ON the few (all too few) occasions that boxing manages to carve out for itself some measure of respectability, all it takes for it to revert to its usual sordid form, it seems, are a few harebrained strokes of a judge’s pen.
The name Nelson Vazquez may not yet trigger a visceral reaction in boxing fans, the way that mentioning either Adelaide Byrd or CJ Ross is known to cause ulcers and migraines – but the veteran boxing judge of nearly 1,000 bouts from Puerto Rico might have secured a place in the sport’s Hall of Shame with his most recent tally, a mind-boggling distortion of empirical fact.
Saturday night at the AT&T Center, Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano swapped punches for 12 rounds in a super-welterweight bout that had ebbs and flows, dramatic exchanges, and the kind of fiery competitiveness that one expects when the stakes included the vacant world championship and, in a rarity, the four major sanctioning body trinkets (Charlo’s WBA, WBC, and IBF titles against Castano’s WBO). That should have been the story. The fight ended up going the distance and, on a somewhat anti-climactic note, was declared a split decision draw.
In and of itself, a stalemate was not particularly controversial, as it simply reflected the dogged nature of the contest, although it might be said that the verdict was especially kind toward Charlo, who looked overwhelmed at times by Castano’s relentless pressure. (Boxing News had Castano winning seven rounds to five). Judge Steve Weisfeld favored Castano, turning in a close scorecard of 114-113, and Tim Cheatham had the action a dead heat at 114-114.
But it was Nelson’s 117-111 scorecard for Charlo that had observers in a tizzy and editors reworking their headlines. Whether it was an act of malfeasance or simple incompetence no one will likely ever know, but the point is that on a momentous night in which boxing was hardpressed to do any wrong, the sport still found a way to enmesh itself in its usual cloak of skullduggery and disappointment.
Simply put, this was not a fight in which Charlo won nine rounds, even if he was the one responsible for landing the most eye-catching shots of the night.
The first of such punches occurred in the early going. With a minute left in the second round, Charlo caught Castano barreling forward with a counter left hook, instantly chastening the Argentine. Charlo then jumped on the woozy Castano as retreated along the ropes. For a moment, it seemed that Castano was a marked man, but he was able to survive.
Round three was waged mostly on Charlo’s terms. Using his length, Charlo kept Castano at the end of his punches. Yet, in an inversion of the previous round, Castano roared back toward the end of the round with an ambitious sally. During that exchange he whipped two left hooks across the right cheek of Charlo, the second of which buckled the Houstonian’s knees and had him nearly sitting on the bottom ropes.
The tenor of the fight now shifted to Castano, who began letting his hands go and cutting the ring off against the more economically minded Charlo. In the sixth round, however, Charlo had some minor success stemming Castano’s fervid pace by working behind his jab.
But Castano would not stay subdued for long. He bullyragged Charlo in the eighth, from start to finish, and at one point staggered Charlo with a pair of hard overhand rights. Castano kept it up in the ninth, outgunning Charlo once again, landing hard left and rights.
Just as it appeared that the fight was slipping away from Charlo, he responded with his strongest sortie in the final three rounds, particularly in the 10th, when he visibly hurt Castano with a hard left hand. He was rewarded for his clutch effort: all three judges scored the final three rounds for Charlo.
Post-fight, Castano expressed his desire for an immediate rematch, while Charlo was strangely noncommittal. Hector Afu refereed.
On the TGB Promotions undercard, lightweight heel Rolando Romero ran roughshod over Swedish southpaw Anthony Yigit, dropping him three times before stopping him in the seventh round of what was at times an ugly 135-pound contest (set for 12).
Romero scored the first knockdown right at the end of the bell of the fifth round, a right hand that landed high on Yigit’s forehead. The punch came immediately after Romero was deducted a point by referee Rafael Ramos for hitting during a break.
By that point Yigit, who came in a whopping five pounds overweight after taking the fight on short notice, was out of answers, despite acquitting himself well in the early rounds.
About a minute into the seventh round, Romero dropped Yigit once more with a right hand. Moments later, after some wrestling on the inside, Romero connected on a booming left uppercut that dropped Yigit to the canvas for the third time, thus compelling Ramos to halt the bout at 1-54.
Middleweights Amilcar Vidal and Immanuwel Aleem put on a spirited donnybrook (set for 10) before the Uruguyan Vidal came away with the victory, courtesy of two favorable tallies.
Judges Ruben Carrion and Glen Crocker turned in scorecards of 97-94 for Vidal, and Anthony De Los Santos had the bout even at 95-95.
There were plenty of momentum shifts throughout, with Vidal outworking Aleem on the inside with torrid body shots, while Aleem, Richmond, Virginia, scored on left hooks and uppercuts. The fight reached a crescendo in the ninth round, as both fighters stood their ground in the center of the ring and traded punches.