When Derrick James, the highly acclaimed trainer of unified junior middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, looks backs on his fighter’s exciting — yet equally disputed — split draw against WBO champion Brian Castano last summer, one key stretch in particular comes to mind as it pertains to Saturday’s rematch.
Castano (17-0-2, 12 KOs) outlanded his opponent and connected on a higher percentage of punches in their 154-pound undisputed championship bout in San Antonio but was forced to withstand the storm of a Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KOs) rally in the championship rounds.
In the end, one judge scored it 114-114, while the other two scored it 117-111 for Charlo and 114-113 for Castano, in a fight many observers felt the native of Argentina had done enough to win.
“This is the funny thing about it, Brian Castano was who I thought he was going to be. But he was only able to be that guy because of Jermell Charlo,” James told “Morning Kombat” in April. “It wasn’t about how great [Castano] was or wasn’t, it was about the fight that Jermell Charlo posed to him and gave him. When you look at the last four rounds, [Castano] was on the run because Charlo was on the hunt.
“If we start out like that, you may not see the last four rounds or may not see the full 12 rounds. We have to start out the fight different and be a different individual. Castano is who he is. He’s a pressure fighter and if you let a guy be himself, you can’t beat him.”
The 31-year-old Charlo has already predicted the rematch, which takes place this weekend at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET), will end in him knocking Castano out.
Luckily for Charlo, a native of Houston who is the twin brother of WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, he has history redeeming himself in big rematches after bouncing back from a disputed decision defeat against Tony Harrison in 2018 by stopping him late in their rematch one year later.
Castano, 32, is an altogether different fighter than the counter-boxing Harrison, however. He succeeded at using his combination of aggression mixed with responsible defense to take away Charlo’s jab (he landed just 53 of 287 for 18.5%, according to CompuBox) and routinely get inside.
Even though Castano’s output was down compared to previous fights because of the threat of Charlo’s heavy counter shots, his pressure was enough to disarm Charlo. The result was a fair amount of Monday morning quarterback talk after the fight about whether Charlo can be his own worst enemy at times for being too efficient and not letting his hands go.
It’s a notion that James still disputes.
“It just depends on what your taste of boxing is and what you really like,” James said. “What are your expectations? If your expectations are to see him go out and throw 1,000 punches, throwing only 999 is not going to get it done. But if you go out there and watch him do what he does best by boxing and throwing power shots, the versatility gives you depth.
“You don’t know if he’s a puncher or a boxer but he can be whatever he wants to be and that’s what keeps people intrigued because they don’t know what to expect. That gives him depth rather than shortening his career or hurting everyone’s expectations from what they thought they were going to get.”
Another wrinkle to the rivalry over the past week has been Charlo’s accusations regarding the reasons behind Castano pulling out of their originally proposed rematch in February. Charlo maintained that Castano faked the injury and never left the gym because he felt he needed more time to prepare for their second fight.
“I promise you, I’m going to make him pay for everything that he has said and everything that happened in the first fight,” Castano said during last Thursday’s virtual press conference. “I’m going to break him and I’m going to make him suffer. And that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter if it’s in front of one, two, three hundred, or 20,000 people. What I have my sights set on is him and only him — me and him inside the ring, that’s all.”