By Sean Reed
For as long as Texans can remember, there’s been a contentious relationship between Houston and Dallas residents. Probing questions about the Dallas Cowboys or Houston Oilers; Dallas Cowboys or Houston Texans, Astros or Rangers, Rockets or Mavericks quickly reveals affiliation and sides are chosen and defended with the passion of rival gang members.
Beyond professional sports franchises, the scope of mutual discontent extends to barbecue, Tex-Mex, traffic, crime, women, quality of life, you name it, within the "Lone Star State".
Segueing to boxing, prizefighters from both cities branded impressions upon the game like livestock. Hall of Famers George Foreman and Curtis Cokes, former world titlists Reggie Johnson, Quincy Taylor, Juan Diaz, Frank Tate, and United States Olympians, Errol Spence, Rocky Juarez, Raul Marquez, Luis Yanez, Marlen Esparza, Foreman and Tate, just to name a few.
Fueled by ever present state-wide animosity, state pride and more is on the line Saturday, April 22nd, when Houston's Jermell Charlo (28-0, 13 KO's) defends his WBC super welterweight title against Dallas' Charles Hatley (26-1-1, 18 KO's). This southern-fried turf war will be waged north of the Mason-Dixon Line, at Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, New York, the co-main event of SHOWTIME's Shawn Porter vs. Andre Berto welterweight eliminator.
Hatley, 31, is somewhat of a deity in Dallas/Ft. Worth boxing circles, stemming from near misses at spots on the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic teams, and independent forays at promotion, showcasing his talents within "Big D". The (twin) Brothers Charlo, Jermell, and former I.B.F. super welterweight champion, Jermall, 26, made audible amateur noise representing "H-Town", and seemed well on their way to being at the forefront of the next wave of Texas' Olympic boxing hopefuls, after Hatley.
As luck would have it, the aforementioned were all punching for paychecks by the end of 2008, and the likelihood of an eventual "Charlo's vs. Charlie" affair began to be whispered. The decibels grew increasingly louder, when Hatley sat ringside for Charlo's title winning effort against John Jackson and photo bombed the post fight interview, issuing a challenge. They were initially supposed to clash on an Adrien Broner show, then a Gary Russell undercard, which certainly didn't simmer the tension any.
An interesting footnote is the fact Charlo's trainer, Derrick James, has (or at least had) a relationship with Team Hatley. James, also from Dallas, boxed on the same neighborhood boxing team as Hatley's father, Greg, growing up, and assisted in Charles' corner for many of his early professional bouts. James also brought his prized pupil, Errol Spence, Jr., to Team Hatley camps for sparring, in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. This became a point of contention that was hotly debated on a recent conference call. Apparently, familiarity really does breed contempt.
The fight itself promises to be even more entertaining than the build-up and back story. Charlo's sitting on his punches, looking to administer more hurt, under James' tutelage. And Hatley's an action fighter at the core; getting staggered or dropped only intensifies his desire for payback. Coupled with what should be an entertaining main event, this will be a fun night of fights.