A deep dive into Jermell Charlo’s two-weight jump to challenge Canelo Alvarez and what history tells us

Undisputed super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo will move up two weight classes to challenge pound-for-pound great Canelo Alvarez for the undisputed super middleweight championship when the two meet at T-Mobile Arena on September 30. 

MORE: Everything you need to know about Canelo vs. Charlo

What Charlo is attempting to accomplish is unprecedented considering an undisputed champion is moving up two weight classes to face another undisputed champion. Should he succeed, he would join Terence Crawford and Claressa Shields as the only fighters in the four-belt era to be undisputed in two weight classes. But he would be the first to accomplish the feat by moving up two weight classes to defeat another undisputed champion. 

Much has been made about Charlo moving up from 154 pounds to 168 pounds after spending the entirety of his career to this point at super welterweight. That’s 15 years and 37 fights in a single weight class. And now he’ll not only face a fighter who is used to competing at 168 pounds, he’ll be facing the best super middleweight in the world in Canelo Alvarez. 

Interestingly enough, Charlo doesn’t look like the smaller fighter. Standing at 5’11,” he’ll have a three-inch height advantage over Canelo. And it has been well known that Charlo cuts a lot of weight to boil himself down to 154. At 154 pounds, Charlo has had distinct advantages in size, durability, and strength. There’s no guarantee those will carry over when he steps into the ring with Canelo.

MORE: Canelo vs. Charlo ticket price information

Historically speaking, how does Charlo’s attempt at greatness stack up with other fighters who have made the climb?

While rare, it’s not unheard of for a fighter to have success moving up two weight classes for a fight. 

In 2003, Roy Jones Jr. famously moved up from light heavyweight (175 pounds) to challenge John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight championship. Jones weighed in at 193 pounds to Ruiz’s 226 and boxed circles around his slow-footed opponent. Michael Spinks accomplished the same feat in 1985 when he pulled up a massive upset by dethroning the previously undefeated heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. Tommy Hearns made the leap from middleweight (160 pounds) to light heavyweight (175 pounds) in 1986 to claim the WBC light heavyweight title by stopping Dennis Andries. In 2008, Manny Pacquiao moved up from lightweight (135 pounds) to welterweight (147) and put a sound beating on Oscar De La Hoya that sent “The Golden Boy” into retirement. Adrien Broner also found success moving from lightweight to welterweight when he squeezed out a split decision over Paulie Malignaggi in 2013.  

As you can see, great fighters have proven that it’s not impossible to accomplish the feat. 

However, the aforementioned names who had success did so against either fading fighters (Holmes and Malignaggi), weight-drained fighters (De La Hoya), or fighters who simply didn’t pose much of a threat (Ruiz and Andries). Charlo won’t have that benefit against Canelo, who is still recognized as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. 

IBF lightweight champion Mikey Garcia challenged Errol Spence Jr. for the IBF welterweight title in 2019 and was soundly beaten by a man who was bigger, stronger, and in his prime. Amir Khan made an attempt to move up from welterweight to middleweight to challenge Canelo and a devastating right hand sent Khan packing. Kell Brook moved up from welterweight to middleweight to challenge Gennadiy Golovokin for the unified middleweight titles and was crushed inside five rounds. 

As you can see, there’s a distinctly different class of fighter who easily turns back the challenge of the boxer attempting to move up two weight divisions. 

Canelo is assumed to fall into the category of a fighter who is a class above the rest and that is the reason why he’s expected to defeat Charlo. But there’s also the distinct possibility that Canelo could be falling into that category of being a faded fighter that Charlo catches at the right place and time. 

Nevertheless, Jermell Charlo making the climb from 154 to 168 pounds against one of the best fighters in the world could be biting off more than he could chew. But should he pull off the feat, he’ll find himself in rarefied air and his greatness will be deemed undeniable. 

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