Miami Heat’s Victor Oladipo Battles A Familiar Foe: Adversity

Miami Heat’s Victor Oladipo Battles A Familiar Foe: Adversity

Participants in a recent Pivot Podcast were Fred Taylor, Ryan Clark, Victor Oladipo and Channing Crowder. (Courtesy of Swanson Communications)

By Lem Satterfield

Victor Oladipo and the Miami Heat face a tough challenge entering Game 5 of Wednesday’s Eastern Conference Finals at the Boston Celtics’ TD Garden. The best-of-seven series is tied 2-2, with Boston having the momentum after winning Monday night by 20 points.

It’s not as if the Silver Spring, Md., native hasn’t faced adversity before.

The 6-foot-4 guard described his journey during a recent edition of the Pivot Podcast. The wide-ranging interview was hosted by former NFL players Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor. Overcoming serious injuries was among the topics discussed with Oladipo, a 2013 alumnus of Indiana University.

Oladipo ruptured his right quadriceps tendon in January 2019 while playing with the Indian Pacers. He endured a second surgery on the quad last year but has returned to play a key role in the Heat’s pursuit of an NBA championship, which would be the team’s first since 2013.

“It tests you mentally, physically and emotionally. It makes you go through a whirlwind of emotions,” Oladipo said of the effort to recover from the quad injuries.  “Literally you start thinking about if you’re good enough and if you should keep playing. I was sitting in a dark room, and I just broke down, in tears. I didn’t know where to go.”

At 30, Oladipo said overcoming such adversity helped him realize who was really backing him.

“It’s made me stronger in ways that I probably wouldn’t have been as strong if it didn’t happen the way it happened,” he said.

While Boston won the latest game in the series handily, the Heat’s two-time NBA All-star refuses to give in.

“I’ve come back from everything you can imagine. Why do I have to wait longer?” Olapido said. “There’s a certain level that I’m trying to get to. I have to understand that that’s not my role on this team. I have to understand that I have to be a star in this role that I’m in. To be honest with you, do I want more?”

“Of course, who doesn’t want more? Right now, in this junction, I have to be the best version of myself that this team needs,” he said “They need that version. Regardless of whatever my role is or what they ask of me, they need whatever it is they’re asking for. I have to embrace that.”

Oladipo has a positive outlook on the series, regardless of the Heat’s perceived underdog status.

“We know it’s not going to be easy. We knew it wouldn’t be easy no matter who we play. We know it’s going to be a fight, but we’re all about the fight,” he said. “We’re going to fight regardless, no matter what day it is or what time it is. … I’m sure Boston is similar. We’re looking forward to it.”

Oladipo said both the Heat and Celtics were “great defensive teams, with a bunch of guys who can guard multiple positions and also put it on the floor.

”It’s going to be fun,” he said of the rest of the series with the Celtics.

“I just want to make people remember. Some of them forgot, and it’s okay because it comes with the territory,” Oladipo added. “But I don’t plan on going anywhere but up. I’m just going to keep grinding.”

Edited by Richard Pretorius and Matthew B. Hall

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Buffalo Shooting Underscores The Human Cost Of Hatred

Buffalo Shooting Underscores The Human Cost Of Hatred

Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York was the site of a fatal mass shooting on May 14, 2022. (Creative Commons image)

By Hamil R. Harris

The fatal mass shooting inside a Buffalo, New York, grocery store on May 14 has shaken the faith of national political leaders by echoing a tragic and familiar refrain across the country — another mass shooting that appears motivated by race and hate.

Payton Gendron, 18, traveled 200 miles from his home in Conklin, New York, to Buffalo, where he strapped on body armor, walked into the Tops Friendly Market and shot 13 people in the store. He streamed the attack online before the police subdued him. Eleven people shot were Black, while two were White — 10 of the victims died.

Federal authorities found a racist 180-page document written by Gendron, who said the assault was intended to terrorize all non-White, non-Christian people to persuade them to leave the United States.

A Washington Post analysis of more than 600 messages found that Gendron had planned to target the Tops grocery store since February, because its customer base is mainly Black.

