The first 154-pound undisputed championship fight in the four-belt era lived up its promise in terms of drama and competitiveness. Even that, unfortunately, couldn't save Jermell Charlo and Brian Castaño from seeing their efforts marred by questionable scoring.
Castano (17-0-2), the reigning WBO champion, was forced to settle for a controversial split draw on Saturday after largely outboxing Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KOs) before holding off a late rally inside AT&T Center in San Antonio.
Judge Tim Cheatham scored it 114-114 and Steve Weisfeld had it 114-113 in favor of Castaño. But Nelson Vasquez turned in a head scratcher of 117-111 for Charlo, which allowed him to retain his WBA, WBC and IBF titles. CBS Sports had it 116-112, also for Castaño.
Despite what appeared to be a lack of urgency midway through the fight as Charlo, the 31-year-old counter puncher, was far too selective in his output, the native of Houston picked up the pace considerably over the final three rounds. Charlo hurt Castaño in Round 10 but couldn't drop or finish him, which led most to believe Castaño, a 31-year-old native of Argentina, had done enough.
Castaño outlanded Charlo over 12 rounds by a margin of 173 to 151, according to CompuBox, including 164 to 98 in power shots.
"The draw wasn't what I wanted to hear. If anything, I won this fight," Charlo said. "Brian Castaño is a tough warrior. He is going to give a lot of people problems but like I said, my power is serious in this division.
"My coach told me I needed a knockout and I just knew he knew that he was talking about. I trust him. This is the first time something like this happened to me."
Although the instructions down the stretch from trainer Derrick James, telling Charlo he needed a knockout to win, seemed to be on point, the trend of becoming too patient while looking to end the fight with one shot has followed Charlo for years. His low output was a major theme in his disputed decision loss to Tony Harrison in 2018 and Charlo appeared to be down on the scorecards late in their rematch one year later before scoring a late finish.
Not only did Castaño avoid imploding despite Charlo landing the bigger shots late, he fought brilliantly to neutralize his foe with a defensively responsible pressure attack heavy on lead right hands. Charlo became far too willing to fight off the ropes, which helped Castaño try and bully him, acting as the ring general throughout a series of close rounds.
Even better for Castaño, he regularly closed rounds with big flurries in ways that could've (or even should've) easily swung the judges in his favor at the end of each competitive frame.
"Basically, I won the fight," Castaño said. "There were some rounds that he hit me, no doubt about it. He hit me hard but I won the fight.
"In the 10th round I was hurt. I was trying to recoup a little bit in the 11th round, but I won the fight. I did enough to win the fight."
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Castaño's smart boxing also opened up lanes for big powers shots within his late flurries. He appeared to buckle Charlo's knees to close Round 3 with a left hook along the ropes.
Charlo's biggest issue was how regularly he abandoned his jab. But once he acknowledged the danger at not finishing strong heading into the championship rounds, his response was perfect as Charlo landed the bigger shots late while backing Castaño up.
"He threw a hell of a lot of punches against almost any opponent he ever fought but with my skills and power, I kept him off of me," Charlo said. "He had his guard up really high. I was moving a bit but probably not active enough. I don't have any excuses, though. I feel proud to have fought for an undisputed title."
Although Castaño gave Charlo his respect after the fight, it was obvious he felt as if he had been robbed and openly propositioned for a second chance.
"I hope there is a rematch," Castaño said. "He is a terrific fighter too. I want a rematch."
Elsewhere on the card, Rolando Romero picked up another TKO victory by stopping Anthony Yigit in the seventh round. Romero was deducted a point in the fifth round for holding and punching late, but he quickly made it for it by dropping Yigit at the bell. Romero now has 12 knockouts in 14 pro fights. Plus, Amilcar Vidal and Immanuwel Aleem put it all on the line in a 10-round battle to open the card. Vidal got the nod by majority decision in a fight that could have gone either way with the Uruguayan native edging out Aleem 205 to 183 in total punches landed, according to CompuBox.
CBS Sports was with you throughout the entire way on Saturday, so be sure to follow along with the live results and highlights below.
Fight card, results
- Jermell Charlo (c) vs. Brian Castaño (c) ends in split decision draw (114-113, 117-111, 114-114)
- Rolando Romero def. Anthony Yigit via seventh-round TKO
- Amilcar Vidal def. Immanuwel Aleem via majority decision (95-95, 97-93, 97-93)
Charlo vs. Castaño scorecard, live coverage