Junior middleweight world titlist Tony Harrison and former titleholder Jermell Charlo might have been at only the kickoff news conference for their rematch that is still more than five weeks away, but their smoldering intensity gave off the vibe of fight week on Thursday.
Harrison and Charlo came face to face in Los Angeles at an intense news conference in which they called each other names and dropped numerous naughty words but the message was clear: They can't wait to punch each other come fight night in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions tripleheader Dec. 21 (Fox and Fox Deportes, 8 p.m. ET) at Toyota Arena in Ontario, California.
When they first met, last Dec. 22 in Brooklyn, New York, Harrison was awarded a unanimous decision -- 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113 -- to take Charlo's 154-pound world title, but many believed Charlo was the rightful winner.
Nearly a year later, the crux of Charlo's beef -- other than that he is convinced he was robbed of his belt last year -- is his belief that Harrison faked an ankle injury that postponed the rematch, which was originally scheduled to take place June 23 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
About three weeks before the fight, PBC announced that Harrison had withdrawn from the bout after suffering an inner and outer right ankle sprain that included torn ligaments.
Charlo went ahead and fought June 23 against late replacement Jorge Cota, whom he knocked down twice and stopped in the third round of a dominant performance.
Charlo told Harrison to his face what he thought about his postponing the June fight.
"Dec. 22 was the day they made a decision to give Tony a victory," Charlo said, standing at the microphone and looking at Harrison, who was seated next to the podium. "You saw what I did to Cota on June 23 and you saw what I was going to get ready to do to your ass.
"You faked that injury. He wasn't ready. He wasn't ready for what I was getting to deliver to him. The sport is rough. It does wear and tear on the body. You didn't have surgery. June 3 you was supposed to be having surgery on your ankle. DeAndre Ware was one of your sparring partners up there in Detroit. He clipped you. Dropped you. You was out. Maybe you had to regroup in your mind. Keep it real."
Harrison smiled and told Charlo, "I'm here right now."
Charlo (32-1, 16 KOs), 29, of Houston, continued with his remarks, vowing to win back the belt he had successfully defended three times before losing it to Harrison.
"The judges that gave him the first fight woke me up," Charlo said. "It's motivating me. I'm past all the talking. I don't need to talk trash about him. Nothing's going to make me slow down. I'm going to move forward and I did. I went on and fought [Cota] and showed everyone what I do. You see why I'm that guy.
"I have to prove a point. He has to prove a point. Let it be what it is. I have no problem with that. All of the talking doesn't matter. He's going to have to live up to his word and I'm going to live up to mine. It would be great to get a knockout, but we're down to go 12. I'll go to 15. It doesn't matter. He can't stand up to me in there and hurt me. He's running scared. I'm for real about this. I know that I won that first fight and I'm going to do things in a more dominant fashion this time. I'm going to be overpowering and ferocious. It will be the best Jermell Charlo. My plan is to show everyone that Tony Harrison is not on my level."
Harrison (28-2, 21 KOs), 29, of Detroit, lost his first shot at a world title when Jarrett Hurd stopped him in the ninth round of a vacant title bout in 2017, but he has won four fights in a row since.
He did not take kindly to Charlo's accusation of him faking the ankle injury.
"Every time I see this man I just feel like he's pretending," Harrison said. "He's convinced everyone he's the toughest guy in the world. He is one of the softest I have seen in my life. Like literally. He get up here and bark and he talk. He make excuses. 'Oh, you know I won this. Oh, you know I won that.' Come on, man. I beat your ass the first time and I'm here again. I don't where he's getting this, 'Oh, you're scared.'
"If I was scared, I wouldn't be here right now. I didn't take no fight in between. I haven't fought for a year, but I wanted to be put right back in it. Let me go get this unfinished business.
"I could beat him anywhere, it doesn't matter. We could fight in this room right now. Nothing is going to change. There's no respect. I'm going to show him each and every time. I'm not the one to play with. This isn't Jorge Cota. His words definitely sparked the fuel in me that's on fire now. He talks loud, but he's not going to do anything. He doesn't have the skill set to beat me."