“The American experiment in democracy is in danger like it hasn’t been in my lifetime,” said President Joe Biden in a Buffalo speech May 17. “It’s in danger this hour. Hate and fear are being given too much oxygen by those who pretend to love America but who don’t understand America.”

Biden went on to say, “In America, evil will not win, I promise you. Hate will not prevail. White supremacy will not have the last word.”

Part of the crowd that gathered May 17 at the Delavan Grider Community Center in Buffalo to grieve with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and President Joe Biden over the grocery-store shooting in that city. (Mike Groll/Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul)

Law-enforcement officials said that New York State police troopers were called to Gendron’s high school last June for a report that the-then-17-year-old had made threatening statements.

From President Biden to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, political officials have offered many words in the wake of a shooting that has stoked fear and worry across the country, while law enforcement searches for answers.

The Sunday morning after the incident, Hochul spoke at True Bethel Baptist Church in Buffalo, where she said: “Our hearts are broken, and I’m going to say one thing: Lord, forgive the anger in my heart right now.

“Forgive me, Lord. I know it doesn’t belong there, Lord,” Hochul said. “I was raised to love and respect and care. Well, to hear these stories and the pain that’s out there in a community that I love so well — I’m angry.”

The governor went on to quote Psalm 34: “’The Lord is near the broken-hearted and saves the crushed of spirit.’ Well, Lord, I know you’re here because we are so broken-hearted, and we are crushed in spirit at this moment. But this is temporary because with your love, Lord, we will rise up, and our crushed spirits will rise again.”

Gov. Hochul also took practical steps. On May 20, she issued two executive orders.

The first Executive Order is designed to fight the surge in domestic terrorism and violent extremism frequently inspired by social media platforms and internet forums. The Executive Order calls on the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to establish a new unit, dedicated solely to the prevention of domestic terrorism, within the Division’s Office of Counterterrorism.

The second calls on New York State Police to establish a dedicated unit within the New York State Intelligence Center (NYSIC) to track domestic violent extremism through social media. The second Executive Order will require State Police to file for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) under New York State’s Red Flag Law whenever they have probable cause to believe an individual is a threat to themselves or others.

In addition, Hochul is proposing legislation to close “Other Gun” loopholes by revising and widening the definition of a firearm to get dangerous guns off the street.

While she offered political remedies, spiritual leaders also made pleas to end violence.

Bishop Vashti McKenzie, the interim president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said in a statement: “Our communities have not healed from the onslaught of violence from past White supremacist attacks and now the scabs have been ripped off to bleed again.”

McKenzie stood with President Obama and other bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church after the young white supremacist Dylann Roof walked into Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 and opened fire, killing nine people during a midweek Bible study.

“This racial violence has to stop,” McKenzie said. “We must all increase our efforts to bring racism to an end. That will not happen by only making ceremonial or performative gestures that don’t get to the root causes of the problems. We have to do the deeper work. This is especially true for Christians.”

The Rev. Eric Manning, pastor of Mother Emanuel AME, said in a statement that he and members of his congregation could empathize with the suffering from the May 14 shooting in Buffalo.

“We can relate to your hurt, pain and anger,” Pastor Manning said. “The congregation of Mother Emanuel was in the same place almost seven years ago.”

A memorial to the victims of another grocery store mass shooting, this one in Boulder, Colorado, in March 2021. (gotojbb/Flickr) 

On May 17, New York City Mayor Eric Adams joined faith leaders who came to a Harlem vigil for the 10 victims of the racially fueled mass shooting.

During the vigil at Bethel Gospel Assembly Church, Adams placed one of the 10 pink roses on a table. But he also referred to a shooting closer to home — race and hate are not the only reasons why people of color are being killed.

“You are no less demonic,” said Adams to the drive-by shooter who killed an 11-year-old girl in the Bronx. Adams had just visited her parents, and he drew parallels between the Buffalo shooting and New York City gun violence.

Many communities around the country are hosting vigils for racial healing after the Buffalo shooting. In Rockville, Maryland, people from Jewish, Asian, Hispanic and other groups targeted by white supremacists were to gather for a vigil at the Rockville Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“As a family of faith, we pray for healing for all who have been affected,” the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America said in a statement on May 19. “But as much as our prayers go up and our hearts go out to those who have been devastated by this horrific event, we cannot stop there.

