By Jason Gonzalez at ringside
Identical twin brothers Jermall and Jermell Charlo closed out the 2018 New York boxing calendar in the worst way possible.
Middleweight Jermall was successful in defending his WBC interim title, however, he ate left hand after left hand against late replacement Matt Korobov.
And in a shocking upset, junior middleweight Jermell lost a controversial decision to Tony Harrison.
Jermell appeared to have cruised to a workman-like eight rounds to four victory [116-112], but instead the decision went the opposite way, resulting in the younger Charlo twin losing his WBC title.
The judges scored it 116-112, and 115-113 twice for Harrison. Boos cascaded throughout the entire venue when the scores were announced.
Older brother Jermall, (by one minute) entered the ring a short time after watching his brother lose for the first time in his career. Trainer Ronnie Shields stated that he had to encourage his charge to remain focused on the task at hand. Jermall started off slow but picked up the pace as the fight wore on to win a unanimous decision over Korobov.
Scores were 119-108, and 116-112 twice.
"I felt like Jermell made his fight harder than it was," Jermall said. "I had a really tough opponent, but he wasn’t better than me. There was a lot on my mind in the ring."
With the victory, Jermall, 28, (28-0, 21 KOs) maintained his status as the mandatory for the unified middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. He was supposed to fight Willie Monroe Jr., but Monroe was scratched off the card five days prior to the contest due to testing positive for a banned substance in a random drug test, and was then replaced by Korobov, who was scheduled to fight an eight-round bout on the undercard.
Most viewed Korobov, 35, a physically strong 2008 Russian Olympian, as a better opponent than Monroe. Korobov, a southpaw, marched forward and landed many straight left hands in the early going as Jermall struggled to consistently land his own punches. He attempted to get inside by doubling his jab before firing his straight right. He landed some flush shots, but Russian native Korobov, now 28-2, (14) answered back with shots of his own.
As Jermall warmed up, he appeared more confident and landed the more telling blows by forcing Korobov to back up. He closed the 12th round strongly by hurting Korobov with a left hook and stunned him again moments later with a straight right hand-followed by more hard blows to the head.
"I used everything that happened tonight as motivation in the 12th round," Jermall said, referring to his brother’s defeat. "I haven’t been that far in a fight in a couple of years. It felt good to be in there, get hit and bang with someone. He was an experienced guy who will make me better."
This was Korobov’s second crack at a title. In 2014, Korobov suffered a one-punch knockout loss in the sixth round of a vacant world title fight against Andy Lee. Korobov was easily winning that contest.
"I thought that I won the fight. It was definitely a fight that could have gone either way, but I believe the people know that I won," Korobov said. "I’m the most avoided fighter in boxing, and I showed why tonight. I hope this performance will get me another title fight."
What’s next for Jermall?
"I had fun in there with an opponent like that," he replied. "I got the win, and that’s the main thing. I still feel I’m the best in the world. I just need to prove it to the rest of the world."
As for Jermell, his loss derailed a world title unification fight with two-belt titleholder Jarrett Hurd, who was ringside. That fight was expected to take place in mid-2019.
"They took that fight from me," he said. "I was pressing the action. He didn’t win that fight. I’m going to get my belt back.I know my brother knows I won that fight. I might have given away a few rounds, but I won that fight."
The fight was largely a tactical one. Jermell was the aggressor, jabbed effectively and landed many right hands. However, it was Harrison’s counterpunching that got the attention of judges Julie Lederman, Robin Taylor, and Ron McNair.
"I dictated the pace. That’s what champions do," Harrison said, now 28-2, (21). "He wound up for big shots and I kept my defense tight. All we worked on was defense. I kept my composure and I did what champions do."
In the 12th round, Jermell (31-1, 15 KOs) rocked Harrison with a left hook along the ropes and then landed an overhand right that forced him to hold on. Jermell closed the fight with perhaps his best round of the fight.
But whatever the crowd thought, it was still a huge win for Harrison [probably the upset of the year], who had been previously knocked out in both of his losses, including in the ninth round of a vacant title fight against Hurd in February of last year.
"I got back to my corner after every round. They told me to just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re dictating the pace, " Harrison said. "That’s what champions do. Champions don’t just try to knock people out."
In the post-fight press conference, Jermell expressed that there was a rematch clause and that he was going to exercise it in four months.
Harrison said he was open to a sequel if that is what Jermell wants.
"Jermell -- you gave me a shot. I’ll give you a rematch," he said in the ring.
In the opening bout of the tripleheader, heavyweight contender Dominic Breazeale scored a one-punch knockout of Carlos Negron [20-2, (16)] in the ninth round to maintain his status as the mandatory challenger to Deontay Wilder, who happened to be in attendance as well.
"I’m next in line for Deontay Wilder," Breazeale said. "I’m coming for him. I’ve been waiting for him and I did what I had to do. I’m ready for him now.”
Breazeale returned to the squared circle for the first time in 13 months. Breazeale was in control of the bout for the most part prior to the stoppage.
In the ninth round, Breazeale, 20-1, (18), connected with a right hand. Negron fell awkwardly down to his knees, prompting referee Arthur Mercante to call the fight at the 1 minute, 37 seconds.
"I was setting up that right hand all night," Breazeale said. "Since the third round I noticed he dropped his left hand when he took a step to the left, and that’s what I got him with. I landed the big shot. I knew the big shot was coming."
Breazeale was victorious for the second time in a row since being stopped by the unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua almost three years ago.