The undefeated two-division champ successfully retains his WBC World Middleweight title against a game Montiel Saturday night on PBC on SHOWTIME.
Jermall Charlo would walk to the gym every day. He didn’t have a car or much else back then. Though he always carried a vision—being a world champion. So, no one, regardless of who they were or their background, was going to get in his way.
Charlo, the WBC World Middleweight Champion, was expected to run over challenger Juan Montiel in his fourth title defense on Juneteenth in front of a hometown crowd at the Toyota Center in Houston, Charlo’s home.
Charlo did—but Montiel never bent. The courageous Mexican was battered, bruised, bloodied and swollen, though never gave up.
Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs) was dominant, winning a unanimous decision on 118-109, 119-109, 120-108 scorecards to retain the WBC title in a thoroughly entertaining lopsided fight over the gritty Montiel (22-5-2, 22 KOs).
“It took a real warrior to get in with me and (Montiel) fought each and every round as hard as he could,” said Charlo, who threw a career-high 769 punches. “I could tell in his eyes he was a true warrior from the beginning that he wanted to fight. It didn’t matter what I hit with; I love that spirit. He’s going to be great.
“I never got concerned. The best fighters in the world make adjustments. That’s what I did for each and every fan. He put in the work to fight me. One-sixty is my weight division. I want to unify. I want to bring (IBF titlist Gennadiy) Golovkin in the ring. I want to bring him to Houston. I want to get Canelo (Alvarez) to Houston.
“There’s a difference between chasing and a difference between hunting. We’re on the hunt.”
In the opening round, Montiel switched from a conventional stance to southpaw. It didn’t faze Charlo. The champion patiently used his powerful jab to the body to gauge distance. Montiel, meanwhile, appeared to show great deference to the titlist.
Charlo had Montiel questioning every move he made. With 1:20 left in the second, he playfully wound up like he was going to throw a bolo punch and Charlo just stared at him. Firmly in control through four, Charlo unleashed a torrent of trouble on Montiel in the fifth.
It started with a biting right to Vargas’ forehead with 2:31 left in the fifth. Feeling Montiel was in trouble, Charlo unloaded on Montiel, who seemed more concerned with pulling up his trunks than he did punching back.
From there, it seemed a matter of time before Charlo would stop him. He didn’t. Montiel was being urged by his corner between rounds to let his hands go. With 2:24 left in the sixth, Charlo landed a left-right combination to Montiel’s head, staggering him again.
Montiel retreated to the ropes and Charlo was right on top of him. Midway through the sixth, Montiel was trapped in the corner weathering Charlo’s tornado. Montiel deserves credit for staying on his feet and for staying in the fight. Montiel, who had only been once in his career, wobbled back to his corner.
In the eighth, Montiel, fighting right, showed some offensive verve and bounced a left hook and a left uppercut off of Charlo in what was probably the first round the challenger won. Charlo also suffered the first cut of his career after the eighth, on his right eye.
Despite the little success he had fighting conventional, Montiel still opted to fight southpaw. In the ninth, Montiel began showing more life, using the left effectively to the body and with a left uppercut to the head.
Neither Montiel nor Charlo had much on their punches in the 12th round. Charlo wound up connecting on 258/769 total punches (34%) to Montiel’s mere 127/427 (30%) total. And though it was an easy victory for Charlo, it didn’t look easy.
“I needed a fight of this level and I needed this experience and later on I will become a world champion,” Montiel said. “Like all Mexicans, we die on the line. I love it, I have passion and I have what it takes to a world champion. I needed to go down this road.”
Isaac Cruz plows through Francisco Vargas
By the way he fights and the way he’s built, it was a little hard to tell whether or not Isaac “Pit Bull” Cruz was wearing a mask or not before his 10-round lightweight bout against 36-year-old veteran Francisco Vargas.
Cruz (22-1-1, 15 KOs) is relentless the way he bores in, head down, and swings wildly hoping to hit anything within his short punch radius.
For almost the entire 10 rounds, Cruz held up to his nickname, winning an easy unanimous decision by scores of 97-92, 99-90 and 100-89 over Vargas, losing for the first time in three fights as a lightweight.
