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Jermall Charlo and Jose Benavidez Jr set to battle it out for relevance in the middleweight division

Jermall Charlo. Photo credit: Andrew Hemingway/Showtime

WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo 32-0 (22) is talking a good game ahead of his first fight in almost two-and-a-half years but even he admits he doesn’t know what to expect from himself come fight night.

The 33-year-old from Houston, Texas will step through the ropes for the first time since his 12-round unanimous decision victory over Juan Macias Montiel in June 2021 when he takes on Jose Benavidez Jr 28-2-1 (19) at the Michelob Ultra Arena at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday night.

A combination of injuries and mental health issues he kept him away from the prize ring for a large portion of his prime. Now fully fit and with his mental health in good shape, Charlo wants to prove he still has something to offer the fight game.

The first step will be his 10-round 163-pound catchweight bout against Phoenix, Arizona’s Benavidez Jr, 31, who has largely campaigned at junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight in his 13 year pro career.

The animosity between the pair is real with both boxing fighting for relevancy in the wide open 160-pound division. Benavidez Jr has taken aim at Charlo’s mental health in the lead up to the bout while Charlo has mocked Benavidez Jr for not being able to walk through certain neighbourhoods after being shot.

It’s safe to say there is no love lost there.

“I’ve got him shook,” Charlo insisted at the final press conference. “He’s shook right now. He doesn’t know what to expect. He can’t size me up. He doesn’t know where I’m at in my mind. He doesn’t know where I’m at physically.

“It’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be a war… I’m going to break him down inside the ring and outside the ring. I’m going to make sure I keep doing what I’m doing. In 2024, I’m going to give you all a lot more action and a lot more Jermall Charlo. I’m the new Jermall.”

But despite his bluster, Charlo admits to feeling the pressure to perform.

“I’m a little anxious,” he said. “A little nervous, see how I’m gonna do. I just want everything to be how it always been.”

Benavidez Jr, who is 1-2-1 in his past four bouts going back more than five years, says he will get Charlo out of there within the distance.

“I’ll leave all of the talking in the ring,” he said. “I don’t really care what Charlo is doing, what people think, I’m ready. I’m going to show him who the real champion is at 160.

“I’m going to show the world what I’m made of… I’m going to take Charlo out. I’m going to stop him. One hundred percent guaranteed. I’ll put money on it.”