“We denounce this mindless and premeditated act of hatred and violence. We call on all people of goodwill to use their voices and platforms to denounce hatred and racism in all of its forms. May we use this evil intention as a catalyst to propel us to action and demonstrate that love is stronger than hatred.”

Senior contributor Hamil Harris is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and has been a lecturer at Morgan State University. Harris is minister at the Glenarden Church of Christ and a police chaplain. He was a longtime reporter for The Washington Post.

Produced in association with Religion Unplugged.

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Hyundai Motors Into NFTs

Hyundai Motors Into NFTs

Hyundai Motor Co. is issuing 30 limited editions Meta Kongz NFTs as the Korean automaker enters the online community-based non-fungible token (NFT) market. (Courtesy of Hyundai)

By Jonathan Hobbs

Korea’s largest automaker, Hyundai, announced that it is entering the online community-based non-fungible token (NFT) market, becoming the first automaker to do so.

Hyundai said in a press release that it is collaborating with Meta Kongz on NFT projects and memorandums of understanding (MOUs).

“The Hyundai NFT community will provide its users with the Hyundai brand experience in the metaverse by sharing NFTs depicting its mobility solutions. The Hyundai NFT Discord and Twitter channels opened on April 15, and the official NFT website is scheduled to open soon in May,” Hyundai said in the press release.

A short film introducing the automaker’s Metamobility Universe was also released. In it, the automaker presented its vision for a future in which virtual reality will be used to enhance mobility.

“The Hyundai NFT universe will extend the Hyundai brand experience, especially with MZ generation, in a completely new way, further reinforcing our commitment to innovation in both the real world and in the metaverse,” Thomas Schemera, Hyundai Motor’s global chief marketing officer, said. “We are extremely excited to introduce ‘Metamobility’ through our own NFTs and start this journey with Meta Kongz.”

 “We are extremely excited to introduce ‘Metamobility’ through our own NFTs and start this journey with Meta Kongz,” said Thomas Schemera, Hyundai Motor’s global chief marketing officer. (Courtesy of Hyundai)

The automaker distributed 30 limited-edition NFTs on April 20 to commemorate the premiere of the short film. Even as the Hyundai NFT universe evolves, these releases will continue throughout the year, the company said. The proceeds from the sale of Hyundai NFTs will be allocated to project and community management, it added.

“|The Hyundai NFT community will provide its users with the Hyundai brand experience in the metaverse by sharing NFTs depicting its mobility solutions.,” the automaker said in a press release. (Courtesy of Hyundai)

Meta Kongz has just completed governance voting on an agenda pertaining to the migration of the Klaytn chain to the Ethereum chain. The majority of votes cast were in support of the migration.

Meta Kongz will migrate to the Ethereum blockchain, a necessary step for the internationalization of the project. Due to the purported difficulty of attracting non-Koreans to the Klaytn chain, many NFT traders prefer to use the Ethereum chain with the Metamask wallet. As a result of the relocation, Meta Kongz it likely to receive increased exposure.

Hyundai Motor Co. has operations in more than 200 countries with more than 120,000 employees. “Based on the brand vision ‘Progress for Humanity,’ Hyundai Motor is accelerating its transformation into a Smart Mobility Solution Provider,” the company said in its press release.

“The idea behind Metamobility is that space, time and distance will all become irrelevant. By connecting robots to the metaverse, we will be able to move freely between both the real world and virtual reality,” Chang Song. Hyundai’s president and head of the transportation-as-a-service division, said earlier this year.

Produced in association with MetaNews.

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Ennis Scores 19th Straight KO Against Clayton, Calls Out ‘Big Fish’ Spence 

Ennis Scores 19th Straight KO Against Clayton, Calls Out ‘Big Fish’ Spence 

 Jaron Ennis (left) floored Custio Clayton (right) with a right to the temple to win a clash of unbeaten fighters by second-round knockout on Saturday. (Stephanie Trapp/Showtime)

By Lem Satterfield

Jaron Ennis had promised a “dominant” and “seamless” early knockout of Custio Clayton before Saturday’s clash of unbeaten 147-pound contenders at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.

