ONTARIO, Calif., December 21, 2019 – Jermell Charlo of Houston (33-1,17 KOs) settled his score with the man who took away his title and his undefeated record last December. Tony “Super Bad” Harrison of Detroit (28-3, 21 KOs), regaining the WBC Super Welterweight championship with an 11th round TKO win.
“I got the belt back and I didn’t leave it up to the judges,” said Charlo. “Tony is a former champion. He had a lot on the line. I dominated and I knocked him out. It let him know that the power was real. 2020 is going to be real. It’s going to get loud.”
Fans at the Toyota Center in Ontario, California were treated to an all-action bout, a different style contest than the first bout won by the more technically sound Harrison. Perhaps it was the product of a year-long war of words between the pair which translated into the ring. Charlo successfully marshaled his rage over the loss into the will to drill Harrison whenever he had the chance. Harrison was equally willing to engage in a fight not all that well suited to his style.
Charlo came out swinging hard, dominating the first few rounds. He knocked Harrison down in the second round, though Harrison popped right back up to his feet. As the fight progressed into the middle rounds, Charlo was the busier man, throwing more punches. But Harrison was the more effective, landing 41 percent of his power punches according to CompuBox through eight rounds.
As Charlo’s work rate slowed, Harrison began finding a home for uppercuts and body shots mixed with hooks from right and left. He threw more effectively in combination than Charlo. Harrison clowned Charlo on several occasions, something he might regret now. Many ringside observers had Harrison ahead in the fight, but two of three judges had Charlo ahead.
But all of the opinions get thrown out when a fighter takes control by stopping his opponent, and Charlo left no doubt in the 11th round. He knocked down Harrison, who fell into the red corner. Referee Jack Reiss watched Harrison closely before allowing the round to continue. Harrison tried to convince Reiss and Charlo he was fine by bouncing on the balls of his feet. Charlo wasn’t fooled. He backed Harrison into the ropes, and let loose. Reiss didn’t let too much damage take place on the buzzed Harrison before stopping the fight.
“Jack is a championship referee. I started getting a little lax and got caught. He earned it. I hate it, but he earned it,” said Harrison. “The game plan was to do a little boxing. But taking a year off, my body wasn’t used to it. He earned it and no excuses.
“I got caught slipping. I never trade offense for defense, he caught me in between. I feel like I let us down, I let me down. It’s one and one. Back to the drawing board,” said Harrison.
Charlo was calm as he savored the victory, with the anger and disappointment washed away by his success in regaining his title. “Listen, I’m a gentleman at the end of the day,” said Charlo. “I showed my respect, but at the end of the day, I don’t like the dude. He can get it again, but I’m off to bigger and better things. I’m down for making history. He held the title too long and I had to come back and get it.”
Whether you see it as a comeback win or not, the performance was among the best of Charlo’s career, and among the most fan-friendly, which can be just as important when looking for big money title fights. Even in defeat, it was also a fan-friendly, skilled performance by Harrison. Fans would love a third fight, though Charlo isn’t inclined to walk this dangerous path again.
Heavy-hitting Ajagba and Kiladze put on a big show
Now that’s what you call a BIG drama show. Heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba of Nigeria, now training in Texas, (12-0, 10 KOs) got a scare from veteran Iago Kiladze of Georgia (26-5-1, 18 KOs) to win a fifth-round TKO victory. Ajagba needed a flashy performance after he ground out a win in July against a tougher than expected Ali Eren Demirezen of Turkey on the Pacquiao vs Thurman undercard. But he surely didn’t expect a roller coaster ride to a win.
Kiladze had lost to Joe Joyce, Michael Hunter, and Adam Kownacki in the past year. But he appeared determined not to lose again. Ajagba delivered a one-two set of punches to knock down Kiladze in the second round. Kiladze got up on wobbly feet, and made it out of the round but barely made it back to his corner.
In the third round, Kiladze was knocked down again, and rose again to wobbly feet to continue trading with Ajagba. Surely the fight would end here. But Kiladze turned the tables on Ajagba, dropping him with a right hook for the first time in his professional career. Fans at the Toyota Arena in Ontario were elated with the action, cheering on both men. Ajagba got up, buzzed but not ready to quit. The third round now enters the shortlist for Round of the Year in 2019.
“When I got knocked down, I didn’t see the punch coming. I tried to hit him with the left hook and that’s when I got caught,’’ admitted Ajagba. “He has a lot of experience and he’s a good fighter.”
