NEW YORK -- In the deep middleweight division where unified world champion Gennady Golovkin is king of the hill, Jermall Charlo and Hugo Centeno Jr. both came into their fight on Saturday night aiming to send the division a message that they are a force to be reckoned with.
It was Charlo who put the 160-pound division on notice as he scored a massive second-round knockout of Centeno to claim a vacant interim world title in the Adrien Broner-Jessie Vargas co-feature at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
By winning the interim belt, Charlo earned a position as one of Golovkin's mandatory challengers, though that fight likely won't happen until at least next spring given GGG's other obligations.
But Charlo made it clear whom he wants to fight.
"It's been an amazing journey to get here. I'm a two-time world champion," he said. "Bring on Triple G! I want that fight! The networks [HBO and Showtime] and the teams can figure out how to get the Triple G fight done. I have the best manager [Al Haymon] in the world. I'm 27-0 with 21 knockouts. Everybody sees it. What more can I say?
"Everybody has always avoided me and from now on, this is how it's going to be. You see what you get."
Charlo, 27, of Houston, couldn't have been more impressive. Not much happened in the first round as the fighters felt each other out, but he came out with a purpose in the second round and let Centeno know who was the boss.
Charlo (27-0, 21 KOs), a former junior middleweight world titleholder in his second fight at middleweight, forced Centeno (26-2, 14 KOs), 27, of Oxnard, California, near the ropes and unloaded a ferocious four-punch combination to the head -- left, overhand right, left and a fight-finishing right that left Centeno flat on his back as referee Steve Willis stopped the fight at 55 seconds.
Charlo, who earned $500,000 to Centeno's $235,000, landed 12 of 35 punches (34 percent), according to CompuBox statistics. Centeno connected with 10 of 31 (32 percent) but not many had any particular impact. Charlo closed the show by landing seven of 10 power shots in the second round.
Centeno suffered his first loss when he was stopped in the 10th round by undefeated Polish contender Maciej Sulecki in June 2016 and had won two fights in a row before being destroyed by Charlo.
"I thought I started off pretty well," Centeno said. "I wanted to go out on my shield but it wasn't my day. He caught me and got the knockout. I was trying to work my jab. I thought I got him with a couple good shots but I lingered too long in the pocket and I didn't get out in time."
Davis KO's Cuellar to win vacant title
Gervonta Davis lost his junior lightweight title on the scales in August, but he roared back to win a vacant one by pounding Jesus Cuellar in a third-round knockout victory.
Davis was stripped of a 130-pound belt in August for failing to make weight for a defense against Francisco Fonseca on the blockbuster Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor Showtime PPV card. The fight went ahead and although Davis won by eighth-round knockout it was not a strong performance.
He made changes before the fight with Cuellar, moving his training camp to West Palm Beach, Florida, to be trained by Kevin Cunningham, who also had taken on Broner, and he looked sensational.
Davis (20-0, 19 KOs), 23, of Baltimore, started fast as he attacked Cuellar with hard body shots. One of them, a left hand, nailed Cuellar flush midway through the second round and he went down to a knee. Davis spent the rest of the round nailing him upstairs and down.
Davis continued to pound Cuellar in the third round. He landed two hard body shots that badly hurt Cuellar and then, with Cuellar pinned on the ropes, Davis landed a brutal left to the pit of his stomach for a knockdown. Cuellar beat the count but he went down again under a hail of punches, causing referee Benjy Esteves to stop the fight at 2 minutes, 45 seconds.
"On the undercard of Mayweather-McGregor fight, I just wasn't focused. It was the second time fighting on his card so it got to my head and it showed," Davis said. "After the fight, I went home and talked to my team and we decided it was time to leave Baltimore. I'm focused and it showed because I'm a champ again.
"There's always bumps in the road when you want to become successful. It's all about how you bounce back and tonight I showed that I'm a true champion. I definitely want the winner of that Tevin Farmer versus Billy Dib [vacant title] fight. Let's unify, baby!"
Cuellar (28-3, 21 KOs), a 31-year-old southpaw from Argentina, had not fought since losing his secondary featherweight title to Abner Mares in December 2016.
Davis and Cuellar, who each made $350,000, were fighting for the vacant WBA 130-pound world title even though Alberto Machado had already won it and was for no apparent reason downgraded to the organization's secondary titleholder.
Former bantamweight world titlist Rau'shee Warren (16-2, 4 KOs), 31, a southpaw from Cincinnati, battered brave Juan Medina (10-3, 9 KOs), 25, of the Dominican Republic, in a shutout decision victory in their bantamweight bout. Warren, the only three-time U.S. boxing Olympian, won 80-72 on all three scorecards to hand Medina his third defeat in a row.
Brooklyn featherweight Heather Hardy (21-0, 4 KOs), 36, won a poorly received unanimous decision over Paola Torres (12-3-1, 5 KOs), of Mexico. She and Torres engaged often and in the end the judges scored the fight 79-73, 78-74 and 78-74, but Hardy's hometown crowd loudly booed the decision because Torres appeared to outwork Hardy.
Junior welterweight Fabian Maidana (15-0, 11 KOs), 25, of Argentina, stopped Justin Savi (9-16, 6 KOs), 33, a native of Benin who fights out of Silver Spring, Maryland, at the end of the third round. Savi was no match for Maidana, who is the younger brother of retired former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana. Maidana dominated the first two rounds and then punished Savi in the third round. He knocked Savi down and was pummeling him along the ropes as the round ended. Savi wobbled back to his corner and referee Allan Huggins stopped the fight on the recommendation of the ringside doctor.
Junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell (5-0, 5 KOs), 21, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, laid a beating on Andrew Rodgers (4-3-1, 2 KOs), 25, of Elkhart, Indiana, in a third-round knockout victory. Russell, a 2016 U.S. Olympian and the younger brother of featherweight world titlist Gary Russell Jr., who worked his corner, landed punches at will throughout the fight. One shot strayed low in the second round and Rodgers was given time to recover. But Russell continued to batter him, finally forcing referee Arthur Mercante to intervene at 1 minute, 40 seconds of the third round.
Welterweight Shyngyskhan Tazhibay (6-0, 2 KOs), 26, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Washington, D.C., dropped Isaac Freeman (3-7-1, 3 KOs), 29, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, with a right hand in the first round and cruised to a decision, winning 40-35, 40-35 and 39-36.
Junior bantamweight Dylan Price (6-0, 5 KOs), 19, of Sicklerville, New Jersey, rolled to a shutout decision against Edson Noria (2-3, 1 KO), 28, of Mexico. He dropped Noria in the fourth round and won 60-53 on all three scorecards.
Brooklyn junior welterweight Richardson Hitchins (5-0, 3 KOs), 20, a 2016 Olympian for Haiti, knocked out Alexander Charneco (4-5, 4 KOs), 21, of Puerto Rico, with a body shot at 1 minute, 17 seconds of the first round of their scheduled six-rounder.
Heavyweight George Arias (11-0, 6 KOs), 26, of the Bronx, won a competitive decision against Tyrell Wright (9-2-2, 6 KOs), 31, of Jersey City, New Jersey. Arias won 78-74, 77-75 and 77-75.
Junior lightweight Desmond Jarmon (6-0, 4 KOs), 20, of Cincinnati, easily outpointed Kendrick Latchman (1-6-1, 0 KOs), 22, of St. Louis. Jarmon won by shutout -- 40-36 on all three scorecards.