Erislandy Lara vs Vanes Martirosyan II, Jermall Charlo vs Austin Trout, Jermell Charlo vs John Jackson
BY KID HERSH
From Las Vegas came a tripleheader of title fights on Showtime. First up was for the vacant WBC super welterweight title - with the Charlo brothers supposedly going for history in terms of being the first two twins to hold titles in the same weight class. Initially I thought "what about the Klitschko's?" But alas, they are not twins! So for history it was John Jackson (20-2, 15ko's) of the Virgin Islands (and yes related to Julian) taking on Jermell Charlo (27-0, 12ko's). The first round was interesting, with Jermell being forced into the role of aggressor - which is not his typical forte. Al Bernstein pointed this out a couple minutes into the round and it made me think that it is not a bad tactic by Jackson and may in fact be his best shot at winning and a solid game plan to take Jermell out of his comfort zone. In the second round Jackson really got into rhythm, using his legs to move around the ring and prevent Jermell from using a jab or even unloading in general as he couldn't find the range. Jackson was also switching between orthodox and southpaw while effectively counter-punching. Jermell continued attacking through the third round and into the fourth but he was clearly missing the mark as Jackson was very elusive and hard to hit. Jackson was still switching between stances and moving all around the ring but mixed in more combination punching. Jermell was having real issues not just from pressing forward but finding the mark because of all the angles in front of him - which is quite a bit I must say as Jackson is boxing very impressively. In the fifth round Jermell finally got going and landed some solid shots - such as the left hook that snapped Jackson's head back violently a little over a minute into the round. This is the first solid shot he has landed and while Jackson took it well it was clear that the tides are turning because Jermell reached his man with more shots throughout the round and took the first round of the fight in impressive fashion on my scorecard. Jackson went back to beautiful boxing in the sixth round, again befuddling Jermell with his movement and angles and blunting his output of punches as he couldn't cut off the ring and couldn't pull the trigger. This continued through the seventh round and then suddenly very early in the eighth round Jermell landed a right hand that ended the fight abruptly in emphatic fashion. It was a very awkward ending as Jackson had an odd reaction to the punch as he turned away slowly, almost out on his feet but yet seemingly knowing what he was doing. He was well ahead on the cards at the time of the stoppage but he made the mistake, the replay would show, of putting his glove up to his eye after the right hand landed and his knees got really stiff. Then Jermell flew in with a left hand and the fight was over as he sent Jackson into the ropes with the left hand and clearly unable to protect himself. He claims he was adjusting his mouthpiece that was knocked loose but whether he was or wasn't matters not; protect yourself at all times. Great showing by Jackson as he showed he can box beautifully, even in losing.
Next up was Jermall Charlo (23-0, 18ko's) defending his belt against Austin Trout (30-2, 17ko's). The first round showed the chess match that I expected to see for this fight as Trout was looking to be elusive and use his quick hands from the outside while Jermall was very upright and looking to unleash the power as he waits patiently for his openings. He did land a couple power shots that didn't seem to have much of an effect on Trout, who was working off an effective jab. In the second round Jermall was still pressing - perhaps a little harder - as he was trying to impose his will. Early on in the second round he was successful as he landed some powerful shots coming forward and using his size and strength to establish himself against the faster hands in front of him. Trout would adjust though, being the clever boxer he is, by feinting to put some doubt (no pun intended) in the head of Jermall as to pressing recklessly. In the third round Jermall landed his best shot of the fight; a right hand flush while Trout was on the ropes trying to slide out of range. He took it well - plus other right hands throughtout the round - as the tides turned in the third. Trout was able to balance the scales out in the fourth as he went back to moving and throwing punches to the body. He was not committing on his shots or putting much into them but he was scoring and staying out of range or slipping/parrying Jermall's shots very well as he balanced out defense with offense. Is he doing enough to win the rounds? Hard to say, because Jermall is landing the telling blows but they are very few and far between while Trout is scoring more it's simply scoring shots. In the fifth we went back to a very high level chess match with both men setting traps for the other and not being able to take too many risks due to being punished if they did. Trout upped his work rate in the fifth and Jermall upped his right along with Trout as he is a great counter-puncher and feeding off Trout in his typical style of holding his ground and making his opponent pay for mistakes. In the sixth round Trouts right eye was showing some swelling and Jermall took advantage of it to get the upper hand in the fight by the widest margin yet. Previously there was not much to choose between to the two fighters but in the sixth Jermall took it really big to my eyes as he caught Trout with punches by being first instead of waiting on his man. In effect you could see that Trout was out of his element and taking more risks to answer back - risks that he was paying the price for. Only late in the sixth did he start to have success again, likely from being more predictable and using odd angles in range instead of going straight at Jermall. In the seventh Trout fought back like the champion he is (or has been in the past, perhaps I should say) and landed some of his best shots of the fight including straight left hands down the pipe to the head of Jermall instead of the body for a