“Everyone already knows how this fight is going to go. I’m going to put on a show. … I’m getting that knockout at the end of the night and making a statement,” Ennis had said before the fight.

The switch-hitting Ennis (29-0, 27 KOs) delivered on his words with his 19th straight knockout in the second round against Clayton (19-1-1, 12 KOs), before a near-sellout crowd of 7,406.

Ennis’ right hand landed just above Clayton’s left ear with 28 seconds remaining in the round, flooring the Canadian for good. Clayton crumpled to the canvas, unable to regain his feet as he wobbled around the ring and ultimately into the ropes before referee Ray Carona waved an end to the fight at the 2:49 mark.

Jaron Ennis (right) threw 100 jabs against Custio Clayton (left) on the way to Saturday’s second-round knockout, which represented his 19th straight stoppage victory.  (Stephanie Trapp/Showtime)

“He had a high guard, so I was trying to come around with the right hook, but he leaned in, so I just threw an overhand,” said Ennis, who has scored 21 knockdowns in his past 11 fights and is believed to have won every round of his career.

“I thought he was going to get up because he was a durable, tough guy, and nobody’s ever stopped him, so I thought he was going to get up,” Ennis said of Clayton.

“But I saw him get up, and he fell over here, and he went over there, so I knew it was over with.”

Ennis’ demolition of Clayton continued the Philadelphia native’s pattern of destruction in the ring, highlighted by his ability to finish off opponents faster than more accomplished fighters previously had.

In April 2021, Ennis scored a sixth-round KO of Sergey Lipinets, who entered at 16–1–1 (12 KOs) but was knocked out for the first time.

Ennis has ranked himself the No. 1 welterweight ahead of Errol Spence Jr. and his unbeaten switch-hitting WBO counterpart and three-division champion Terence “Bud” Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs).

What’s next?

 Jaron Ennis (left) scored his 21st knockdown in his past 11 fights against Custio Clayton (on the canvas, behind) to win a clash of unbeaten fighters via second-round knockout on Saturday.  (Stephanie Trapp/Showtime)

“Anybody right now can get it, but I’m the IBF’s No. 1 contender,” said Ennis before speaking directly about Spence after Saturday’s fight. “I think the big fish [Spence] is here himself, so it’s time to go fishing.”

“I’m either going to fight Errol Spence Jr. or Terence Crawford, or fight for a vacant belt. I feel like I’m going to get my opportunity sooner than later,” Ennis said.

Spence was indeed at ringside for the Ennis-Clayton bout and assessed Ennis after the fight during an interview with Showtime’s Jim Gray.

“He’s right there. He’s right on the edge. He’s hungry. He’s supposed to call everybody out. He’s supposed to call me and everybody out,” Spence said. “You’ve gotta be that hungry lion. I’m very high on him. I think he can fight, and he’s going to go a long way. I heard him say he wants to reel me in, but if you do that, you might catch something you don’t want.”

Spence is now focused on making the fight with Crawford, having last month vanquished Yordenis Ugas by 10th-round stoppage to add Ugas’ WBA crown to his IBF and WBC versions.

“I think it’s [Spence-Crawford] going to happen. It’s a fight I definitely want this year. So hopefully we can make it happen,” Spence said. ”I want it, he wants it, and I think we can come to terms and fight this year. We’re in the talking stages right now. He definitely wants the fight. [Manager] Al [Haymon] told me that he definitely wants the fight. That’s [Crawford] the guy I want to fight. …

“I’ve got three belts, he’s got one belt, and that’s all I need to become the undisputed welterweight champion of the world,” Spence said. “It’s something I’ve been adamant about and it’s something I really wanna do, so we’re gonna get it done.”

After winning easily on Saturday, Ennis summarized the Crawford-Spence challenge by saying: “It doesn’t matter to me who I’m facing. I want everybody and anybody. They can line ‘em up, and I’ll knock ‘em down. Doesn’t matter who it is.”

