Long layoffs for boxers have unfortunately become all too commonplace these days. If a top fighter can get in three fights in a year, he is considered a busy man.
Two fights a year for top contenders and titleholders is the norm, one fight is somewhat common and layoffs that stretch even longer are not all that uncommon.
Junior middleweight titleholder Jermell Charlo and mandatory challenger Charles Hatley did not seek their lengthy layoffs, nor was either injured, but they wound up on ice.
Charlo won his 154-pound belt by eighth-round knockout of John Jackson last May, yet he has not fought in the 11 months since.
Hatley? He's been out of action even longer. The last time he was in the ring was in November 2015 -- 17 months ago -- when he traveled to Australia and upset former titleholder Anthony Mundine by 11th-round knockout.
Charlo and Hatley were both coming off career-best wins yet neither was able to immediately capitalize. Instead they were out of sight, out of mind while their mandatory fight was delayed and delayed and delayed for a variety of reasons.
"I want to make a statement with a knockout, but if it doesn't happen, I'm ready to do what I have to do. I can't put too much pressure on myself. I just have to take care of business."Jermell Charlo
But at long last they will finally get it on Saturday night (Showtime, 9:30 ET with preliminary bout on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7:30 ET/PT) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
"I'm very humbled to know that everything happens for a reason. I am happy to just to get a chance to get back in the ring, show my skills, knock off the ring rust and have fun," Charlo said.
In the main event, former welterweight world titleholders Shawn Porter (26-2-1, 16 KOs) and Andre Berto (31-4, 24 KOs) -- both of whom are also coming off long layoffs -- will square off in a title eliminator for the right to become one of unified titlist Keith Thurman's mandatory challengers. Porter is coming off a close decision loss challenging Thurman last June. Berto hasn't fought since knocking out Victor Ortiz in their rematch last April.
Charlo (28-0, 13 KOs), 26, of Houston, was not thrilled with his long layoff but said he at least spent the time productively -- training and learning.
"I know he hasn't fought in a while -- and this is actually one of my longest layoffs -- but this has been one of the best (preparations) because I been able to prepare myself physically, mentally, spiritually," said Charlo, twin brother of Jermall Charlo, who recently vacated his version of the junior middleweight title to move up in weight. "And I been able to adapt and get better, so I'm excited to see what I can bring to the table and bring a better performance than I have done all 28 fights that I've fought."
There were issues finalizing the deal for the fight, finding the right television date for it and then, even when it was finally scheduled, it got postponed when the fighter in the main event of a March card forced the show to be called off. The fight bounced all over the calendar for months.
Charlo said he did not let it get to him nor did it diminish his hunger to train and be ready whenever the call came that the fight with Hatley was set.
"No, my focus is still there. I'm still fired up, I'm still hungry," Charlo said. "I'm hungrier now, obviously, because they made me wait so long. But other than that I'm still hungry, I'm still fired up. I can't care about what these people think of me, judging me or how they feel or if I'm not relevant to them anymore.
"I know what I'm doing, I know how I'm living, and I know how I'm getting ready to fight. So it's like nothing else that I can do other than just continue to try to be great in the ring and please these fans and be satisfying to my peers and my judges and my family."
"I'm coming to the table to do what I got to do and that's to bring the belt back to my city. I'm well prepared for it and I'm ready to fight. At the end of the day I'm really about getting in the ring and doing what I said I was going to do."Charles Hatley
Hatley (26-1-1, 18 KOs), 31, of Dallas, has won nine fights in a row since suffering an upset first-round knockout loss to journeyman Lanardo Tyner in 2012. But his momentum was stunted after the big victory over Mundine because of the lengthy layoff.
"I went to Australia with everything against me," he said. "The crowd and everything were all against me. I'm actually feeling like (this is) another Australia fight, you know? I'm focused, I'm ready and I'm prepared for it. [Against Mundine] I stuck to what we had been training for. I knew I was going overseas and I knew he was a great fighter. I went in and dominated the whole fight."
With such a big win it would not have been a surprise had Hatley wanted to fight again quickly to keep it going. But, surprisingly, he said the layoff has been good for him -- even though he didn't get paid during the past 15 months and has remained an unknown fighter to most boxing fans.
"Well, the layoff was good for me," Hatley said. "I was so busy at the time and I actually needed the layoff. But I actually thought we were going to fight three months after he won the title. It just kept going back, pushing and pushing it back further and further and I was busy training for it. So I was well prepared for it a while back. I never stopped training for it.
"I don't really know what the issue was with this fight. But I just know what the rumors were. But, yes, I was prepared to fight mid-September and then March. But the whole time I know -- it was September, February, then March. Then back to April, which I didn't care if it was next year. I wanted the fight and I was going to be ready."
Now both fighters, who don't particularly care for each other, are anxious to do their business.
"I'm coming to the table to do what I got to do and that's to bring the belt back to my city," Hatley said. "I'm well prepared for it and I'm ready to fight. At the end of the day I'm really about getting in the ring and doing what I said I was going to do."
Said Charlo: "Charles Hatley is a good fighter. He comes with pressure and he likes fighting. He's got a good style and he can bob and weave and be slick. I want to make a statement with a knockout, but if it doesn't happen, I'm ready to do what I have to do. I can't put too much pressure on myself. I just have to take care of business."