LOS ANGELES – If you didn’t know any better, the Brian Castano chants and drum-banging Thursday would’ve indicated that this is a hometown fight for the unbeaten WBO junior middleweight champion.
The Buenos Aires native’s loud, proud supporters from Argentina made him feel at home in the city where he trains. They’ll provide similar comfort Saturday night, when Castano will meet Jermell Charlo in a highly anticipated, 154-pound title unification rematch at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Charlo is from Houston, but Castano cannot help but feel like he’ll be the visitor again in their “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event (9 p.m. ET; 6 p.m. PT). An animated Charlo clearly let Castano and his fan club know during their press conference at The Westin Los Angeles Airport that this indeed is “USA versus Argentina.”
Castano downplayed that angle Thursday and expressed gratitude for the opportunities boxing in the United States have given him and his family. He also acknowledged that he’ll need to do more in their 12-round rematch than he did during their controversial split draw 10 months ago because he is the foreign fighter.
“The bottom line is I’m Argentinean and he’s an American,” Castano told BoxingScene.com. “So, I’m always gonna be on the road against him if we fight here because it’s two different nationalities. We have maybe more of a Latin presence here in L.A., and I love to fight here in L.A. But I know that when it comes to fighting in the United States, I’m always gonna be the visitor.”
The 32-year-old Castano believes he deserved a 115-113 victory over Charlo last July 17 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, an approximate three-hour drive from Houston. Charlo continually reminded Castano that Houston is his hometown, not San Antonio, but Castano considers the location consequential in the outcome.
“I learned that it’s really important not to fight in his hometown, because that was definitely a factor in the first fight,” Castano said during the press conference. “I think that tilted things a little bit. And I still feel like I’m the road guy here, I’m the visitor, still. But it has more of a quote, unquote neutral feel to it than San Antonio did. So, you know, the lesson is to always be with my guard up and be ready for whatever comes my way as the visitor because you never know what may happen.”
Castano (17-0-2, 12 KOs) was willing to face Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KOs), the IBF/WBA/WBC 154-pound champion, in his hometown if that’s what it took to secure the immediate rematch he wanted more than any other fight. Premier Boxing Champions founder Al Haymon explored bringing their second fight to Toyota Center in Houston, but it’ll take place at the venue once known as StubHub Center nearly two months after it was moved from its original date (March 19) and site (Crypto.com Arena, formerly Staples Center) due to Castano’s right biceps injury.
“I’m really happy because Los Angeles feels like my second home,” Castano told BoxingScene.com. “It’s where I train. It’s where I get ready for fights. And I’m very happy we were able to take the fight away from Texas and into Los Angeles, which is, at best, quote, unquote, neutral territory, if you wanna call it that way. But I’m really satisfied with the way we were able to select the venue for this fight.”
The California State Athletic Commission has assigned three American judges to score the Castano-Charlo rematch – Connecticut’s Glenn Feldman, Oklahoma’s David Sutherland and California’s Zachary Young (https://www.boxingscene.com/charlo-castano-rematch-california-commission-approves-judges-referee–166144).
Only one judge, New Jersey’s Steve Weisfeld, scored Castano the winner over Charlo in their first fight. Weisfeld credited Castano with a 114-113 win in part because he scored their one-sided 10th round 10-8 for Charlo, despite that Charlo didn’t record a knockdown.
Puerto Rico’s Nelson Vazquez strangely scored a completely competitive fight 117-111 for Charlo, who won nine rounds on his card. Nevada’s Tim Cheatham scored their initial 12-rounder a draw, 114-114.
That controversial result notwithstanding, Castano knows he can win a close fight in his opponent’s home country.
He defeated France’s Michel Soro (then 30-1-1) by split decision in their 12-round fight for the WBA’s interim super welterweight title. That fight took place at Casino d’Evian in Evian-les-Bains, France in July 2017.
There is much more at stake Saturday night than when he outscored Soro. Unless their rematch results in another draw or a no-contest, the winner will become just the seventh undisputed champion in any division during boxing’s four-belt era.
“I’m used to being in hostile territory,” Castano said, “and I’m aware of the fact that sometimes I have to do more than my opponent, just because of the fact that I am fighting in somebody else’s territory.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.