Edited by Richard Pretorius and Matthew B. Hall

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Combate Global Set To Be Most-Watched MMA Brand In North America

Combate Global Set To Be Most-Watched MMA Brand In North America

Caroline “Taz Gallardo dodges a leg kick to strike Camila Rivarola in their recent Combate Global women's bout in Miami.  (Scott Hirano/Combate Global)

By George A. Willis

First he was the co-creator of the of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Now Campbell McLaren is making his MMA Hispanic sports and media franchise into the biggest in North America.

Today the UFC is one of the most successful franchises in sports history and Combate Global seems to be tracing the same upward trajectory.

McLaren’s Combate Global is an MMA (mixed martial arts) powerhouse that features young men and women fighters from North and South America. “We want to be the most-watched MMA organization in North America,” McLaren told Zenger as Combate Global presents its fifth card of the year on Friday (May 13) in Miami.

He knows that’s a bold claim, but it’s based on simple math. Univision, already a network partner with Combate Global, in January, completed a $4.8 billion merger with Televisa to combine their Spanish-language media and production in the U.S. and Mexico. In a news release, TelevisaUnivision Inc. said the company can reach more than 60 percent of TV audiences in both the U.S. and Mexico.

McLaren said Combate Global is already attracting 500,000 viewers each week through its current partnerships with Univision and Paramount+ but predicts an enormous increase once the Combate debuts on Televisa next month, promoted by a multi-million dollar marketing campaign.

“When you combine the potential we have with Televisa and Mexico with what we’re doing with Univision and Paramount+ we’re going to have in the neighborhood of 2.5 to 3 million people watching every Friday night in North America,” McLaren said. “That’s a real number.”

Combate Global founder Campbell McLaren (Scott Hirano/Combate Global)

Combate Global fights are typical of those being featured Friday in Miami.  The five-bout card is headlined by an all-Mexican bantamweight (135 pounds) matchup between Max “Steel” Gonzalez (3-1) of Mexico City and Alex Osuna (3-1) of Guadalajara.

In a women’s matchup at straw weight (115 pounds) Caroline “Taz” Gallardo (6-4) of Chicago, Ill. via Santiago Chile faces Stephanie Page (6-3) of Brest, France, while Patrick “The Leech” Lehane (4-1) of Cork, Ireland battles Gabriel Morales (3-2) of Deerfield Beach, Fla., in a men’s featherweight (145) bout.

Also, Jordan “Bull” Beltran (12-7) of Colima,  Mexico, challenges Samuel “The Alley Cat” Alvarez (6-5) of Manteca, Cali., at lightweight (155 pounds), and Naomi Sibel Tataroglu (2-3) of Oranjestad, Aruba, face Deisy Alejandra Orozco Guzman (2-5) of Tlatenango, ZA, Mexico at straw weight.

McLaren called Osuna someone who is “experienced beyond his experience” and has multiple skills compared to most young fighters who normally need seasoning.

“Axel is a more well-rounded guy,” McLaren said. “I like him a lot. I think what you’ll see in our headline event is Alex is a guy that can do a lot fighting a guy that’s very hard to knockout.”

Combate Global’s mantra of featuring upcoming fighters has proven successful as style and format have trumped name recognition. Fans are following the brand as much as the fighters.

“Some people go for very wide distribution,” McLaren said. “MMA is often sold around the world like a deli. People ask for two pounds of baloney, but they don’t ask for the brand. We’re trying to sell Combate as Combate. Our brand is very fast-moving, very young fighters, very aggressive fighters with a lot more finishes.”

While initially focusing on Hispanic fighters Combate Global is adding networks in France and Spain and recruiting fighters from all over the world like Lehane from Ireland. “This is my first fight for Combate Global at my natural weight class of 145 pounds,” Lehane said. “My previous bouts were at 155, so I’m looking to make a big statement here, put on a clinical performance, and stake a claim for a run at the 145-pound gold. I’m so excited for all the fight fans back home to be able to tune in live via Facebook Live ippv. My whole country is behind me.”

