Jermell Charlo Avenges First Loss With a Dramatic Late KO of Tony Harrison

Jermell Charlo stopped Tony Harrison to become two-time Super Welterweight champion in a rugged rematch on PBC on FOX

ONTARIO, CA (December 21, 2019) — The night finally arrived when this growing rivalry between two fighters could reunite in the ring and sort their differences out the way boxers normally do. For months, WBC Lightweight champion Tony Harrison (28-3, 21 KOs) needed to show his upset last year in Brooklyn was no fluke. Former champion Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs) entered the bout looking to convince Harrison, and the boxing world, that the discrepancy forever etched on his record was simply an aberration. Something didn’t go right 364 days ago.

After Harrison settled into his stance for opening seconds, it briefly appeared that he expected to box and out think his charged up opponent. Charlo immediately set the tenor for the rematch. He shot a looping left hook, which was defended, before moving inside with short flurry. Harrison, now alert, set up behind his guard looking to shoot his jab and possibly take advantage of any early recklessness on Charlo’s behalf.

The emotions settled to close out the first stanza, in round two Charlo jabbed to the body early before unleashing a wild full-on attack with more looping power shots. He finally created the moment of confusion – a rare accomplishment over the pair’s first twelve rounds – to land a left hook that dropped Harrison against the ropes. The fight appeared to be slipping away from the champion in his first defense, but he made it to the bell.

The former champion nearly met Harrison in the Detroit native’s own corner to open the subsequent round. Charlo swung freely as Harrison evaded most of the shots. Harrison marched forward to start the second half of the round and started to land his own shots. He lost his mouthpiece after landing a right hand, referee Jack Reiss bent over to pick it up, and shortly afterwards the action was halted to reinsert it in Harrison’s mouth. Harrison’s straight punches and head-and-body attack helped restore some balance to the fight’s momentum.

With both men having offered up some of their best shots, the two squared off in the center of the ring through most of the fourth round. Each man scored with solid blows. Harrison possibly felt the need to atone for the earlier 10-8 round, and boldly walked towards the bigger puncher in round five. Charlo responded with some body shots early, but most of his head shots landed on the gloves of the champion. The action was back-and-forth over the second half of the round, but Harrison appeared to put his shots together more effectively.

Leather flew freely from both men in round six, as they circled each other continuously ripping shots to both the head and body. The spirit of competition began to visibly test each fighter’s resolve, as the level aggression easily exceeded what played out over the pairing’s first 36 minutes.

Charlo flashed his jab nicely to open the seventh round. His activity early resulted in some solid scoring as Harrison looked to work his way inside. The champion adjusted and went to work behind a pair of 1-2 combinations that book-ended the action of the round’s middle portion. Over the final minute Charlo moved outside as Harrison attempted to find him with some shots to not give away the round in the waning seconds.

The fighters engaged one another in the center of the ring in the eighth round. Charlo’s bursts looked to be more effective over the first half of the round, but Harrison worked in his right hand behind his jab.

The subsequent round was fairly evenly fought. In round 10 Harrison relied heavily on jab for his scoring, as well as to control his opponent. Jermell accepted operating from the outside and rarely gave himself the chance to land the more telling blows.

As the fight entered the championship rounds Harrison seemed confident in his ability to out-score or punch with Charlo. That confidence proved to be costly as it didn’t serve Harrison as well as the memory of a lesson that readied Charlo for the remaining six minutes. While the outcome of the fight may have swayed in favor of Harrison, being unexpectedly dethroned had only been experienced by one of the two men who rose from their stools in round 11. Charlo lived with the discomfort of that experience for the past 12 months, so his finish line was actually before the fight’s final stretch.

So while his earlier attempts to land the punch that could knock Harrison out were equally as futile as his big punches from December 2018, last night Charlo stood across from the same man with an unrelenting sense of urgency. Harrison walked towards him leaning in to throw a sweeping left hook that snapped Charlo’s head. Fractions of a second behind that blow Charlo’s left hook crashed against Harrison’s head, but the champion buckled and staggered backwards. Charlo saw the reaction and sprung forward to unload with a series of left hooks and uppercuts that went unanswered. Reiss slipped in between the fighters as Harrison’s back fell into the bottom rope. As Reiss counted away Charlo headed towards his corner to celebrate with his team, thinking that the contact from the referee signaled an end to the bout.

A commission official quickly entered the ring to direct Charlo down from the ropes so he could continue fighting once, and if, Reiss confirmed Harrison was able to continue. The champion barely sold Reiss he was able to fight on, and as soon as the fight resumed Charlo moved in behind a flurry that forced Harrison into the ropes again. The champion’s guard was up, but not all of Charlo’s fusillade missed its mark and Reiss soon gave in to his duty to protect the seemingly defenseless Harrison.

