Jermell Charlo leans on motivation from sibling rivalry with brother Jermall in path to top at 154 pounds

If his blazing combination of speed and power inside the ring aren’t enough to get your attention, it’s a good bet hearing Jermell Charlo on the microphone at any given point will do the trick. 

Charlo has an amazing ability of showing the full gamut of his personality, all at the exact same time (and typically at full volume). Whether you come away thinking the WBC junior middleweight champion is anything from humble to abrasive, ultra competitive or over emotional, you’re probably right. 

Charlo, like his twin brother, unbeaten WBC middleweight champion Jermall, is as authentic in his public persona to his true self as any athlete in sports, which has gone a long way in both brothers being perched on the verge of stardom entering Saturday’s unique pay-per-view card from the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut (Order on Showtime PPV, 7 p.m. ET). 

Undeniably, it’s the passion that Jermell Charlo so regularly exhibits when talking about his career, his family or his growing #LionsOnly brand that has played a big part in the attention he has received. And that passion is inevitably rooted within a sibling rivalry that very much exists to this day and remains a steady source of fuel entering this PPV headlining debut for both. 

Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs) may be facing off against WBA and IBF champion Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KOs) in a fight that awards the winner control of the junior middleweight division by holding three of four recognized titles. But it wouldn’t be wrong to add in that Charlo is competing just as much with his older brother of one minute on this night from the standpoint of stealing the show. 

That’s how it has always been with the 30-year-old brothers from Houston and that’s likely how it always will be. 

“Always having that one-minute tag and always knowing that my brother was one minute older than me, it always made life much more competitive,” Jermell Charlo said during Showtime’s “The Journey: Charlo Doubleheader” documentary. “I have to work because I know my roots and know what I have to do to get here.

“It’s important for the world to know that there was a 154 champion and a 160 champion. They both didn’t have the same styles, neither do we have the same attitudes.”

If Charlo has ever outgrown dealing with comparisons to his brother (or the fact that Jermall was, initially, considered the much brighter prospect by prospective promoters), he has yet to show that publicly. For as much as the Charlo twins support and work hard to help each other improve, the fight for singular recognition remains a fierce one. 

The Charlos co-headlined a PBC on Fox card in December 2018 and needed to flip a coin in order to decide which brother went on last. The outspoken rivalry between them was a major reason Showtime decided upon giving both a headlining role in their own three-fight card on the same broadcast, separated only by a 30-minute intermission. 

“I just want to be remembered as one of the toughest champions with his own attitude. It’s me. I’m one of a kind even though I am a twin,” Charlo said. “The way I felt like taking over the sport is becoming the undisputed champion. It’s about me building my legacy right now. I made history for the Charlo twins, I made history for us.”

Part of Charlo’s separate growth was his 2017 decision to leave original trainer Ronnie Shields, who still trains Jermall entering Saturday’s middleweight title defense against Sergiy Derevyanchenko, to join forces with Derrick James. The same year, Jermall vacated his IBF junior middleweight title and officially moved up to campaign at middleweight.

The new partnership with James has worked great for Charlo, who trains alongside unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., although it took a surprising loss to Tony Harrison nearly two years ago for Charlo to take a huge step forward professionally. 

“You have to own certain aspects of the fight that maybe you could’ve made better,” James said. “It made him hungrier, it made him understand that they will take it from you if you don’t go out there and prove your point.”

Harrison’s unanimous decision stunned the many observers who scored it comfortably for Charlo as the bigger puncher. But the anger from the loss produced a new resolve within Charlo and led to him stopping Harrison in December to regain his title in emphatic fashion.

“After I lost in 2018, I told everyone that it just gave me jet fuel, and that when I come back, I’m coming back full throttle,” Charlo said. “That’s what I’m about. I have nothing to lose. I’m not letting him take anything from me.

“I believe that I won that fight. I went through a bad Christmas that year. I was Mr. Scrooge so Mr. Scrooge had to change his life. Just loving myself a lot more and me being me, that’s what pushed me. I’m even more dangerous than I was before. I’m an old school fighter right here. I’ve been dedicated to this game and I’m not going anywhere. Stay out of my way, because I’m the man trucking things.”

Charlo used the pandemic to invest in himself by building a gym in his home. Although he respects what Rosario brings to the table as a hard-hitting champion who upset Julian Williams in January via knockout, Charlo is more focused on himself and his family. 

“When you think of a lion, you think of family and vicious animals. You have to fight for it,” Charlo said. “We took the road when we was younger and made it out. From where I’m from, not many kids make it out.

“Rosario, he is just one man and I am just one man. If you are better than me, beat me. You may think it’s just that easy, it ain’t that easy. I want all the belts and right now, I feel like I’m the king of the division.”

While the title of king of the 154-pound division is certainly at stake this weekend for Charlo, one has to wonder how much being considered the top lion in his own family remains a large part of the reason he is this dialed in ahead of the biggest fight of his pro career.  

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