.
Adams does his best to bring more to the table in round three but he’s met with body punches and a vicious uppercut to end the round.
In round four we get a phone booth fight and the referee does well to let the fighters punch their way out of holds. It might be an even round, but it’s hard not see Adams as the B-side as he has yet to do anything of significance, even if he is a formidable opponent.
Round five brings more of the same until Charlo lands a body shot that hurts Adams. He goes in for the kill, but luckily Adams holds and falls into Charlo giving himself time to breathe as the ref breaks it up before his knees or gloves touch the canvas. Adams is doing whatever he can to stay in this fight and it’s commendable.
In round six, we get more scrappiness with Adams holding, grappling and fighting in close. It was hard to tell, but this may be the round that Adams landed something that hurt Charlo. What for sure has landed, is frustration. Charlo is having to push this guy off him every other second and is getting hit before and after. Charlo ends the round up against the ropes, perhaps grateful to hear the bell.
Rounds seven and eight we see Charlo get in on the holding, perhaps making an adjustment because Adams is scrappy and persistent. Otherwise, Charlo lands the heavier and cleaner punches.
But round nine Charlo comes out with feints and it’s very effective. He holds his ground, keeps his feet out wide and gets back to basics instead of being drawn into a dogfight. But Adams might literally be part pit bull because this guy just doesn’t let go. A fight I thought would end early in a knockout might go the distance because Adams has so much tenacity.
Round ten sees Charlo do his best to end the fight, and yet, Adams sticks around like a dog with a bone. Charlo can’t seem to shake him. Short of a punch right on the button, this fight is going the distance.
In the eleventh round we see the fighters trade punches, but neither could take out the other even if the crowd occasionally thought that was the case when they saw sweat fly. The round ends with both fighters walking back to their corner to get advice from their trainers one last time.
And the advice was clearly “do more of the same”, because that’s we got from both fighters in the last and final round with the exception of some dancing around the ring in the final seconds.
Charlo takes the UD win over Adams with scores of 119-109, 120-108×2. Adams may not be a world title level fighter, but he has determination, tenacity and grit, all great and admirable qualities. Charlo showed he was the better boxer tonight, but I wonder if his inability to dominate his opponent was a mark for Adams or a sign of a deficiency in Charlo’s skill. Fights against Golovkin or Canelo might tell the tale.