Harrison immediately objected and stared at Reiss in disbelief, but he soon came to grips with the fact that he finally gave Charlo the opening the former champion could capitalize on and rejoin his twin brother, Middleweight Jermall Charlo, as a WBC champion. The honor of their two-man pride was restored.

Several minutes later after the belt was returned to its previous owner, Harrison stood alone in his own world, still in dismay, as his father oversaw the team’s post-fight house-keeping. No consolation awaited Team Harrison in the judges’ cards of 95-94, 93-96 and 93-96 in favor of the man he defeated nearly a year ago.

Charlo remained poised for bigger attacks late better than in the first fight, and stayed committed to his major objective. More importantly, despite Harrison’s success with his jab, he decided to stand at a range from which he could strike. With the belts back in his possession, Charlo’s brash nature returned.

“Listen, I’m a gentleman at the end of the day. 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.”

Harrison’s frustration with Reiss subsided and he spoke with a sense of accountability.

“Jack is a championship referee. I started getting a little lax and got caught,” Harrison said. “He earned it. I hate it, but he earned it. The game plan was to do a little boxing. But taking a year off, my boxing 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 on one. Back to the drawing board.”

Efe Ajagba vs Iago Kiladze

In the co-main event, Heavyweights Efe Ajagba and Iago Kiladze got off to a respectable start. Ajagba (12-0, 10 KOs) quickly reddened Kiladze’s face, but the 33-year old slugger from the country of Georgia finished the opening round with a big shot of his own.

Kiladze (26-5-1, 18 KOs) forced the issue through the first half of the sejcond round, but Ajagba re-established his long jab and quickly added a snapping 1-2 combination. An Ajagba right hand split the center of Kiladze’s guard and knocked him flat on his back. He beat the count, action resumed and Ajagba resumed his attack until the bell saved the hurt fighter.

Kiladze spent the next 90 seconds of action under duress. Ajagba remained patient and finally cracked Kiladze with a shot that left him wobbly in the center of the ring for a few seconds – referee Thomas Taylor only observed the staggering Kiladze. Ajagba started to walk away, to a neutral corner, until he realized Kiladze wasn’t going to revisit the canvas. In fact, Kiladze waved the Nigerian towards him. Ajagba obliged and moments later a counter right hand from Kiladze dropped Ajagba. The 6-foot 6-inch 25-year old power puncher looked to be badly hurt initially, but he quickly gathered himself, and got up to resume fighting.

Both men opened the fourth round appearing to have new life. Ajagba stalked Kiladze who still appeared to be on weakened legs. Kiladze, now an Angeleno, survived the frame despite Ajagba’s composed steady attack behind his jab.

In the fifth round Kiladze still appeared to not have his legs under him, and Ajagba landed a right hand that sent him to the canvas for a second time. Kiladze landed another big right hand as Ajagba moved in to finish him off. The Nigerian handled the shot better this time around and continued to stalk. Before Kiladze could be completely finished off a member of the California athletic commission climbed onto the apron waving a towel, and Taylor stepped in between the two fighters.

Carlos Balderas vs Rene Tellez Giron

Unbeaten Lightweight prospect Carlos Balderas and Rene Tellez Giron (14-1, 8 KOs) opened the FOX broadcast, and wasted little time getting to know one another in the opening round of their bout. After exchanging heavy shots through the first two rounds at the end of round three Giron pressed forward and dropped Balderas with a left hook that should’ve ended the fight. Balderas stumbled backwards into the corner, after standing up and barely beating the count. This happened as referee Ray Corona asked him whether he was ready to continue. The bell rang without any further action and Balderas found his way to his corner.

The 23-year old 2016 U.S. Olympian battled his way back into the fight in round four where a Giron low blow gave him the chance for revenge, and his follow-up foul resulted in a stop in the action. Balderas took advantage of a few more minutes to gather himself -while receiving a stern warning from Corona for retaliating. Once the action resumed the heavy exchanges ensued once again.

The shorter Giron continued to excel in the inside action, but in the sixth round Balderas returned to his boxing until a short left hook from Giron – a staple of the Mexican’s attack all night – abruptly ended the fight. Balderas again struggled to get to his feet cleanly. He waited until the last second to stand all the way up, but this time Corona hit the count of 10, and across the ring Giron raised his hands upwards in celebration of his shocking upset. The loss dropped Balderas to 9-1 with 8 KOs and the performance will certainly improve the stock of the 20-year old from Queretaro, Mexico.

Photos by Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions

RL Woodson

I'm all over the place, literally. Click on something and I'll explain it all. A Tribe Called Quest fan, Good Will Hunting, HTTR and Michigan athletics... #DLTCYO

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