It was always a matter of time before Jermall Charlo abandoned the 154-pound division in favor of a middleweight run.
That time has now arrived.
On the heels of confirmation that Tony Harrison and Jarrett Hurd would be vying for the super welterweight previously held by Charlo came the official word of the unbeaten Houston product abandoning his crown and the division altogether. The 6'0" boxer - whose twin brother Jermell remains a beltholder at 154-pounds and defends versus Charles Hatley on March 11 - put off the inevitable long enough, but will now embark on a middleweight campaign in pursuit of a second world title.
"I've been thinking about moving to 160 pounds for a while now,'' Charlo (25-0, 19KOs) said in a statement released through the press office of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC). "It was a struggle for me to make the weight for the last title fight. Once I captured the title I defended it immediately, because I wasn't sure how long I could hold the weight."
Charlo held the belt long enough to lodge three successful title defenses following a knockout win over Cornelius Bundrage in their Sept. '15 NBC-televised title fight. His first defense also aired live on a Saturday matinee edition of PBC on NBC, forcing Wilky Campfort to quit via injury inside of four rounds.
The two-win 2016 campaign didn't boast the rate of activity that Charlo would have preferred, but his quality of victories still managed to land an honorable mention in the Fighter of the Year race. The 26-year old edged out former 154 lb. titlist Austin Trout last May, then returned in a savage way with a highlight reel 5th round knockout of previously unbeaten Julian 'J-Rock' Williams last December.
Whereas most titlists will attempt to stick around at least for a unification bout, such was not a realistic option for Charlo. Two of the division's titleholders are his twin brother Jermell and Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara, the latter whom trains with Charlo under the careful watch of Ronnie Shields. The only other option would have been Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, whom - in addition to his being tied up with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in their catchweight money grab later this May - is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, which presently isn't in the business of handing over its clients to top Haymon boxers given the checkered past between the two sides.
With that came the belief that he'd maxed out his earning potential at this weight.
"I held it an extra year to fight Austin Trout and Julian Williams." Charlo insists. "I feel there are bigger and better things for me at 160 where I can still hold my weight and be stronger. The idea of being a two-time world champion is a big goal for me.
"If there were a big fight at 154 pounds left for me, I'd stick around and wait for it. But there isn't anything there that can be made quickly. And I wouldn't fight my brother or my gym mate and close friend, Erislandy Lara.''
Charlo's team is fully on board with the move up in weight.
"It's a move that has to be made,'' said Shields. "He was definitely having trouble making that weight. No sense in holding himself down in making that weight. Going up to 160 pounds is a must. I think he does well there. He's big enough to handle the weight. It's not like we have to do anything special to compete at 160 pounds. That's basically what he is - a middleweight.''
As for the concern that he won't enjoy the same level of success at the new weight, the always-ready boxer-puncher has already begun the process of getting acclimated to life six pounds north.
"I've been training for a couple weeks now. It's like a mini-camp. I've been shaking out,'' Charlo said. "We're looking at May to be completely ready. I'm a big athlete already. I'm just looking forward to taking my superstar status and competing with the big boys up there.''