It seems that though a four-belt era allows champions various stylistic options when (and if) they wish to unify titles, boxing fans seldom see belt-holders with the urgency to prove to be the best of the division.
Instead, we see Twitter battles, ducking accusations without actual negotiation attempts, and champions facing countless contenders we often need to Boxrec.
This July 17 on Showtime, we’ll witness the two junior middleweight champions achieve glory by unifying all titles and becoming undisputed. No twitter fingers. No marinating. Just the best fighting best.
While the battle for undisputed between unified 154lb. champion Jermell “Iron Man” Charlo and WBO titleist Brian “El Boxi” Castaño is already highly anticipated because of their fan-friendly styles; perhaps what’s most appreciated is both fighters’ fantastic journey to this very moment.
A highly-decorated amateur, Castaño (17-0-1, 12KOs) captured his first minor belt in his home country of Argentina in late 2016. “El Boxi” gained popularity when he defended the same WBA interim title against former champion Erislandy Lara, though the bout resulted in a split-decision draw.
After vacating the WBA interim title in 2019, Castaño obtained a minor WBO title to immediately become mandatory for the real WBO strap against the then-undefeated Patrick Teixeira, who would capture the title later that November.
Though Castaño came into the ring after more than a year of inactivity, the Argentine displayed no signs of ring rust as he remained in control since the opening bell, relentlessly hammering away at Teixeira.
After hurting the Brazilian former champion several times throughout the fight and dominating almost every round, Castaño and his team rejoiced as they heard, “And the new!”
Usually, newly-crowned champions love to hold on to their belt as long as possible before committing to a unification bout, and with the prestigious title of world champion, who would blame them. With Castaño, however, the moment of pure ecstasy must’ve been so addicting that he craves to hear the exact words again in this same year.
When I saw him putting the finishing touches to his camp last Friday, Castaño appeared in high spirits as he told me he knows his style will prove problematic for Charlo. When asking Castaño’s trainer why immediately pursue super welterweight supremacy instead of taking on mandatories, he expressed his son doesn’t need any more preparation, as he is more than qualified to pull off another upset.
“Thing is, we’ve been chasing this for a while.” Castaño Sr. told Xicana Boxing. “He has pedigree, and I think, what is there to wait for? We’re at a level where we can fight against anyone. Of course, respectfully, but why wait? He’s already world champion.”
Charlo, however, is no ordinary opposition.
With one of the most impressive resumes in the division, the Texas native’s passionate personality often translates in the ring in the form of brutal highlight-reel worthy knockouts. Like Castaño, Charlo (34-1, 18KOs) obtained minor belts before finally capturing the vacant WBC super welterweight title in 2016, though establishing himself as a legitimate threat two fights later with a tremendous first-round knockout victory over then-undefeated Erikson Lubin.
Charlo went to have a more challenging fight with former champion Austin Trout, ultimately edging a majority decision victory. In Dec. 2018, Charlo suffered his first professional defeat at the hands of Tony Harrison via a very controversial unanimous decision.
After what was one of the most entertaining lead-up to a rematch due to blatant trash talk amongst camps, Charlo avenged his loss just a year later, knocking out Harrison to become a two-time world champion.
However, becoming a two-time champion wasn’t enough, as Charlo would come back in Sept. 2020 chasing two more belts. The opponent, Jeison “Banana” Rosario, shocked the boxing world by pulling off an upset against Julian Williams in early January by knocking him out in five rounds.
Hungry for competitive fights after months of little-to-no boxing because of the global pandemic, boxing fans tuned in intrigued, wondering if the Dominican fighter would serve Charlo a similar fate as his last opponent. Instead, Charlo delivered a dominant performance dropping Rosario twice in the first half of the fight before connecting a jab to the solar plexus that would leave Rosario spasming in the middle of the ring to finish the bout in the eighth round.
Once again, Charlo had made a new champion’s reign short-lived. Having faced better opposition and with almost twice as many fights, Castaño may very much be his next victim.
Castaño Sr. recognizes Charlo as a great fighter but claims his reliance on power will ultimately be his biggest flaw. Castaño, who has a reputation for being a relentless volume puncher, promised to become the first Latino to become undisputed in the division.
“My prediction is that I am going to win, and he will suffer.”
On the other hand, Charlo appeared unphased by Castaño’s confidence.
“I’ve suffered my whole life, so there’s nothing in this world that can make me suffer more than what I went through growing up,” Charlo said during the virtual press conference. “Castaño is a great fighter who puts on a lot of pressure. But I know my abilities, and I know my power. Every punch I throw is dominant, and every shot I throw is painful for my opponent. I have a lot of unique abilities in me, and I’m going to bring some tricks into this fight.”
While both fighters have yet to taste the canvas in their professional careers, most boxing fans predict the fight won’t go the distance. While Castaño has a better KO ratio with knockouts against lower-tier opposition earlier in his career, Charlo’s are more recent and much more devastating against better opponents.
For Castaño, the key to victory would be to smother Charlo with his signature volume punching to impede him from setting up dangerous left hooks. If his chin proves to be resistant, he could find success frustrating Charlo out of his game plan.
For Charlo, we can say not to get too emotional. However, it seems as the emotion serves as fuel for him to deliver reign-ending punches that lead him to victory. Utilizing his comfortable reach and height advantage should help maintain distance with a dominant jab to set up crisp counters as Castaño comes forward.
These are the type of fights where both guys are deserving of the opportunity. Both guys climbed their way up the ranking the right way. Both guys never hesitated on taking the subsequent risk, yet the hard work will only pay off for only one of them.
For Castaño, pulling back-to-back upsets against house fighters would cement his legacy as one of the best to come out of Argentina. Even better, the country would have something more to celebrate after their national team defeated Brasil in the Copa America. The first undisputed Latino champion in the division.
For Charlo, maybe becoming undisputed will finally put him on the pound-for-pound list, and he’ll finally receive the respect he demands from the media. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll still make history and enough money to surround his entire house in fish tanks.
SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Tickets for the live event can be purchased through www.attcenter.com.