Canelo Alvarez, boxing's top star, will defend his undisputed super middleweight championship against Jermell Charlo on Sept. 30 in Las Vegas, both fighters announced Friday.
The revelation was a twist after Alvarez was planning to fight Charlo's twin brother, Jermall Charlo, in the first of a three-fight deal with PBC. But the bigger Charlo, a middleweight titleholder, was unavailable to fight as he continues to deal with personal issues.
So now, Alvarez will meet Jermell Charlo, the undisputed junior middleweight champion. Charlo, 33, has never competed above 154 pounds, while Alvarez has won a title at 175. However, Charlo will own a 4-inch height advantage and 2½-inch reach advantage.
How could the fight play out? What could come next for Canelo? And what might happen to Jermell Charlo's titles now? Mike Coppinger and Ben Baby take a look:
What has kept Jermall Charlo out for two years, and why is three months not enough time to get ready?
Jermall Charlo is an elite boxer and was ESPN's No. 2 middleweight behind Gennadiy Golovkin before he was removed from the rankings for inactivity.
With one of the sport's best power jabs as his chief weapon, Jermall is undefeated, but he hasn't competed since June 2021 when he scored a tougher-than-expected victory over Juan Macias Montiel.
Surprisingly, he has been allowed to keep his WBC title at 160 pounds despite his inactivity, and the fact that the organization has an interim champion, Carlos Adames, who has called for Jermall to face him or be stripped.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said that Jermall has been allowed to keep his title as he addresses his mental health, and according to ESPN Deportes' Salvador Rodriquez, Jermall didn't feel like he would be ready for a fight of this magnitude in the available time frame.
Certainly, fighting an all-time great in less than three months, coming off a layoff of more than two years, is a lot to chew off, especially if Jermall hasn't been training. Perhaps Jermall can still fight Alvarez in the second fight of the PBC deal.
If Alvarez defeats Jermell, there's already a built-in storyline: Jermall looking to exact revenge for his twin brother. And perhaps Jermall can return to the ring and shake off the ring rust with a fight or two in the meantime ahead of a potential May 2024 meeting with Alvarez. -- Coppinger
What chances does Jermell have against Alvarez?
Jermell Charlo is an impressive fighter, and while he isn't undefeated, he has beaten every opponent he has ever faced. Charlo dropped a disputed decision to Tony Harrison in December 2018, but avenged the loss one year later with an 11th-round KO.
Charlo was then held to a draw with Brian Castano in June 2021, but Jermell left no doubt in the May 2022 rematch with a 10th-round KO to capture the undisputed junior middleweight championship.
It speaks volumes about Charlo's ability that he was able to make the proper adjustments in two rematches against quality fighters, but neither Harrison nor Castano approaches the level of Alvarez.
In addition to stepping up several levels in class to fight on the biggest stage for the first time -- and taking on all the pressure that comes with it -- Charlo will also be contending with a fighter in Alvarez who has fought at 160 pounds or higher for his past 13 fights.
Yes, Charlo has the frame to compete at 168 pounds and will have height and reach advantages in the bout, but it often takes boxers several fights to acclimate to a new weight. And Charlo is jumping up two weight classes.
Alvarez, who won his first title at 154 pounds, has competed seven times at 168 and twice at 175. He's among the physically strongest fighters in boxing and is an imposing puncher, too. Will Charlo be able to absorb Alvarez's punches and have the strength to handle him on the inside?
Alvarez has also been far more active. Since Charlo's September 2020 win over Jeison Rosario, he has competed just twice, a pair of bouts with Castano. He was slated to fight Tim Tszyu in January, but withdrew with a broken hand.
Since September 2020, Alvarez has fought seven times. If Jermell Charlo can overcome all of these obstacles, he'll finally receive the pound-for-pound recognition he believes has long eluded him. -- Coppinger
What does this mean for Tim Tszyu, Jermell's mandatory challenger and the WBO interim champion?
Rather than wait around for Charlo to recover from a broken hand that scrapped their planned Jan. 28 fight for the undisputed championship, Tszyu stayed busy.
The Aussie star scored an impressive ninth-round TKO of Harrison in March and blasted out Carlos Ocampo in one round back in June. Turns out Tszyu was especially wise to not sit around and wait for Charlo now that the fight might never happen.
Now that Charlo is jumping two weight classes, it would be a surprise if he returned to 154 pounds. Middleweight, especially if Jermall moves up to super middleweight, seems far more likely to be Jermell's weight class, if not super middleweight if he can defeat Canelo.
So where does that leave Tszyu, the WBO interim junior middleweight titlist and the son of Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu? He told ESPN on Friday that "Canelo should be fighting [David] Benavidez and I should be fighting Charlo. We've both waited two years."
If Charlo vacates his titles, that will give Tszyu an opportunity to take over as the guy in a weight class that's lacking top-flight fighters. Tszyu appears to improve with each outing, and given his exciting pressure style, a matchup with Charlo was highly anticipated.
"[Jermell] had one last fight in him because he was going to lose," Tszyu said. "So he took the one with the bigger pay. He's a businessman."
WBO president Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel told ESPN on Saturday that Charlo could enter "the ring [vs. Alvarez] as the champion, but then right there he is not the champion [at 154] anymore. If we strip Jermell of his title, Tim Tszyu becomes the full champion." -- Coppinger
Will we ever see Alvarez vs. David Benavidez, and why is that the matchup we want to see?
With Alvarez signing a three-fight deal to fight under the Premier Boxing Champions umbrella, this could end up being a legacy-defining run for Alvarez with some wins over massive names like Benavidez.
Benavidez, who holds the WBC interim super middleweight title, has built himself into a position to be a big draw for Alvarez. His combination of size and power also poses a massive risk for Alvarez and makes him arguably the best opponent Alvarez could face in the 168-pound division.
Let's also not forget that a potential showdown between Errol Spence Jr. and Alvarez has long been floated by Spence, the welterweight unified champion, with the idea of that matchup taking place inside AT&T Stadium in Texas. That's where Alvarez set the indoor attendance record in North America with his 2021 win over Billy Joe Saunders. Spence, who is from the Dallas area, has also sold well at the home of the Cowboys.
That would be a massive fight. But for boxing purists, Alvarez-Benavidez might be one of the biggest. And for a man like Alvarez, who is passionate about enhancing his legacy, logic indicates that it's a matchup Alvarez wants before he retires. -- Baby