Hugo Centeno, Jr.—Going All In

By Marc Livitz on February 11, 2018
Hugo Centeno, Jr.—Going All In
On Saturday, March 3, Centeno faces Charlo for the interim WBC middleweight crown.

“He’s a good fighter. A lot of people say that he’s one of the hardest punchers in the middleweight division, but he just got there…”

Certainly, there must be more than a handful of boxing fans who are somewhat irked that a clash between two definite heavyweight stars is on the back burner for the time being. On Saturday, March 3 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder will defend his title against Luis Ortiz in a battle between two undefeated big men. For now, a meeting between Wilder and otherwise unified heavyweight king Anthony Joshua will have to simmer. In the meantime, the night’s co-main event in Brooklyn, which is for the interim WBC world middleweight crown, may have more than its fair share of drama, fireworks and headache inducing punches.

Oxnard, California native and middleweight contender Hugo “The Boss” Centeno, Jr. has never been one to shy away from chances to better not only his professional career, but his life in general as well. After producing one of the best knockouts of 2017 last summer, Centeno decided that moving sideways instead of upward and onward wasn’t in his makeup as a fighter. His third round knockout of previously unbeaten Immanuel Aleem in Miami, Oklahoma was part of a ‘Premier Boxing Champions’ telecast, so he knew that many had to be watching. Before Wilder and Ortiz take center stage at Barclays, Centeno (26-1, 14 KO’s) will confront the biggest possible challenge available in the form of the always dangerous Jermall Charlo (26-0, 29 KO’s).

A native of Houston, Texas, Charlo made his middleweight debut last July against Jorge Sebastian Heiland and prevailed by way of a fourth round TKO triumph in the same venue where he’ll find Centeno in early March. Earlier this month, this writer spoke to the always affable Hugo for perhaps the fifth or sixth time in the last few years. As he made his drive home to Oxnard from the world famous Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, “The Boss” shared his views on his upcoming showdown with Charlo, which couldn’t be set for a better time. Many signs point to the winner perhaps being in clear contention to face the victorious side of the upcoming rematch between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.

In regards to Charlo, Centeno gave his Houston opponent all necessary respect, yet was quick to point out that Jermall’s first outing as a middleweight came against a hobbled opponent (J.S. Heiland was battling a knee problem at the time).

“He’s a good fighter,” Hugo said of his undefeated adversary. “He wouldn’t be where he’s at if he wasn’t. A lot of people say that he’s one of the hardest punchers in the middleweight division, but he just got there. The first fight he had at 160 was against an injured guy.”

Hugo’s never been one of back away from a challenge, as he seems to know that a fighter’s window is short enough without having to worry about someone slamming it forcibly shut. Since his resounding third round victory over Immanuel Aleem last August, “The Boss” has remained true to his moniker. As such, he’s remained hard at work and was eager to accept a chance to truly shine on the national stage.

“Since the fight (against Aleem), I’ve been the gym and sparring, non-stop,” he said. “I wanted to get back into the ring right away. I got this opportunity last November. The WBC announced me as the mandatory to fight (Jermall) Charlo. We’re both under the same banner with Al Haymon and ‘PBC.’ There’s nothing like the best fighting the best and I don’t run from any opportunity.”

As he trains under the watchful eye of head trainer Eric Brown alongside his father, Hugo Centeno, Sr., 26-year-old Hugo, Jr. at times still finds it hard to shake the criticism which has been thrown his way over the years. As he now enters his fourth year in the middleweight division, Centeno has grown to understand what’s truly important in his life.

“I’ve felt throughout my career, people have tried to put me down,” said the Oxnard native. “They said that I’m just tall, skinny and that I hadn’t fought anyone good. Over time, they saw I wouldn’t make it this far if I was just a tall and skinny fighter. I continue to prove people wrong but it’s no longer about that. In the end, if I can make my family happy, then I’m happy.”

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