Derrick James: It was “Always Jermell” to Face Canelo

Jermell Charlo trainer Derrick James says that his fighter was in discussions for “a month or two” about fighting super middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez, before the deal was ultimately agreed for their September 30 clash.

Charlo, the undisputed junior middleweight champion, had been scheduled to defend his belts against Australian Tim Tszyu on January 28, but was forced to withdraw after he broke his left hand in training. Tszyu kept busy, with knockout wins over Tony Harrisson and Carlos Ocampo, while waiting for Charlo to be ready; but, speaking on the Showtime Boxing Podcast, James revealed that Team Charlo had turned the sights to the possibility of Canelo some weeks ago.

“It took a while,” he said. “It took maybe a month or two. We talked about it; I told him how I thought about the fight, and then they went forward with it, because it was just a thought.”

Although it was widely reported that Jermell had stepped in after his twin brother, middleweight titlist Jermall, had said he wasn’t ready to face Alvarez after two years out of the ring, James said that wasn’t the case.

“Yeah, it was always Jermell,” he said.

The Charlo-Alvarez clash is just one of several huge fights on James’ schedule. On August 12, he will be in the corner of former heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua for the second time, as AJ rematches Dillian Whyte. Before that, on July 29, his longest-tenured fighter, undefeated welterweight Errol Spence, will meet Terence Crawford in Las Vegas for the undisputed welterweight championship. In addition, lightweight Ryan Garcia recently joined his stable, following his first career defeat to Gervonta Davis; and James also trains promising lightweight Frank Martin, who faces Artem Harutyunyan on Saturday.

James says that there is something special about having so many high-quality boxers working in the same gym.

“For me, I think it’s more inspirational to have your stablemate there with you watching.,” he told the podcast. “Errol’s the guy who’s been with me 15, 16 years, so everybody’s watching him, watching how hard he works, and that motivates and inspires them. AJ’s like, “I’ve got to pick it up.” Well, you’re a heavyweight, so you don’t so much. But the fact he feels he has to pick it up is great. Ryan hasn’t been in the gym with him yet because he trains later in the day. But he was sparring Frank Martin today and they really met for the first time. It was cool. When you have an environment where you have all great fighters around, there has to be some humility. Some guys are too insecure to walk into a room like that. Their level of insecurity is so high that it can be crippling. But I think that we don’t have any egos here; we’re all here to learn, we’re all here to get better, we’re all here to motivate and inspire each other to be successful.”

He does concede, however, that juggling the demands of so many boxers can take something of a personal toll – although he willingly accepts and enjoys the challenge.

“I do fit everybody in,” he said. “At one point, Errol would train at 12, Frank would train at 2, AJ would train at 3.30, 4. But Errol started training at 9, because at 12 it’s 105 degrees. So he said, ‘Let’s train at 9 o’clock,’ and I said, ‘OK.’ But now I have to get up at 6.30 so I can go running before I go to the gym. So I don’t get much sleep. I woke up at 3.45 this morning, so I’m tired. But it’s good.”