By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Brian Castano understands that he is headed toward what, on paper, appears to be the toughest professional prizefight of his career.
Erislandy Lara has long been one of the best 154-pound boxers in the world. The Cuban southpaw stands between Castano and the other fights the Argentinean title-holder seeks – unification showdowns with fellow champions Jarrett Hurd, Jaime Munguia and Tony Harrison.
When they enter the ring for their 12-round, 154-pound title fight Saturday night, Castano anticipates encountering the best version of an accomplished ex-champion. Lara will turn 36 next month, but the 29-year-old Castano can’t approach his smart, skillful foe as if Lara is an old opponent ripe to be picked off.
“I know there might be some people that think age may be a factor,” Castano told BoxingScene.com. “I’m not one of them. I’m prepared to beat the best Lara ever. I’m expecting to beat the best version of him on Saturday. Because you’ve gotta think boxers like Floyd Mayweather – well, he’s retired now – but he and [Manny] Pacquiao, they were close to 40 years old and they still were at their best. So that’s not something I’m counting on, the aging of Lara. I’m ready to beat the best Lara on Saturday night, and I think he’s ready to go, too.”
Castano (15-0, 11 KOs) will defend the WBA’s world super welterweight title, a version of the title Houston’s Lara lost to Hurd in their memorable bout nearly 11 months ago in Las Vegas. Hurd (23-0, 16 KOs), who dropped Lara in the 12th round and won a split decision, is the WBA’s true champion at 154 pounds.
Castano won his version of the WBA’s title, then its interim championship, by defeating France’s Michel Soro (33-2-1, 22 KOs) by split decision in July 2017. The 12-round, Castano-Soro fight took place in Evian-les-Bains, France.
The rugged, hard-hitting Castano will fight for the first time in New York against Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs), who twice has headlined cards at Barclays Center.
Castano defeated Errol Spence Jr. as an amateur in 2011 and later won against Sergey Derevyanchenko in the World Series of Boxing. Lara represents his biggest challenge as an actual professional.
“This is the kind of fight I’ve been dreaming to have since I was a kid, since I started boxing,” Castano said. “A win over a name like Lara really would open new doors. That would probably lead me to the next level, and that’s also something I’ve been dreaming of. So, I’m happy and I’m proud to have this opportunity. That’s why I worked so hard to beat Lara. I’m sure that will do great things for my career.”
The Castano-Lara fight will headline Showtime’s three-bout broadcast.
That telecast is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, when Panama’s Bryan De Gracia (24-1-1, 20 KOs) and Mexico’s Eduardo Ramirez (21-1-3, 8 KOs, 1 NC) are set to square off in a 12-round, 126-pound WBA elimination match. In the following fight, Cuban heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz (30-1, 26 KOs, 2 NC) and Germany’s Christian Hammer (24-5, 14 KOs) will go at it in a 10-rounder.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.