The road to the top has not been easy for boxer Charles “The Future” Hatley.
From an upset loss in a fight he should have never been in, to being locked out by the boxing establishment because he didn’t sign with a big-time promoter, to long layoffs, postponements and delays.
A less determined man might have given up.
But this has been a dream of Hatley and his family since childhood.
And there is no turning back now, as the future is finally here for the 31-year old Dallas boxer.
Hatley (26-1-1, with 18 KOs) will face current champion Jermell “Iron Man” Charlo (28-0, 13 KOs) for the WBC junior middleweight (154-pound) title Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The broadcast on Showtime starts at 8:30 p.m.
With a win, Hatley would finally follow in the historic footsteps of local legends Curtis Cokes, Donald Curry, Paulie Ayala and Quincy Taylor and become the next boxing champion from Dallas-Fort Worth.
“This was planned before he was born,” said Greg Hatley Sr., his father and trainer. “It was planned to have world champions.”
Greg founded the Oak Cliff Boxing Club. Charles and his two brothers, including Charles’ corner man, Ke’elronn Hatley, were introduced into boxing as kids. Greg Sr. handed the boxing bug down to his sons. Greg Jr. is also boxer.
The plan of a family of champions is now down to a dream of one in the form of Hatley.
And he has no plans of letting them down.
“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 in a pre-fight conference call. “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.”
There is question that Charlo will be the toughest opponent Hatley has faced.
But the reverse is also true.
Hatley has persevered and overcome a multitude of obstacles to get here.
And this is not his first time being overlooked and cast off as an underdog.
Hatley had an impressive 250-12 ledger as an amateur and was a 2008 Olympic alternate, while also winning the U.S. national title at welterweight in 2007.
That was when the future looked bright.
But when he turned pro, the politics of the boxing game proved to be tougher to negotiate than any fighter he has faced.
The family refused to sign with a big-name promoter and went the grass roots route of producing their own fights and bankrolling the training costs.
The big breakthrough came in November 2015 when he flew to Australia as a fill-in to face Anthony Mundin for the WBC super welterweight silver belt and won with a stoppage in the 11th round.
“Well, I went to Australia with everything against me,” Hatley said. “The crowd and everything were all against me. Well, I made it really easy. I stuck to what we had been training for. I knew I was going overseas and I knew he was a great fighter. But I went in and dominated the fight the whole fight.”
The major upset in knockout fashion finally put Hatley on the map and in the crosshairs of a mandatory title shot against Charlo.
But the wait was not over. He finally relented and signed with Don King.
Still, the date of the fight has been changed three times.
“Yes, I don’t really know what the issue was with this fight,” Hatley said. “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 a fight and I was going to be ready.”
In addition to fighting Charlo, Hatley will be battling rust. It’s been almost a year and half since he last fought.
But for a man who has been waiting a lifetime for his future to be realized, there will be no excuses. The opportunity is finally in front of him.
And he’s ready.
“Yes, well, the layoff was good for me,” Hatley said. “I was so busy at the time and I actually needed the layoff. I never stopped training for it. I’m ready and I’m coming to win, man. So may the best man win.”
Showtime Championship Boxing
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
TV: 8:30 p.m., Showtime
Super welterweight championship
Champion Jermell Charlo vs. Charles Hatley
WBC welterweight world title eliminator
Andre Berto vs. Shawn Porter