By Lem Satterfield
Argentina’s Brian Carlos Castano’s a relative newcomer in a 154-pound division highlighted by champions Jarrett Hurd (IBF//IBO/WBA) and Jermell Charlo (WBC), left-handed ex-titleholders Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout, and contenders Julian Williams and Tony Harrison.
Nicknamed, “El Boxi” after a fighting kangaroo cartoon character, Castano went 181-5-5 as an amateur, earning a South American Games gold medal. Along the way, Castano defeated current 147-pound champion Errol Spence, 2012 Olympic silver medalist Esquiva Falcao and, in the World Series of Boxing, Sergey Derevyanchenko, last weekend’s split-decision loser to Daniel Jacobs in a clash for the IBF’s vacant 160-pound world title.
The 29-year-old Castano (15-0, 11 KOs) shapes up as a formidable opponent against any of the above or others such as newly-crowned titlist Jamie Munguia or former champion Ishe Smith, his past three victories comprising a WBA 154-pound “regular” title and a pair of defenses.
The 35-year-old Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs) could be next for Castano, coming off April’s split-decision unification loss to Hurd (22-0, 15 KOs), according to Sebastian Contursi, Castano’s manager. Lara had been the longest-reigning 154-pound champ before Hurd’s final-round knockdown with 37 seconds remaining secured a 114-113 victory margin on all three judges’ scorecards.
“The WBA granted a special permit to Castano to defend his title against Lara,” said Contursi of Castano, who, like Lara, is advised by Al Haymon. “We’ve been told by Al Haymon that it will happen hopefully in January.”
Castano survived being dropped in the second-round of an interim title-winning two-knockdown, sixth-round KO of Emmanuel de Jesus in November 2016 and won a split-decision over Michel Soro in July. After being elevated to the status of WBA regular champion, Castano stopped Cedric Vitu by 12th-round TKO in March.
De Jesus scored an early second round knockdown, but was dropped, himself, once each in the first and sixth by powerful right hands from Castano, the last, to the solar plexus flooring the Puerto Rican for good.
Castano was the underdog against Soro, who was fighting before his partisan French fans and had gone 8-0-1 with eight knockouts in his previous nine fights, including seven straight stoppages.
Vitu was dominated by Castano, who ended an 11-0 run by the Frenchman (four knockouts), finishing him with a barrage of blows after dropping him with a series of combinations starting with a right to the body.
BoxingScene.com caught up with Castano for his thoughts on his future.
BoxingScene.com: What is the origin of your original nickname “Ray Sugar” and how it evolved into “El Boxi?’
Castsano: Actually, my nickname is “El Boxi” and not “Ray Sugar”. There was this person who said at one point that I should be nicknamed after Sugar Ray Leonard, but nobody really understood that.
I didn’t like it anyway as I see no similarities between Leonard and myself. So my nickname is “El Boxi” after an Argentinean cartoon character who was actually a boxing kangaroo.
BoxingScene.com: Who is your trainer?
Castano: My trainer is Carlos Alberto Castaño, also my father. He was a pro boxer himself, so I’ve learned everything from him since I used to hang out at the gym with him since I was 4 or 5 years old.
BoxingScene.com: Have you served as a chief sparring partner for any top fighters, and, if so, who and how were those experiences?
Castano: I was never a sparring partner for anyone, but I used to have some sparring sessions with Marcos “Chino” Maidana before he became a world champion.
I was around 16 years old, and those were great sessions. I was very young and fast and he was a beast. It was a great experience.
BoxingScene.com: What are some of your fondest memories as an amateur earning a South American Games gold medal and defeating Spence, Falcao and Derevyanchenko?
Castano: All those were great experiences and achievements that I always keep as sweet memories. My Dad used to take me to fight almost every weekend in Argentina, and there was a point where I didn’t have an opponent to fight.
My Dad even had his trainer license suspended as he brought me as a juvenile to fight against the adults because nobody my age would fight me. Then came my Argentinean national team experience, and I had the great Cuban Sarbelio Fuentes as main coach there.
It was a good time because we had a great level of international competition and I did very well. I always remember beating Errol Spence in the Pan American Games held in 2011 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.
The funny thing is he made it to the 2012 Olympic Games and I did not. Rather than an amateur one, the fight against Sergey Derevyanchenko was a pro fight held on the World Boxing Series back in March 2013.
