Aside from the obvious huge stakes at play when Jermell Charlo and Brian Castaño meet on Saturday to crown the first undisputed champion of the four-belt era at junior middleweight, the best part of this 154-pound duel is the contrasts of styles.
Charlo (34-1, 18 KOs), a 31-year-old native of Houston, is a dangerous counterpuncher with the perfect balance of speed and power. Yet he'll be defending his WBA, WBC and IBF titles this weekend at the AT&T Center in San Antonio (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) against a completely different animal in Castaño (17-0-1, 12 KOs), the 31-year-old WBO champion from Argentina who never takes a step backward.
It's the expectation of fireworks between the two champions that is most appealing, not to mention that either fighter just might possess the exact style capable of becoming Kryptonite to their opponent.
"I'm much stronger than I was and I'm much faster. I feel like I'm ready," Charlo said during Thursday's final press conference. "It's not just about the power -- I've got power in both hands and power in every punch, from every angle. But I'm excited to be in this moment to be facing another champion. This is not just another opponent. I know he has a game plan and we will figure out what to do to him on Saturday."
Although Charlo enters as the more athletic and explosive fighter of the two, Castaño is far more aggressive and revels in the challenge of getting inside his opponent's jab in order to attack the body and work on the inside.
The thing that often separates Castaño from equally determined grinders is that he's far more responsible defensively yet is still willing to go for the finish at any point if the opening is there.
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"When it comes to it, if I have to lower my punch output to put more power into things, I will," Castaño said. "We have a war to fight on Saturday. I guarantee I'm not going to disappoint and that you are going to enjoy this fight. I guarantee you are going to see an all-out war and I am going to be victorious."
The major bit of concern for Charlo coming in is that he doesn't admire his work too much should he prove unable to finish Castaño in the first half of the fight.
Although extremely efficient in his output, the problem has often become for Charlo in close fights that he doesn't throw enough fights to leave no doubt on the scorecards. It has been an Achilles heel to some degree for Charlo and likely responsible for his lone defeat -- a disputed decision loss to Tony Harrison in 2018 that Charlo avenged the following year by knockout in yet another close fight in which he failed to leave no doubt through his activity until the finish.
A pair of fun bouts fill out this tripleheader on Showtime. Amilcar Vidal and Immanuwel Aleem open things up in a middleweight bout contracted for 162 pounds. Vidal, a native of Argentina, has exploded to begin his pro career with 11 knockouts in 12 pro fights. This, however, will be just his third bout in the U.S. The co-main event gets another exciting prospect in a prominent spot when Rolando Romero takes on Anthony Yigit at lightweight. Romero has nearly matched Vidal to start his career with 11 knockouts in his first 13 pro fights. This will, however, be the second straight opponent to miss weight against Romero as Yigit came in five pounds over the 135-pound limit on Friday.
Below is the full fight card with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook, as well as a prediction for the main event.
Fight card, odds
- Jermell Charlo (c) -240 vs. Brian Castaño (c) +200, unified junior middleweight titles
- Rolando Romero -380 vs. Anthony Yigit +300, lightweights
- Amilcar Vidal -490 vs. Immanuwel Aleem +370, middleweights
Based on the above data, if Charlo doesn't pick up the pace against Castaño, he could be in for a rude awakening should this prove to be a competitive fight that goes to the judges. Because of Castaño's track record of stamina and durability, it's an outcome that remains very possible.
Yet what the statistical comparison doesn't take into account is how good Charlo is defensively and how the threat of his power often lowers the output of his opponent because of it. In addition, Castaño is also taking a fairly big step up in class for this fight following consecutive dominant wins over Wale Omotoso and Patrick Teixeira, the latter of which won him the WBO title.
Castaño's toughest test to date came in the form of his lone career blemish when he fought then-titleholder Erislandy Lara to an exciting and competitive split draw in 2019. The fight proved Castaño could fight on the world level, but it also came within the start of a late career slide that saw Lara less dependent upon his feet and more willing to stand and trade out of necessity.
Charlo, at the peak of his physical prime, enters this fight as a much more dangerous threat to Castaño than Lara was at the time. And he will need his jab to be both active and on point should he hope to make Castaño pay for advancing forward.
Very few opponents have been able to sustain a prolonged body attack against Charlo given how dangerous he is as a countering sniper. But this is a fight Charlo needs to make sure he prevents Castaño from regularly getting inside of his jab given how comfortable the Argentine is at employing a two-fisted attack at close range.
Provided Charlo can keep Castaño at distance with his jab and keep the threat of his right hand, this is a fight Charlo should win given his advantages in overall skill. Anything short of that would see Charlo running a legitimate risk that Castaño could slow him down by going to the body and possibly be in a position to outslug him entering the championship rounds.
Charlo has more than enough tools to get the job done, but he will need the right mindset to match. That involves doing what it takes early to be the aggressor and discipline his opponent to prevent the kind of adjustments that might see Castaño rally from behind.
Jermall Charlo, the unbeaten WBC middleweight champion and brother of Jermell, endured this exact challenge from Sergiy Derevyanchenko last fall and passed the difficult test by relying on his heavy jab and smarts to answer every potential surge his opponent could muster. Jermell will need to do the same or he'll run the risk that the judges favor Castaño's aggression more than the unified champion's craft.
Pick: Charlo via MD12