Patrick “The Leech” Lehane delivers a right cross to the head of Issac Ruelas in their recent bout on Combate Global (Scott Hirano/Combate Global)

Combate Global should benefit from a multi-million marketing campaign being put together by TelevisaUnivision or TUDN. Taking a cue from soccer, McLaren wants to promote country vs. country rivalries. Women also will be marketed just as heavily as the men based on viewership data that show 51 percent of the Univision audience is female.

“I think it speaks to the changes in society as women take charge of their own lives and break down traditional gender roles,” McLaren said. “It’s made Combate women great role models.”

This is the fifth of 30 shows planned for this year with 10 to be held live on European time, so “Spanish and French fans can see Combate in their prime time,” McLaren said.

It’s all part of the plan to make Combate Global the most-watched MMA program in North America.

“We’re already doing 70 percent of UFC ratings in the U.S.,” McLaren said. “Once we get on Televisa and get promoted there, we’re going to blow past everybody in North America.”

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Jermell Charlo’s Birthday Wish: Stop Brian Castaño In 154-pound Unification Rematch

Jermell Charlo’s Birthday Wish: Stop Brian Castaño In 154-pound Unification Rematch

Jermell Charlo (left) rocked but couldn't finish Brian Castaño (right) in the second round of their 154-pound unification draw in July 2021. They'll rematch on Saturday with Charlo holding the IBF/WBA/WBC crowns, and Castano, the WBO version. (Premier Boxing Champions)

By Lem Satterfield

Jermell Charlo wants to have a knockout anniversary.

So the fighter known as “Iron Man” aims to give himself an early birthday present on Saturday by stopping Brian Castaño in a 154-pound undisputed unification rematch at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.

“This is one of the achievements a fighter can have — to fight to be undisputed,” said Charlo, who turns 32 on May 19. “I’m going to enjoy this moment, and I’m going to have fun when I’m in there on May 14, five days before my birthday.”

“Iron Man” (34-1-1, 18 KOs) battled Castaño (17-0-2, 12 KOs) to a draw in July 2021 at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. All four junior middleweight crowns were then on the line for the second time in the history of the division and the sport.

Charlo now holds the IBF/WBA/WBC crowns, and Castaño the WBO version entering a clash that could produce the first four-belt unification champion in the history of the 154-pound division.

“I’m locked in a little bit differently this time. I’m more dedicated than I’ve ever been. I’m hungrier. I’m going to have him hurt and crying,” Charlo said. “I want to knock this guy out. This is the Jermell from earlier, back when I was trying to end fights. I want to be that guy for 12 rounds now.”

Jermell Charlo (left) floored defending champion Tony Harrison (right) three times in December 2019 during an 11th-round knockout victory that regained him that WBC 154-pound title. (Premier Boxing Champions)

Their return bout was postponed from March 19 after Castaño suffered a torn right biceps muscle during training camp.

“I was having back spasms (in his preparation for the last fight),” said Charlo, whose boxer-puncher approach rivals Castano’s pressure-brawler style. “I’m glad that God gave me the opportunity to face the same guy and just put on a better performance.”

The winner of the Charlo-Castaño fight would become the sport’s seventh fighter to reach the undisputed plateau, joining cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk, super middleweight Canelo Alvarez, middleweights Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor and junior welterweights Terence Crawford and Josh Taylor.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done in the division,” said Charlo, who is 6-1-1 (5 KOs) in title fights, 4-1 (3 KOs) against champions, and 3-0 (1 KO) against title challengers. “Once the story is written and the book is finished, everyone’s going to come back and say that Jermell Charlo did a really good job at 154, but I have to get Castaño out of the way.”

Charlo looks to add defeating Castaño to an impressive resume that includes a sixth-round TKO of Joachim Alcine (October 2015) among the four champions he has vanquished along with southpaw Austin Trout (majority decision), Tony Harrison (11th-round KO) and Jeison Rosario (sixth-round KO).

“I make all of my former opponents somebody,” Charlo said. “Tony Harrison, Lubin, all these fighters who fought me before. Nobody knew who Brian Castaño was before I fought him.”

