SAN ANTONIO – Boxing fans will have to wait for the crowning of the sport’s sixth fully unified champion of the four-belt era.
Brian Castano and Jermell Charlo fiercely fought to a 12-round split draw in a high-level, action-packed 154-pound title unification fight at AT&T Center. The aggressive Argentinean underdog pressured Charlo for most of their encounter, but only one judge, New Jersey’s Steve Weisfeld, scored the fight for unbeaten WBO junior middleweight champion, 114-113.
Puerto Rico’s Nelson Vazquez ridiculously scored nine rounds for Charlo, who won 117-111 on Vazquez’s card. Nevada’s Tim Cheatham scored the fight even, 114-114.
Houston’s Charlo won each of the last three rounds on all three scorecards to render the official result a split draw.
Castano told Showtime’s Jim Gray during his post-fight interview that he believes he clearly won the fight in Charlo’s home state of Texas.
“I won the fight,” Castano said. “There were some rounds that he did hit me, and he hit me hard. But I won this fight.”
Charlo previously told Gray that he feels he won a bout his trainer, Derrick James, told him he needed a knockout to win entering the championship rounds of their “Showtime Championship Boxing” tripleheader.
“He threw a hell of a lot of punches,” Charlo said. “My skills and my ability and my power – I felt like I won this fight and I deserve to be going home undisputed. I am glad to have fought for undisputed. It’s different. I still hold my titles. I can’t wait to get home to my babies, take a break from boxing and then get back to the drawing board and see what’s next.”
Nevertheless, Buenos Aires’ Castano (17-0-2, 12 KOs) left the ring with his WBO belt and Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KOs) kept his IBF, WBA and WBC crowns.
CompuBox credited Castano for landing 22 more punches overall than Charlo (173-of-586 to 151-of-533). According to CompuBox, Castano landed more power punches (164-of-400 to 98-of-246) and Charlo connected on more jabs (53-of-287 to 9-of-186).
The 31-year-old Castano survived severe trouble during the 10th round, but he withstood Charlo’s power thereafter and finished the fight on strong legs.
“I was hurt in the 10th round and I had to recoup,” Castano said. “Same with the beginning of the 11th round. But I did enough to win this fight. I hope I get the rematch. He is a great fighter. I need the rematch.”
Charlo reacted accordingly once James informed him he needed a knockout to win, but he had to be mindful of Castano’s power as well. Charlo clocked Castano with a left hook, but Castano took it well with just under 1:20 to go in that final round.
They traded again near the ropes in the final minute of the 12th round, though neither fighter could hurt his opponent.
After hurting Castano in the 10th round, Charlo was aggressive at the beginning of the 11th round. Castano came back, however, with a left-right combination to Charlo’s head that made Charlo back off.
Castano appeared to have recovered from that troublesome 10th round by the second half of the 11th round. Charlo and Castano spent the final minute of that 11th round trading hellacious power shots, which brought the crowd to its collective feet.
Castano’s left to the body and follow-up left up top affected Charlo in the 10th round, but Charlo blasted back to hurt Castano with a right hand that wobbled his rugged opponent. Charlo quickly realized he buzzed Castano and tried to finish him, but Castano made it to the end of the round.
Castano and Charlo each landed right hands in an exchange just before the midway mark of the ninth round. Castano continued connecting with power punches in the final minute of the ninth round – first with a right hand that made Charlo reset his feet, then a left hook and then another right hand.
A right hand by Castano caught Charlo cleanly with just over two minutes to go in the eighth round. Castano connected with another overhand right with just under 1:20 remaining in the eighth round, but Charlo took it well.
Charlo and Castano had difficulty connecting with flush punches in the first two minutes of the seventh round. Castano backed Charlo into the ropes again later in the seventh round and landed a hard right as Charlo moved backward.
Charlo connected with a right hand at about the halfway point of the sixth round, but Castano took it well and kept pressuring Charlo. Castano caught Charlo with another left hook with just under 30 seconds to go in the sixth round.
Another left hook by Castano clipped Charlo just before the sixth round ended.
Charlo landed a right hand with just under two minutes to go in the fifth round, but Castano came back with a right hand of his own. A left hook by Castano left Charlo in a squatting position toward the end of the fifth round, but Charlo wasn’t hurt by that shot.
A right by Castano to the side of Charlo’s head landed flush with about 1:10 to go in the fourth round. Castano clipped Charlo with another hard right with just under 10 seconds to go in the fourth round.
Castano wasn’t as aggressive in most of the third round as he had been during the first two rounds. He defended him well and then clipped Charlo with a left hook that buckled Charlo’s knees when Charlo was backed into the ropes late in the third round.
That marked a rare instance in Charlo’s career when he seemed impacted by an opponent’s punch.
Charlo grazed Castano with a right about barely 30 seconds into the second round. Castano connected with a right hand that backed Charlo into the ropes a little later in that second round, but Charlo fired back with a right hand that didn’t land flush, yet he caused Castano to move backward.
Charlo caught Castano with another right hand as Castano backed into the ropes. Castano carefully approached Charlo for the remainder of the second round.
Castano backed Charlo into a neutral corner just after the midway mark of the opening round. Castano missed with a right hand and Charlo missed wildly with a left hook.
Castano attacked Charlo well with right hands to the body at times in the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.