change. Jermall looked like he was not expecting them because he has not really seen them until now. Jermall showed great poise and patience in the eighth round. When some people would want to see urgency I like to see this type of calm out of a younger guy when he is fighting with the experience and tricks of Trout. He did not overreact to the previous round failures and instead found his spots to land big shots in the eighth. he was still getting caught in spots but he brushes off these issues as if they never even happened. The battle for the upper hand was still ongoing down the stretch of the fight. Jermall continued showing his serious poise that one can tell is never going to change - it is just who he is and what he is about, how he thinks and fights. In the tenth round Trout suffered a cut on his right eye that was already showing damage. One could not tell that it was affecting him though as he got on toes to mix it up as he is likely a little behind in this close fight. Trout has great stamina but nothing he is doing late in this title fight is changing the flow of the fight - he is not establishing himself as the ring general anyone and you can just feel it. Unfortunately the best shots he can land - such as the straight left a minute into the eleventh round - are just not enough to take control of the fight he is "competing" but not "controlling". This showed further going down the stretch - such as in the twelfth and final round when both men threw and landed an identical amount of shots (11/41) but you end up with the impression that Jermall had the better of it due to the power and poise. Not by a long shot or wide margin by any means but just edging it out which has consistently happened in this fight. The cards would come in a close UD for Jermall, and likely rightly so. In the post fight interviews we saw something interesting as suddenly during Jermall's interview he looked over in a puzzling manner asking "who is this guy" and got pushed back as an arm flew across and into his chest and a brawl nearly broke out in the ring. Jim Gray said it was his brother Jermell's mandatory challenger Charles Hatley, whom I have no idea who that is. Looks like he didn't know which Charlo he was attacking, not exactly genius.....but in any case Gray was able to bring it all back together and the two fighters showed serious respect for each other with Trout being very graceful in defeat, even though saying he thought he did enough to win but that decisions just never seem to go his way so he is going to look at taking his opponents out now.
Main event time featuring the rematch between Erislandy Lara (22-2-2, 13ko's) vs Vanes Martirosyan (36-2-1, 21ko's). The first round saw both men start from round one, not pick it up at round nine from the previous fight, as they felt out the distance and looked to pick their openings. Vanes did that effectively by landing right hand leads that surprisingly landed flush on the defensive minded Lara who is typically very hard to hit flush. Vanes did not follow up with any shots though which I think is a mistake, especially against a guy like Lara who may be there now but won't be next time. The second round showed the problems from the first fight as they stepped on each other's feet and banged heads a few times. We might see more of these instances than flush punches landed! Lara had a better round than the first as he got his defense on lockdown and was not there to be hit as much. In the third round the fighters surprisingly stood in range and looked to counter off each other. No one really got the upper hand from it but I will say that Vanes put in some great body work - namely left hooks to the body in this round. Coming out for the fourth round Lara showed a hematoma forming on his forehead that could be a problem going down the line but for now does not appear to be affecting him. In fact, he started to show his great defense more by dropping his hands to his waist and slipping shots as he appears to get into more of a rhythm. In the fifth round Vanes got to work by pressing and digging shots to the body. Lara was picking his spots and having success of his own as it is hard to choose between these guys at times. Lara came out in the sixth round and doubled up on an extremely powerful straight left hand that scored both times but the second time Vanes did not expect as it violently snapped his head back. He took control of the round as he kept Vanes thinking about defense both from getting hit and also by flicking a touching jab out from time to time. Vanes was getting upset at Lara's defensive nature as he would at times stop in the middle of the ring and beg Lara to come trade - which we all know is not going to happen. Plus part of the problem of this slow fight is just that their styles do not mesh, with Vanes not really ever showing that he has that sixth gear to kick it into. Lara showed his world class defense taking over in the next couple rounds as he covered up with his heavyweight arm length that covers his body as well as his head, making him extremely hard to hit flush with his lateral movement added to the mix. Martirosya is only having success in small spurts where his arm punching manages to land by luck more than anything else. Martirosyan had a successful tenth round via pressing hard and forcing Lara onto the ropes and into exchanges - exactly what he should have done since the start of the fight! It is an exhaustive pace, but it's the way to beat Lara. Early in the eleventh round Vanes got a point deducted for a low blow that replays would show landed on the belt line, further angering the Armenian and showing that he is not fully mentally focused anymore with things not going his way. The twelfth and final round saw a disgusted Martirosyan press the action and put combinations together. It produced (gasp) success! Exactly why he could beat a fighter like Lara if he had the extra gear that he lacks for his offensive arsenal. Lara would win the semi close but clear UD. Lara would dedicate the win to Gilberto Mendoza Jr. In the post fight.
Imagine the Charlo Brothers Gym - with three world champions coming back home, all in the same weight class.