Not Quite There: Jermell Charlo Vs Brian Castano Ends In Split Draw

We’ve all been there. Something truly exciting is about to happen. It starts to happen and it feels really good. Then it just… it just stops, unsatisfactorily. It’s called ruined orga—

Sorry, that is, Jermell Charlo vs Brian Castano Saturday night on Showtime.

This was to be the fight that would crown a legitimate junior middleweight champion. That’s a reference to the #1 and #2 man in the division fighting each other for the open crown. It’s not a reference to Showtime constantly edging up to saying something wonderful about all the stupid belts, then veering… say, this has become an accidental theme. Anyway, the network’s Mauro Ranallo in pre-fight commentary getting close to acknowledging the idea of a single champion (something to the effect of, “world champion — there’s only one world”) then going right back to talking about all the sanctioning organizations offering their own world championship belts and somehow all the world champions meet to form a single world champion, and then one of them can just arbitrarily take one of the belts away anyway? Just say we should have one and only one! We don’t need four to become one in order for there to be one!

So if there had been a winner of this, it’d have been the most direct route to a single champ. It was an enticing prospect on its own. That it was a fascinating match-up on paper added to it. The former didn’t deliver on its promise as matters ended in a split draw. The latter did deliver.

It’s not that it wasn’t frustrating at times. Charlo is one of the best combinations of speed and power in the whole sport, alongside his brother. But he also is cautious to a fault about pulling the trigger in the best of times.

From round 1, it was clear Charlo was primarily interested in hoping the shorter Castano made a mistake so Charlo could catch him with one big counter. Someone who has a thrilling weapon barely deploy it, that’s — well, you know by now.

Castano compounded Charlo’s condition. If anyone was of the mind he was simply an unskilled pressure fighter, they’d have been disabused of it Saturday night. Castano was as patient in the 1st round as Charlo, and Charlo had trouble with Castano’s rhythmic variances all fight long. Castano, too, confounded Charlo for most of the fight with a varied attack and defense. Once he got an overhand right working, he’d feint it and come in with something else. Alternately he’d walk forward with a high guard, or else bob and weave his way inside.

Charlo might’ve struck first with a counter right in the 2nd that seemingly shook up Castano, but Castano hurt Charlo right back with a right-left-right in the 3rd that sent Charlo sprawling into the ropes. It was a round that was otherwise Charlo’s, as he kept the smaller man in the perfect range at the end of his jab.

The middle rounds were almost entirely Castano’s. While one could speculate Charlo wasn’t properly conditioned as he simply hardly led the action, that jab disappeared for long stretches because Castano himself was countering over it. It took some cajoling going into the late rounds from trainer Derrick James for him to take some chances.

In the 10th, a right-left combo that really didn’t seem to land that well had Castano staggering, but that’s what big natural power will do for you. Charlo had him stumbling around the whole rest of the round. And then what did he do in the 11th? Basically nothing! For no apparent reason!

Fortunately for Charlo’s chances, he came out gangbusters in the 12th. Castano withstood the charge but couldn’t keep up with Charlo’s pace, for the first time all night.

The Queensberry Rules scored the bout 116-112 for Castano. Most on Twitter seemed to have Castano winning by one or two rounds if not more, and a few had it a draw. Almost no one had Charlo winning.

But everybody knew. Everybody. There was no way the judges were going to score it against Charlo, the “star” of the pair. The only question was how ugly it would get. A split draw wasn’t as ugly as it could’ve been. That judge Nelson Vazquez had it 117-111 for Charlo makes you laugh in the same way that, say, r/niceguys does. It’s unpleasant, yes. But it’s so commonly, run-of-the-mill awful that all you can do is shake your head and chuckle.

It’s pretty obvious that there ought to be a rematch. Best fight still for both guys. Better now, maybe even, then before. And the sport’s powers-that-be proved they could make it happen once. Also, draws suck.

(Brian Castano connects against Jermell Charlo; Amanda Wescott/SHOWTIME)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.