Charlo’s broken hand throws up uncertainty, as Tszyu title defence on Jan. 28 postponed indefinitely

Jermell Charlo enters the ring for his super middleweight title fight against Brian Castano at Dignity Health Sports Park on May 14, 2022 in Carson,...

Having only fought once for three consecutive years, undisputed light-middleweight titlist Jermell Charlo’s proposed defence against Tim Tszyu for January 28 has been postponed indefinitely, after the 32-year-old sustained a broken hand in two places during a sparring session on Tuesday. Tszyu confirmed he’s ready to face the next mandatory challenger in the meanwhile, but how does this injury news impact an already weak division of contenders?

mri shows charlo’s hand broken in two places, cast needed

Jermell Charlo exchanges punches in the ring with Brian Castano during their super middleweight title fight at Dignity Health Sports Park on May 14,...
Charlo (right) during his successful rematch against Argentina’s Brian Castano, back on May 14
  • “I was sparring, threw this nice punch and as soon as it landed, knew something was wrong, felt my hand throbbing right away. I had two X-rays and an MRI to see, showed it was broken in two places,” Charlo says, as ESPN’s Mike Coppinger reported overnight
  • #1 WBO contender Tszyu (21-0, 15 KOs) very disappointed but says he’s ready to move on, face the next mandatory challenger while waiting for Charlo to fully recover – Tony Harrison has since responded on Twitter, saying he’d be interested in a matchup
  • WBA #1 Israil Madrimov, WBC interim champ Sebastian Fundora and IBF #1 Bakhram Murtazaliev represent Charlo’s other mandatories with the other sanctioning bodies
  • Charlo’s fresh injury issue means he likely won’t return until May-June at the earliest, as another period of inactivity persists with undisputed champion in his prime years

In ESPN’s top 100 list where they ranked the best male boxers right now earlier this month, undisputed light-middleweight champion Jermell Charlo sits 12th.

The paragraph that follows his name praises the Brian Castano victory in their rematch, before adding a crucial caveat: it’s one of the weakest weight classes in the sport.

Assuming he proves too much for Australian contender Tim Tszyu, there’s no viable challengers outside of Sebastian Fundora. That’s perhaps the reason why WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford has actively called for a matchup at 154lbs against the division’s current king.

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Well, we’ll have to wait a few months before the Tszyu defence now after it emerged overnight that Charlo has suffered a broken hand in sparring for their Jan. 28 date – an unfortunate blow for all concerned, especially when you consider the division has been slowly moving of late.

READ: 2021’s Sleeper Fight of the Year: Charlo-Castano 1 – An action-packed duel

Charlo broke his left hand in two places – between the little and ring fingers, and also the base of his thumb. After visiting two doctors and a hand specialist in Houston, that hand has been placed in a cast and will remain so for the next two months. Once removed, he needs full rehab.

Then, and only then, will the 32-year-old champion be cleared to resume full training. Injuries are part-and-parcel of any sport, especially one as physically taxing as boxing, but when a world champion boxer isn’t exactly active, it means these unwanted updates are even more significant.

“I’ve been training since July, and been hitting harder than ever, these are the things that happen when you push yourself to the limits. After my hand heals, I’m coming back stronger than ever to defend my legacy.”

Tszyu, Fundora and the division lacking depth

Tim Tszyu poses for a photo during a No Limit Boxing Open Day at King George Square on August 17, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia.
Tszyu, pictured back in his native Australia, is a considerable underdog against Charlo

Tszyu, son of Hall of Fame boxer Kostya Tszyu, made his Stateside debut in March and recovered from his second career knockdown in R1 to outpoint Terrell Gausha (116-111, 115-112, 114-113).

Besides Fundora, who celebrates his 25th birthday on Wednesday, the division lacks much in the way of young up-and-coming stars to crown as the next long-reigning champion.

21-year-old southpaw Jesus Alejandro Ramos (19-0, 15 KOs) and 22yo Joseph Spencer (16-0, 10 KOs) are gradually making waves in the weight class but haven’t been tested by top opponents.

The same can be said for Top Rank’s 20-year-old prospect Xander Zayas (15-0, 10 KOs), who still needs some seasoning before anyone can confidently proclaim him the division’s next star.

It’s not exactly a good sign of a division’s health when one of their top contenders in Liam Smith (#2 WBO, #3 WBC, #4 WBA, #6 IBF) has flickered between divisions and is moving up a weight class as he attempts to expose a fellow world title hopeful in a domestic duel next month.

Russia’s Magomed Kurbanov (24-0, 13 KOs) earned a career-best win at Smith’s expense in May 2021, but the 27-year-old remains virtually unheard of among many and is currently unranked by all sanctioning bodies as a result of the ongoing war on Ukraine by his native country.

After his last victory (UD10) over Johan Gonzalez on Dec. 11, the sentiment was the same: he’s ready for a real challenge. The risk vs. reward is too big for some opponents to ignore, especially against an unbeaten fighter relatively unknown to the masses. When will he get that?

“Both of them are scared to fight with me, the winner is gonna vacate the IBF title. I feel they made a mistake because when I became the mandatory, I was 27 and didn’t have much experience. Now, I’m almost 30 and have a lot. For them, it will be very, very hard. Every year and fight, I’m getting better.”

Having been outpointed in a welterweight title fight by a returning Errol Spence Jr this time two years ago, two-weight world champion Danny Garcia made his return in July against Jose Benavidez Jr at 154lbs. All of this further reiterates the division’s severe lack of depth.

Picture source: Getty Images, all fighter quotes hyperlinked

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