Charlo Vs Castaño 2 Big Fight Preview

On Saturday night, Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano face each other in a rematch of their much-debated July 2021 draw with undisputed world championship status at 154lbs at stake. Luke G. Williams previews the action…

The existence of the so-called ‘four-belt era’ of boxing may be regrettable, despicable even, but even so it’s worth restating that in said era of proliferating titles it is a rare and uncommon feat to crown an ‘undisputed’ champion.

American Jermell Charlo and Argentine Brian Castano both entered last July’s WBC-WBA-IBF-WBO light-middleweight title showdown at the AT&T Center in Antonio hoping to join Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, Terence Crawford, Oleksandr Usyk and Josh Taylor in this select four-belt club. At the end of 12 engrossing and hard fought rounds, neither man was able to claim victory, the judges seeing the fight as a split decision draw.

Subsequently, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez became the sixth member of this select band when he unified all four super-middleweight belts, and now Charlo and Castano attempt – once again – to banish all doubts about who is ‘the man’ at 154lbs when they meet in a rematch on Saturday night at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California in a contest that is – in a welcome sign of promotional largesse – being screened live and free for UK residents on the PBC’s youtube page.

Whoever emerges victorious will – by my reckoning – become the first undisputed light-middleweight champion since either Japan’s Koichi Wajima way back in 1975 or Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright in 2004. (Whether you view Wright as a truly undisputed champ depends on when you believe the ‘four-belt eta’ began – a question which, frankly, shouldn’t even exist and which I therefore can’t be bothered to even entertain answering).

But back to the fight at hand … When Charlo and Castano first met, a clear majority of ringside observers seemed of the opinion that if either man had edged the fight it was the Argentine. However, although I saw Castano as the victor it was no robbery. True, the underdog was often the aggressor, but Charlo finished strongly and a draw was a more than justifiable result. As such a rematch was not only desirable, but arguably essential and it is to both men’s credit that it was duly brokered without too much wrangling or the tiresome intervention of warm-up bouts.

Having said that, the build-up to this fight has not been without controversy. The rematch was originally meant to take place on 19 March, but Castano suffered a bicep tear that while it did not require surgery did – according to the Argentine – necessitate rest, hence a rescheduled date nearly three months hence.

This delay certainly seemed to antagonise Charlo, who has maintained a somewhat prickly and voluble demeanour as the fight has drawn closer. “He was still in the gym, running,” was his take on Castano’s injury. “He was still swinging that arm… Something ain’t right. Something ain’t right with these people.”

Indeed. as the fight has drawn closer, it has become clear that Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KOs) is extremely fired up. Swear words and resentments have peppered his pre-fight rhetoric and he has appeared edgy. “I just have to be dominant,” he vowed this week. “I have to be the best Jermell Charlo, that y’all are yet to see. I’m going to dominate this fight way differently than I did the last fight.

“Castano is the same fighter as he’s been in every fight. He’s going to come and keep coming back up. I’m going to use everything I learned from that fight, on Saturday night. I’m going to take advantage of the things that I have that he doesn’t have. I’m going to use the skills I’m blessed with.

“I’m going to be stronger, faster and smarter than I’ve ever been before. Thank you Castano, for giving me more time to prepare myself. I’m grateful for my opportunities. This is my time and I’m focused. He’s my target and I’m going to pop him. I know what I possess in the ring. I know who I am and I know where I come from.”

Charlo has also vowed that he will stop Castano (17-0-2, 12 KOs). “Knocking people out is what the fuck I do,” the 31-year-old said. “That’s what I’m known for. I’m known for the power and I’m known for the speed. That’s what I’m doing… Once he’s hurt again, and hopefully it’s earlier than later, it’s over. There’s nothing he’s going to be able to do when we drop these bombs on him Saturday.”

The 32-year-old Castano, for his part, is also talking about securing a stoppage. “He can say whatever he wants. I couldn’t care less if he wants to knock me out. Let’s go out there and see if he can withstand my punishment for 12 rounds. The lack of respect he has for a fellow athlete bothered me. He said a lot of things that I thought were out of line. I don’t know why he’s all edgy and screaming and nervous. I’d rather him show that energy in the ring.”

The tinge of nastiness – and mutual vow by both fighters to go to war – makes any outcome possible. After all if either man tries too hard for a knockout then they run the risk of making themselves vulnerable to a stoppage themselves.

I can’t shake the feeling that Charlo, however, has more room for improvement than Castano who, it seems to me, put in a career best performance last time around and still couldn’t quite get over the finish line. Charlo is certainly the more technically gifted of the duo, and blessed with greater punch power too, even if his KO ratio is not quite as high as you would expect from a man who hits as hard as he does.

When Charlo suffered a surprise reverse to Tony Harrison in December 2018, albeit via a close majority decision, he made the necessary adjustments for the December 2019 rematch and won it handily, and I could see a similar scenario unfolding here.

If Charlo utilises his jab more effectively and can counteract Castano’s bobbing head movement more decisively than in the first fight I can see him boxing his way to a close but clear points win.

On the other hand, if the two men stay true to their pre-fight rhetoric and go toe-to-toe then I also fancy Charlo’s greater power to win the day in what could be a short but thrilling firefight.

In short, from whichever angle I examine this fight, I think it will be Charlo’s night.