Charlo also vanquished former title challengers Harry Joe Yorgey (January 2013) by three-knockdown, eighth-round stoppage as well as both Gabriel Rosado (January 2014) and Vanes Martirosyan (March 2015) each by 10-round unanimous decision.

“Castaño is a hungry fighter who wants to accomplish the American dream, so this could be the most difficult fight in Jermell Charlo’s career,” said trainer Derrick James.

“But we’ll see what happens to Castaño’s hunger when Jermell gets into his rhythm, figures him out and begins to capitalize on his opportunities. In the end, I see Jermell winning impressively.”

But Castaño is likely equally motivated to erase all doubt that he’s the world’s premier 154-pound champion.

Castaño survived being dropped in the second round of an interim title-winning two-knockdown, sixth-round KO of Emmanuel de Jesus in November 2016, He defended the title by split-decision over Michel Soro in July 2017.

In 2019, Castaño fought to a draw with left-handed former champion Brian Lara in March before stopping veteran Wale Omotoso in November of that year for the first time in the latter’s career by fifth-round TKO.

Prior to facing Charlo, Castaño scored a unanimous decision to dethrone Brazil’s WBO titleholder Patrick Teixeira in February 2021.

“Charlo knows that he is going to have his hands full and that I won the first fight. I like to do my talking inside the ring. I’m a warrior. I’m going to be ready for whatever comes my way. I want the knockout. I need it and I crave it,” said Castaño, 32.

“That’s my chance to redeem myself and prove that I should have won the first fight outright. I went into his home state and turned the crowd against him. I want the respect that I am warranted and should be given from him. The first fight was a close fight, but the second fight is going to be even worse for him because I’m knocking him out.”

Jermell Charlo (left) retained his WBC junior middleweight title and dethroned hard-punching IBF/WBA titleholder Jeison Rosario (right) via a three-knockdown, sixth-round stoppage in September 2020. (Premier Boxing Champions)

Charlo retained his WBC junior middleweight title and dethroned the hard-punching Rosario as IBF/WBA titleholder via three-knockdown, sixth-round stoppage in September 2020.

“Everybody wants to know how the rematch will be different. I’m considered a puncher and a boxer, and I’m planning to bring some tricks out of the hat this time,” Charlo said. “I hate that I didn’t close out the first fight the way I should have. I’m going to be better, faster, stronger and more relentless in this fight. I’m going to be the old school Jermell Charlo.”

At his best, Charlo is a tremendous finisher as evidenced by his fights with John Jackson, Charles Hatley, Erickson Lubin, Miguel Cota, Rosario and the return bout with Harrison.

Trailing on all three judges’ cards (69-64) against Jackson, Charlo staggered the fighter known as “Dah Rock” with a right to the temple and followed with two punishing lefts as his rival turned away to adjust his mouthpiece. The referee waved an end to the bout with a defenseless Jackson slumped against a corner turnbuckle.

Charlo finished Lubin in 2:41 with a right uppercut that sent him crashing to the canvas on his left leg. Lubin then toppled to his right side, his left arm and leg flailing as the referee halted matters.

Charlo similarly twice flattened Cota, the finishing right hands producing knockdowns separated by 15 seconds.

Harrison was floored once in the second and twice in the 11th, the final time following a brutal nine-punch, five-second sequence comprising seven, head-swiveling left uppercuts and a pair of right hands.

Harrison rose only to be pinned against the ropes and bludgeoned by another relentless 10-punch combination over a six-second span as the referee stepped in to rescue him.

In their last fight, Charlo wobbled but didn’t finish Castaño in the first round, chasing the staggered Argentine around the ring. Castaño pinned Charlo against the ropes and nearly finished him in the second round, even as “The Iron Man” hurt the Argentine once each in the 10th and 11th.

“I could have done better by not being on the ropes, but who got hurt more? Who got buckled?” said Charlo, who, with IBF/WBA/WBC welterweight champion Errol Spence (28-0, 22 KOs), is a unified titleholder trained by James.

“Castaño didn’t throw as many punches as he usually does against me. Why? Because he got hurt. The fight would have ended if he had thrown more punches. I’m going to smash him this time around.”

Edited by Richard Pretorius and Matthew B. Hall

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