Kiladze never appeared to completely get his balance back, but he carried on until his corner finally threw in the towel at 2:09 of the fifth round.
“This kind of fight will help me perform better in the future,” said Ajagba. “This guy was a good fighter, and he can take a lot of shots. I missed a lot of shots. Ronnie Shields, my trainer, kept telling me to work behind the jab and come back with the hook. It’s something that I have to learn to do. I made some mistakes, but I will go back to the gym and work on it. I’ll do better next time.”
Giron scores knockout, Balderas suffers first loss
Rene Tellez Giron of Mexico (14-1, 8 KOs) dealt 2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas of California (9-1, 8 KOs) his first loss. Giron warned Balderas he was in for a war and he would make the most of the opportunity. He was good to his word. Balderas was vulnerable to Giron’s tremendous left hook all night. Giron, age 20, made the most of his opportunity and didn’t let Balderas get a break all night. The first left hook knockdown took place at the end of the third round. Referee Ray Corona let Balderas get to his feet, but he stumbled backward to the ropes on unsteady feet. The fight could and perhaps should have been stopped then and there.
Balderas tried to buy time in the next round with a low blow, but Giron didn’t want to give Balderos any time to recover. Both men continued to trade, but it was clear it wasn’t going to be Balderas’ night. As the ten-second warning sounded, Giron delivered the final left hook of the night. Balderas got to his feet, but this time referee Corona waved off the fight at 2:59 of the sixth round.
“After I knocked him down in the third round, I saw his eyes were rolled back like he was hurt, but he has the heart of a lion,’’ said Giron. “He didn’t want to lose his undefeated record in front of his people. When he got up, I was like, ‘Wow! He got up! He’s up!’ So I kept on him and left everything in the ring.
“I’m really happy. Karlos had said he fought with the best and he was an Olympian. Well, I fought a lot of people too and you see the result, said Giron.
Undercard results: Escandon upsets Tepora, Centeno Jr. and Montiel draw
In the FS1 opening bout, veteran featherweight Oscar Escandon of Columbia (26-5, 18 KOs took out previously undefeated Jhack Tepora of the Philippines (23-1, 17 KOs) by first-round knockout Escando came forward at the opening bel; it was a left hook to the body that sent Tepora to the canvas. He could not recover in time to beat referee Jack Reiss’s count and he didn’t try, ending the first quickly at 1:30 of the first round.
“This fight was very important to me because I know I needed to win if I wanted to continue forward with my career,’’ said Escandon. “I know I have a lot of fight left in me.” Thanking his team, Escandon said “Ruben Guerrero, my trainer, was on me about listening to him in the corner and all his instructions worked perfectly. I want to thank PBC and Bob Santos for always believing in me. I give all the glory to God for this victory.”
Hugo Centeno Jr. of Oxnard (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Juan Macias Montiel of Mexico (21-4-1, 14 KOs) put a lot of leather on each other and had plenty to say in the ring during their 10 round middleweight bout. Centeno Jr. was the busier man, but Montiel scored the hard-hitting power punches, rocking Centeno Jr. in the third and tenth rounds. But neither man could gain the upper hand, with the judges scoring it a draw (97-93 for Centeno Jr., 96-94 for Montiel, and 95-95).
“I don’t agree with the decision at all,” said Centeno Jr. “I thought I outboxed the guy. He landed a couple shots, but I don’t think it was enough to get a draw or win on any of the cards. To be fair, I’d give him like three rounds. I know I didn’t win all the rounds, but I know I won enough to win the fight. If I can, I’m going to appeal the decision because I thought it was (the wrong) decision. This is the thing that drives away fighters from boxing is scores like this.’’
“I took the fight to him and he was just boxing. I’d like a rematch and I’d like him to fight and not run,’’ said Montiel. “I was inactive for a year and I gave him three pounds and he still didn’t bring it. In reality, I brought it to him. Next time, I want him to stand and fight.’’ The fight had its entertaining moments, but it won’t be memorable a week from now.
Petr Khamukov of Russia (5-0, 2 KOs) impressed the early TV audience and added a knockout to his pro record with a second-round stoppage of Maceo Crowder of Roxbury, Massachusetts (2-4, 1 KO) in a middleweight swing bout. Khamumov got right to work, dropping Crowder with a left hook at the end of the first round. Crowder toughed out one more round, but his corner decided his night was over early, calling the fight.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Twitter and Instagram at @PRProSanDiego.
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