Jermall Charlo frequently walked into the gym with a scowl on his face. He wasn’t there to socialize or have a good time with friends, no matter how many of them had come to see him that day. He wasn’t all that concerned with who else was there or who wasn’t, and he wasn’t there to be anybody’s sparring partner, though he knew that part of being one of Ronnie Shields’ Plex fighters is that his duties might include that sometimes, too.
Charlo was there to work. He was there to become champion of the world.
“I’ve always been that way,” Charlo told Bleacher Report. “It’s the only thing I know.”
Some fighters are just plain lazy. It might not show all the time, but many professional boxers, even those you might not suspect of it because of their lean, muscular frames, take days off.
I’m not talking about planned rest days, something Charlo’s strength and conditioning coach, Danny Arnold, who owns the Plex facility where Charlo and his stablemates train, says rest and recuperation are just as important as the rest of the activities on a fighter’s schedule.
A fighter isn’t taking a day off just because he’s taking a day off, not if it’s planned by his team. That’s still work.
I’m talking about days when a fighter shows up to the gym and just plain doesn’t try. It happens all the time. No matter which boxing gym you go to or what part of the country it’s in or who else is there, everyone has days they just want to blow off.
Well, everyone but Charlo.
“The harder I work, the better chance I have going into the fight. I just try to do the best I can.”
That last part is the trick. What kind of world might we all live in if everyone always did the best they could? Perhaps that’s too philosophical a question for sports writing. But apply that same concept to your favorite fighter or favorite sports team. What would the result be?
I know what you’re thinking: Every athlete says the same thing Charlo said.
Look, I’m not a full-time boxing writer. As far as I know, there are just a handful of them out there and those jobs are all taken. But while I’m not ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael or Yahoo’s Kevin Iole, I have been in a fair number of boxing gyms in my life, and I’ve seen a pretty robust number of professional fighters, too.
I’ve seen champions, contenders, amateurs and even guys who just go to the gym to fight, and here’s what I’m telling you: I’ve never seen anyone work harder day-in and day-out than Charlo.
“I try not to let anyone outwork me in the ring or in the gym. I’ve very competitive.”
He really is.
Charlo is that annoying guy at work who is always on top of his game. He’s there early getting stuff done while you’re still in bed, and he’s there late when you’re at home eating Doritos and watching TV. He’s the one who doesn’t have an off switch, the one who excels at what he does through equal parts vigor and willpower, the one who doesn’t seem to need sleep.
He’s just that competitive.
It’s never more apparent than we he’s with his twin brother, Jermell. Older by one minute, Jermall didn’t start his professional career until 2008, one year after Jermell. By the end of it, Jermall had only two fights under his belt, whereas Jermell had five.
I first encountered the Charlos in 2012 while interviewing the brothers for a story at The Boxing Tribune, and Jermall still hadn’t caught up. While Jermell was already promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, Jermall was still waiting for someone to give him an opportunity.
Eventually, it happened. Both Charlos ended up being managed by powerbroker Al Haymon, and both left Golden Boy Promotions when Haymon created his Premier Boxing Champions series.
Still, Jermall lagged behind his brother. There’s no shame in that. Jermell is one of the top junior middleweights in the world. But can you imagine someone who looks just like you is always just a little bit ahead of you, too? Ugh.
Back when they trained alongside each other at Plex (Jermell departed in August to train in Dallas), the two would good-heartedly prod each other about who made more money, who was closer to getting a world title shot, etc.
Charlo called this “pushing each other.”
But after several title opportunities fell through for both fighters, something that had many wondering if the Charlo brothers were cursed, it was suddenly Jermall who would have first crack at it. Can you imagine the trash talk the two must have lobbed at each other then?
“Growing up, we were always competitive with each other, wanting to be first and wanting to be the best at stuff. I guess that’s just our nature. And at the same time, we’re both very hard to beat because we are so very similar to each other.”
Charlo said the two are equal parts supportive and competitive. Yes, they egg each other on about who can do what better, but they’re also always in each other’s corner, in boxing and in life.
So when Jermall finally caught up to his brother and passed him by way of capturing the IBF junior middleweight world title in September, you can imagine how all that went.
“We joked about it. We laughed about it. We both want a belt at the same time, so it pushes both of us.”
Jermall defends his title against once-beaten Wilky Campfort on Saturday in Dallas. The fight will be televised live on the next PBC on NBC card, this Saturday afternoon, November 28 beginning at 3 p.m. ET. It's something he’s virtually been preparing for since he clobbered Cornelius Bundrage in Round 3 for his title. Charlo was right back in the gym that very next week with no fight signed and no idea when he might be back in the ring.
I mean, who does that?
But here’s the thing that strikes me the most. Even after winning his title, securing fame and fortune and all that comes with such lofty and celebrated achievements, nothing has really changed all that much. Charlo still walks into the gym every day with a scowl on his face.
“I still have to work to do,” said Charlo as we finished up our call. I couldn’t quite see him, but I’m certain he was scowling at me.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and info was collected firsthand.