Sergey Derevyanchenko and I squared off for five rounds of three minutes, no headgears and pro wrapping. I gave up a great deal of weight advantage for that fight, but I was able to beat him in what was a war.
BoxingScene.com: Is either Marcos Maidana, Carlos Monzon, Sergio Martinez or Lucas Mattysse influential to you, and, if so, why or why not?
Castano: Obviously, those are great names, so who wouldn’t admire them? I especially admire Martinez, Maidana, and Matthysse, who were definitely very influential to us as the new prospects during our time as they achieved great things in our era.
BoxingScene.com: What do you recall about winning the crown by surviving an early second round knockdown – scoring one each of your own in the first and sixth -- to knock out Emmanuel de Jesus in round six?
Castano: I’ve learned a great lesson in that fight. I knocked him down less than a minute after the first bell in the first round, so I got overconfident. I guess I allowed myself to get carried away by a loudly cheering crowd of more than 6,000 people in Argentina.
In the second round, I walked straight into De Jesus’ right hand. All of a sudden…BOOM!!!…I fell like a bag and had no idea were I was. I had never been in that situation before because I had never tasted the canvas. Ever.
I will be honest -- I was so groggy. I don’t really know how I got up and survived the rest of the round. Everybody was paralyzed at that moment. However, I felt like I had to overcome the adversity one way or the other.
Eventually I was able to take the WBA title. It was an amazing night, yet I left with a bitter taste in my mouth as I walked away from the arena asking myself: “How could you be that stupid to make such a mistake?” I guess I forgave myself after a while.
BoxingScene.com: What was the punch to the solar plexus that finished de Jesus?
Castano: That’s a punch that my Dad always wants me to throw. It’s called “The encounter punch,” and it is that right hand to the solar plexus. You have to throw it as if it was a right hand to the head. It has worked very well for me.
But on that night, it worked especially well against De Jesus. I was always popular in Argentina, but this is the international level, and, luckily I’ve started to become more known by the fans after winning the title.
BoxingScene.com: How would you describe your style?
Castano: I would say I am a slugger who always tries to throw punches in bunches with high speed and accuracy to destroy my opponents.
BoxingScene.com: Did you feel as if you were underestimated or else the underdog going into your first interim defense against Michel Soro, who had gone 8-0-1 with eight knockouts in his previous nine fights, including seven straight?
Castano: I don’t know about being underestimated. All I know is that Soro was a talented fighter who had won fights in the United States.
I had to respect that. I knew it was going to be a tough fight, but, eventually, everything came off great as I beat him fair and square.
BoxingScene.com: What do you think you did in terms of execution in the fight to influence the judges into giving you the decision?
Castano: I always try to be honest concerning my own performances, and I can assure you that I knew I won that fight.
I even had a look at Soro and his corner and they knew it, too. I overwhelmed him during most of the bout so he was never able to do his job.
BoxingScene.com: Do you feel that you stepped it up even more in your next fight against Vitu, finishing him off with that blistering 12th round?
Castano: That was another great fight for me. Vitu was probably not a known fighter but was definitely one of the toughest guys I’ve faced.
I knew since round one that I had to work my ass very hard in order to stop him as he could really take punches. But eventually I knew he could not take any more punishment.
BoxingScene.com: How does a fight break down between you and Hurd, Charlo and Mungia?
Castano: I think at this point, I have to be ready to face anybody. Hurd is very tough, he’s big and punches hard to your arms, to your head and wherever he can land.
Charlo is a good fighter. He kept improving, yet his last fight against Austin Trout, he looked a little disoriented by an experienced fighter.
Mungia is a good, strong, young fighter who made such a good impression in his last few fights, knocking out Sadam Ali to win the title and then beating Liam Smith and knocking out Brandon Cook.
BoxingScene.com: In what order would you rank like the champions or contenders, including yourself?
Castano: That’s a tough question because this division is filled with great talent. I would say No. 1 is Hurd, No. 2 is Charlo, No. 3 is Lara, and, No. 4 is myself.
But I’m working to change that order soon by defeating Erislandy Lara. The fight I would like to have is Erislandy Lara.
He is a renowned and talented fighter who presents a big challenge for me because of his elusive style. I would like to be the first one to knock him out, for which I will have to work really smart to accomplish.