Vargas, a two-time former super featherweight champion who had surgery around his eyes to prevent cutting, was riding a modest two-fight winning streak and was four inches taller (5-foot-8 to Cruz’s 5-foot-4) and held a 4½-inch reach advantage (68” to 63½”). None of that mattered to Cruz.
The 22-year-old brawler from Mexico City had Vargas (27-3-2, 19 KOs) in trouble in the third, setting up a looping left hook to the side of Vargas’ head with a plowing right. Then stunned Vargas, forcing him to retreat on unsteady legs. Vargas had only been down once in his career, and he had the wherewithal to recover.
Vargas’ experience and guile kept him competitive, though he was clearly being shutout through the first six rounds. Cruz was wild, but he also was inside, without took much room to miss.
But Vargas seemed to wake up somewhat in the sixth, able to offset Cruz’s attack. By the seventh, Cruz had re-established himself. In the last seconds of the eighth, Cruz lunged at Vargas with a left and right pushed forced the older fighter back into the ropes.
With the fight seemingly in Cruz’s hands, referee James Green called a timeout with :30 left in the fight due to a nasty cut on Vargas’ left eyelid caused by Cruz head butt. Green, however, let them fight at the advice of the ringside doctor. Smelling and seeing blood, Cruz pounced on Vargas, knocking him down with :46 left in the fight.
To his credit, Vargas went the distance.
Angelo Leo outlasts Aaron Alameda
Angelo Leo and Aaron Alameda knew what was at stake in their 10-round super bantamweight bout—and it was quite simple: Neither wanted to lose for the second-straight time. It’s awfully powerful motivation and the two showed it.
Leo (21-1, 9 KOs) and Alameda (25-2, 13 KOs) put on a show.
Though it was Leo who came out the winner by a majority decision by judge Randy Russell’s 96-94 scorecard and Eva Zaragoza’s 98-92 tally, which overruled judge Jesse Reyes’ 95-95 ruling.
“I knew it was a close fight. Aaron Alameda is a tough good fighter, he had 25 wins for a reason,” said Leo to the boos of the Houston fans. “I wasn’t surprised. I think I landed more blows. I was the busier fighter. He didn’t throw as much as me. I learned (after the Fulton loss) to move a little more.”
Leo was coming off his first career loss, costing him the WBO title in a unanimous-decision loss to Stephen Fulton in January. Alameda, the fifth southpaw Leo faced in his last nine fights, was also coming off his first career loss, dropping a unanimous decision to Luis Nery for the vacant WBC junior featherweight title back in September.
The lingering problem Alameda (25-1, 13 KOs) could have had was coming in at 123½, which was 1½ pounds over the 122-pound weight limit. Though that didn’t seem to affect him early on, imposing his size and will on Leo in the opening rounds.
In the fourth, Leo began closing the distance and went to the body, but soon after, went back backing up. Leo did well dropping the left hook to Alameda’s body. Leo had Alameda trapped in the corner for a portion of the fifth, and started to reach a comfort zone. But a very visible welt was building under Leo’s right eye.
Leo again looked solid for a third-straight round in the sixth, working three-punch combinations and blunt rights in close.
Maybe sensing the fight slipping from him, Alameda picked up his activity in the seventh, catching Leo at the time he was leaning against the ropes. Alameda ended the round with a right cross after the bell, which the two acknowledged and shook their heads about. It was very conceivable to see the fight even after eight.
As the 10th began, the fight was still undecided. Leo may have decided the fight with a more active last round. Leo closed the 10th with a big left hook to the jaw, and two were still swinging at each other when the bell rang.
“The fans spoke, and they make the best judges,” Alameda said. “I felt like I won tonight. I think people saw it that way too even if the judges didn’t. I’m ready for whatever and whoever comes next.
“Maybe the fact that he was the champion and the favorite coming in played a role (in the outcome), but I felt like I did what was necessary to win that fight and felt really good throughout.
“I threw my punches and came forward while he just went backwards and never made me uncomfortable. I would like to fight for a title. I think that we have proven that I’m ready. I had my shot, and I lost it fair and square, but I want another opportunity now.”
For a closer look at Charlo vs Montiel, check out our fighter page.