Let’s do some role playing for a minute. No, not that kind, weirdo. Take off the executioner mask and put the cakemixer down.
Let’s pretend you run a boxing promotional outfit and you’re using the first card of a new multi-year bajillion dollar deal with national television networks to showcase two extremely marketable twin brothers on the cusp of stardom. Given the stakes, and short of a Great White style pyrotechnic miscalculation that burns the entire building down, what would be your worst case scenario for an outcome?
Both guys lose? Yep, that’s bad. Both guys lose by brutal knockout? Even worse. However, one guy losing a decision he should’ve won while the other gets a nod he may not have deserved in two underwhelming fights marred by scoring controversies wouldn’t be too far behind.
That’s the situation the good folks at PBC found themselves in last night.
Jermell Charlo (31-1, 15 KO) is the younger of the Charlo twins by sixty seconds and generally perceived as the boxer while his older brother Jermall gets labeled the puncher. When Jermell stepped into the ring against Detroit native and Kronk Gym alum Tony Harrison (28-2, 21 KO) at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn on Saturday, it was largely as the A side of a showcase bout for the younger Charlo. The only problem with that storyline was that someone forgot to tell Tony Harrison.
Harrison, a seven year pro with a solid if unspectacular record, was brought in to do what all B sides do and that’s go rounds and make the star fighter look good while offering just enough pushback not to be labeled a light touch. It’s a tricky dance and Harrison only got two of three right. Depending on how you saw Charlo’s performance he may have only nailed the first part.
Over 12 fast-paced yet somewhat prosaic rounds, Charlo worked behind a rapid jab while Harrison was able to time his counter right hands and land at a higher percentage. Punch stats are an unreliable narrator but it’s worth noting that Charlo threw 171 more punches (548 to 377) and landed 32 more (160 to 128) and generally that type of work rate is enough to tell you who’s pressing the action and, well, winning.
After a dominant 12th in which Charlo more than tripled Harrison’s connect rate the decision felt more or less academic. Charlo had done enough to earn a close but clear decision.
Apparently we all forgot that this was boxing though and any time a decision is read you might as well just tuck your pants into your socks, make the sign of the cross and offer a blood sacrifice to the expired gods of the old world. It does just about as much good as attempting to figure out what the official judges are thinking.
When the cards were read in Harrison’s favor (116-112, 115-113 and 115-113) that familiar audible gasp followed by stunned silence fell over the arena. The nice thing about it happening so often these days is that it makes it easier to get over when it does. I realize I sound like a domestic abuse victim and that’s not entirely by accident. This kind of shit gets old and it wears you down to the point where you have to make up excuses for this sport’s continued assault on our desire to enjoy it.
“I’m sure the judges just had a rough night” starts to sound an awful lot like “You don’t know him the way I do” after a while.
Regardless of whether you thought Charlo deserved the decision –and if you didn’t I hope you’re enjoying all the food you’re ripping from the mouths of your ophthalmologist’s children– it’s hard to argue that the fight itself lacked the type of star-making performance the PBC brass were hoping for. A solid fight isn’t a bad thing but getting sparklers when you were expecting M-80s can really fuck up your Fourth of July.
Jermell will be back, most likely in a rematch with Tony Harrison, but some damage control is in order. However justified, the fragrance of sympathy eventually turns to a stench and Charlo will have to find a way to mask it.
In the main event the elder Charlo, Jermall (28-0, 21 KO) took on late sub Matt Korobov (28-2, 14 KO) who stepped in for Willie Monroe Jr. who did what you would expect anyone with 1974-undercover-cop-who-forgot-what-side-of-the-law-he-was-on-ass name like Willie Monroe Jr. to do and failed a drug test.
Korobov, most well known for winning multiple Tomasz Adamek lookalike contests, was coming off a lengthy layoff and hadn’t been past ten rounds in over four years. Long stretches of inactivity and being 35 years old can have a huge affect on one’s stamina, timing and sex drive….trust me (insert frowning emoji). From the opening bell, however, it was clear Korobov had not spent the past couple years drinking vodka, eating borscht and I’m already out of Russian cultural references.
His southpaw stance and deceptively fast hands kept Charlo guessing for much of the opening rounds. As Jermall attempted to find the proper rhythm to land his straight right, Korobov was able to counter with left hooks on the inside and rack up more rounds than Charlo was probably comfortable with. Without the usual amount of clinching and toe-stepping as most southpaw versus orthodox fights, the pace seemed to be working in the excellently conditioned Korobov’s favor.
Again, punch stats are your drunken uncle recounting his adolescent sexual exploits and never quite tell the whole story, but in sticking with this flimsy-at-best analogy, a pregnancy scare or a documented abortion really goes a long way towards backing up his claims. In summation, punch stats are a lot like a terminated fetus….
Hold on, I think I need to take a break and lie down for a bit.
Ok, I’m back. Sorry about that.
While Charlo managed to throw nearly 200 more punches (654 to 457) over half of those were jabs (56 landed out of 340 thrown) and it was Korobov doing a bit more damage with over three quarters of his punch output being power shots (119 landed out of 351 thrown).
Charlo was burdened with not only having to impress in his fight but also make up for the disappointment of the decision in his brother’s fight, which was announced just minutes before he stepped in the ring. An impressive knockout would go a long way toward salvaging the Charlo brothers’, ahem brand, and in the 12th round it almost came.
As his trainer Ronnie Shields admonished him to step it up for the final stanza, Charlo came out with an urgency not seen in the previous 11. It was as if he finally realized “Wait, this card has been an absolute fucking calamity and maybe I should fix that.” A monster left hook early in the round did just that and a straight right moments later all but finished Korobov off. As Charlo went in for the kill with all the time in the world, Korobov held on and weathered the storm. The moment passed, the final bell rang and the anticipation of a make-up call was in the air.
When the first card was read, Larry Hazard Jr’s inexplicably disastrous 119-108, it was clear that fuckery had not subsided. The ensuing 116-112 cards read in Charlo’s favor did little to assuage the feeling of incompetency bordering on corruption that had engulfed the arena since the previous fight.
The right guy won, though just barely and not impressively, so the damage was slightly mitigated but the sport of boxing proved, as it always seems to, that on its biggest stages and with the stakes the highest, it will always find a way to eat its young. The propensity for self sabotage runs through the sport like a poisoned bloodline, genetically predisposed to nearly pornographic levels of self flagellation.
At the end of the day (trademark, Floyd Mayweather) Tony Harrison and Matt Korobov were not just walkovers and both set themselves up for future paydays. That’s a good thing. The Charlo brothers underwhelmed but both performed admirably. They will be back. That’s also a good thing.
But boxing itself stepped on another rake and took one to the nuts. I would be shocked if it made any new fans to balance the mutiny of casual fans continuing to jump ship. There’s simply too much money exchanging hands though and too many jobs at stake so boxing too will be back.
Sometimes I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.
- Let’s talk about that 119-108 scorecard for a second. That’s nearly mathematically impossible. That’s either 11-1 in rounds with a 10-8 round for Charlo or a shutout for Charlo with a random point deducted because why the hell not. Both are equally insane and worthy of long term if not permanent suspension. Ghastly.
- Joe Goossen had about as good of a debut on the mic as you can have. The bar is admittedly low, especially for the PBC, but he’s a welcome addition to any broadcast in my book.
- Christmas is in a few days. Someone buy Dominic Breazeale a bra. Tis the season for proper bro tit maintenance.