IF BRIAN CASTAÑO narrowly deserved victory against Jermell Charlo when they fought to a split-decision draw in July 2021, Charlo proved himself the superior fighter on Saturday by making the necessary adjustments required to win an even more thrilling fight. Where last year there was little to separate them, Charlo eliminated the potential uncertainty involved in another competitive fight on course to last the distance, producing the most clinical of stoppages late in the 10th round. He had twice hurt Castaño in their first fight but struggled to subdue the Argentinian. Ten months later the 32-year-old Castaño, previously undefeated, was hurt so severely by a left hand that only the most generous of officiating gave him the opportunity to fight on.

The main event at Carson’s Dignity Health Sports Park was delayed by 20 minutes by Castaño’s late arrival and refusal to sacrifice any part of his final preparations for what was to be his toughest fight. When they finally made their way to the ring they fought with such an intensity that he was ultimately proven right. 

Charlo’s advantage in size and range over his fellow super-welterweight was instantly as apparent as his desire to resist having a similar fight to their first. He swiftly landed with authority to both head and body, found himself drawn into a toe-to-toe exchange, and, demonstrating his intent to later tire his once near-tireless opponent, again returned to targeting his body. 

Castaño responded by landing accurate right hands to the head in the second, but when he was then guilty of reaching, he was punished by a counter, and attempts from Charlo to jab to his body. Charlo, 31, from Lafitte, Louisiana, then landed a straight right and countered with a left when Castaño again swung; the Argentinian continued to attempt to force a high tempo and to narrow the distance between them; when he did so he found himself succeeding as often as getting tied up on the inside by an opponent aware he’d struggle to match him there. 

In the third Castaño had increased success. Charlo appeared relatively comfortable on the back foot and prioritised his jab, but when “El Boxi” stretched and landed he found himself trading, then getting caught by the ropes and taking further punishment. A determination to keep Charlo there ensured Castaño continued throwing; a determination to punish Castaño ensured Charlo continued to counter him, and to forget he had been targeting his body. Castaño imposed the higher work-rate; Charlo landed the better quality punches. Castaño was also consistently drawing Charlo into his desired nature of fight.

The fourth, fifth and sixth were all rounds he edged with his work-rate. Again they traded toe-to-toe, and again Charlo was the fighter with the superior head movement, speed, power and accuracy, but he found Castaño outlasting him, even as they traded flush right hands. Castaño inflicted his greatest damage in the sixth, when it was also the American who looked more hurt.

Castaño struggled to continue imposing that same pace, largely because of the extent to which Charlo had continued to land. A punishing left in the seventh was followed by Charlo having narrowly more time and space to counter and in which to avoid the ropes; he then snapped the Argentinian’s head backwards with a straight left in the eighth. 

The clearest breakthrough followed in the ninth, when still the likeliest outcome appeared another close decision and, enticingly, a third fight. Charlo followed landing a hurtful left hand with a left-right combination that made the tiring Castaño stumble before almost instantly resuming his attempts to trade.

The briefest of delays between Charlo landing a left hook in the 10th and Castaño falling forwards as his legs gave way beneath him was the first indicator of the extent to which he was hurt. Referee Jerry Cantu inexplicably allowed him to continue fighting when he remained unsteady having returned to his feet, at which point Charlo resumed his assault, again snapped his head back with another left hand and then landed a further left to the body to again force him to his knees. Charlo was so certain that he had won, that he went to the corner to celebrate like Cantu had already rescued Castaño, which he imminently did, after 2-33. 

Charlo is now the world champion at 154lbs. He also added Castaño’s WBO belt to those he already held from the IBF, WBC and WBA, and had been leading 89-82, 87-84 and 88-83 on the respective scorecards of judges Glenn Feldman, David Sutherland and Zachary Young (Boxing News had him leading 87-86).

Welterweight Jason “Boots” Ennis, 24, provided the latest demonstration of his considerable potential by stopping the previously undefeated Custio Clayton in two rounds. As the bigger, faster, stronger and more polished fighter, the Philadelphian landed the most authoritative punches of the first round before forcing the first knockdown in the second with an overhand right. Clayton, 34 and from Ottawa, Canada, made referee Ray Corona’s generous count but remained unsteady to the point of bouncing off the ropes once he returned to his feet, forcing Corona’s intervention.

Over 10 rounds at super-bantamweight and under the supervision of Gerard White, Kevin Gonzalez, from Sinaloa, Mexico, earned a unanimous decision over Emanuel Rivera Nieves of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico via respective scores of 96-94, 97-93 and 98-92 from Rudy Barragan, Carla Caiz and Tiffany Clinton. There was also a unanimous decision victory for Los Angeles’ Brandyn Lynch at middleweight against Marcos Hernandez, of Fresno California, when after eight rounds Sutherland, Fernando Villarreal and Young awarded him respective scores of 76-75, 77-74 and 76-75. Edward Hernandez Snr was the referee. The remaining unanimous decision was awarded to Oak Hills’ José Pérez, who over six rounds at featherweight against fellow Californian Anthony Chavez earned three scores of 58-55 from Caiz, Young and Jonathan Davis, with White again in charge. 

White was also the referee when LA-based Armenian heavyweight Gurgen Hovhannisyan stopped Jesse Bryan, of Jefferson City, Missouri, after 97 seconds of the second round. Another heavyweight, Buenos Aires’ Luciano Sanchez’ debut earned an identical stoppage against fellow debutant Adrian Silva, from Bakersfield, California, under the supervision of Corona. 

Marlon Tapales, from Kapatagan in the Philippines, stopped Jose Estrella of Tijuana, Mexico, 99 seconds into the second round of the super-bantamweight fight overseen by Corona. Oak Hills’ Jerry Perez won 1-58 into the fifth round of his lightweight fight with Florida-based Nicaraguan Erick Lanzas Jnr when Cantu was the referee. Cantu, similarly, also oversaw Jose Mejia, of Palmdale, California, winning on his debut at welterweight against Bakersfield’s Matthew Reed. The stoppage came 2-27 into the first round.

Hernandez Snr officiated for the stoppage victories of Anthony Cuba and Geovany Bruzon. Cuba, of Fontana, California, won 2-11 into the second round of his lightweight fight with Oscar Acevedo of LA. Cuban heavyweight Bruzon, who fights out of Las Vegas, stopped Daniel Najera, of Monterrey, Mexico, after 2-39 of the first. 

The Verdict The two fights with Castano will define Charlo’s increasingly impressive career.