Thursday, July 22, 2021

Charlo-Castano Thoughts


Although much of what has dominated the attention throughout the sport of Boxing recently has had to do with scheduled bouts falling through, being rescheduled for several reasons including, but not limited to the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic, there has been several fights that have taken place inside the ring that some might say because of what has been circulating the Boxing news cycle has been under the radar. Among those bouts that perhaps would have received more attention under normal circumstances, was the July 17th World Jr. Middleweight unification bout between WBC/WBA/IBF world champion Jermell Charlo and undefeated WBO world champion Brian Castano, which took place at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX.


Normally when a unification bout such as this is signed, it is not uncommon to see elements of hype used as a promotional tool in an attempt to garner interest in the upcoming showdown. This was a rare case however, where such tactics and/or trying to give the impression that there were elements of bad blood between the two combatants was not necessary. This was simply a fight between two of the top fighters in the 154lb. Jr. Middleweight division and that element in of itself was enough to drum up interest in the fight, in addition to the interesting clash of styles between the two fighters.


What we had in this fight was an encounter between two boxer/punchers, who in the view of this observer could do a little of everything that one might expect from a world-class boxer competing at the highest level of the sport. Both champions had shown in their careers the abilities to box, counter punch, as well as end a fight quickly should the opportunity present itself. In essence, this fight would prove to be exactly that. A bout between two fighters who showed a little of everything offensively as well as defensively against each other creating the classic scenario of a closely fought battle where opinion could sway as to who got the upper hand.


As this observer has said frequently through the years, when two fighters are able to have periods of success in many of the same rounds as was the case in this fight, the conundrum that can exist for the three official judges is to determine which fighter was able to leave a better impression with their moments as compared to their opponent. While obviously this is not a perfect nor exact science, it is often the determination of those subtle differences that can determine who leaves the ring victorious in a fight that goes the distance.


In this observer’s view, the first six rounds of this unification bout followed a pattern that frankly continued through much of the second half of the fight. Charlo being able to get the better of most of the action during periods where he was able to keep the combat near the center of the ring and use his legs and lateral movement to evade Castano as he attempted to walk him backward towards the ropes. When Castano was able to cut the ring off and limit Charlo’s ability to move, it was he who got the better of the exchanges of offense and seemed at least in my eyes to be the fighter leaving the lasting impression as to whom was getting the upper hand,


The impression of this observer notwithstanding, it was nevertheless a close fight and as I viewed the encounter, I began to get that feeling that as years have gone on during the lifetime that I have spent covering and writing about the sport that I have referred to as a Boxing writer’s intuition. While this type of feeling can be applied to anyone that covers combat sports, what I am referring to is the type of “Gut Feeling” that one develops after watching so many fights on every level of the sport of Boxing amateur and professional, that only a true aficionado can truly understand. The feeling/intuition that no matter how you might feel a fight is leaning, no matter how you might be scoring a fight unofficially, you have the sense just based on what you’re seeing that no matter what, at the end of the fight you will hear differing scores and no shortage of opinions as to who won the bout.


Such a feeling hit me rather quickly in this fight perhaps because it seemed as though the combat would be fought at a pace where it could almost be described in segments. As such, as the fight progressed I began to question whether either fighter was doing enough where an argument could be made that one stood out clearly from the other. Although I felt Brian Castano was the effective aggressor throughout much of the fight the question for him was whether or not those periods that did not dominate the majority of the rounds, which are three minutes in duration, to get the nod of the three official judges. In contrast, for much of the bout Jermall Charlo’s best moments came when he was able to control the tempo and keep Castano from throwing punches as he attempted to come forward. While there is little dispute that during these periods that Jermell Charlo seemed to have the upper hand, he was not aggressive during those moments and the fact that he was sporadic with his offense until the latter stages of the twelve round world championship bout raised questions as to whether he was able to make the most of his best moments of the fight.


A close fight from seemingly every angle that one chooses to view it had the predictable conclusion of a split decision, which was not a surprise to this observer with one judges Steve Weisfeld turning in a score of 114-113 in favor of Castano. As there always seems to be in Boxing when it comes to close fights, the element of “Controversy” reared itself as the scorecard of judge Nelson Vazquez was announced as he would turn in a score of 117-111 or nine rounds to three in favor of Charlo. This “Controversial” scorecard would ultimately be moot as judge Tim Cheatham would turn in a score of 114-114 or six rounds to six resulting in a split decision draw and both world champions retaining their respective portions of the World Jr. Middleweight world championship.


While the subject of one judge producing a scorecard that differs significantly from the consensus of the Boxing fans watching a fight, those of us in media who cover the fight in varying capacities, or the other official scores in a fight is certainly not new, it may be appropriate to apply context in this case. First, the scorecard of judge Steve Weisfeld, a veteran of over 2,100 bouts spanning thirty years in a judging career that began in 1991, produced a winner by the narrowest of margins a single point. This margin however, occurred because of how he scored the tenth round of the fight in scoring it 10-8 in favor of Charlo.


Although there were no knockdowns throughout the entire fight, there are times where a judges discretion can be applied and while it is normal to see a 10-8 score in a round where one fighter is able to score a knockdown, it can also occur when one fighter wins a round clearly to such degree that a judge may feel that a 10-8 score is appropriate even without the visual aid of a knockdown. In this case, this was during the stage where Charlo did step up his pace and aggression. He also did manage to stun Castano for a period during the round with a combination highlighted by hooks he was able to land to the head. Weisfeld’s scoring of that round resulted in the one point victory for Castano on his card. While this is purely subjective, if Weisfeld had scored the round 10-9 as judges Vazquez and Cheatham did, his scorecard would have been 115-113 or seven rounds to five, a margin that is more common for close fights such as this where a winner is determined and coincidentally, the scorecard this observer had unofficially.


Judge Tim Cheatham, a veteran of over 480 bouts spanning twelve years in a judging career that began in 2009, meanwhile arrived with a deadlock score of 114-114 or 6-6 in rounds. A score that I wasn’t surprised to see. Frankly, there is little difference between a 114-114 scorecard and a 115-113 scorecard. The only difference is if a single round is scored the opposite way by a margin of 10-9, you would then arrive at the same score yours truly had unofficially 115-113. This is one reason why when there are many close rounds in a fight, those rounds frequently referred to as “Swing Rounds,” it will often come down to as I have said frequently over many years, what a judge prefers in their own individual criteria based on clean punching, effective aggression, ring generalship, and defense. 


Now we come to the “Controversial” scorecard of judge Nelson Vazquez. In this instance, Vazquez turned in a scorecard that differed significantly from his colleagues Weisfeld and Cheatham, but also differed from the consensus amongst Boxing fans and experts alike. While some have pointed the finger of blame squarely at Vazquez for what is viewed by many as a bad decision, much like Weisfeld and Cheatham, Vazquez is a veteran of Boxing scoring. In a judging career that began in 1987, Vazquez has scored over 960 bouts over the last thirty-four years. 


The reader may wonder why this observer has opted to give a synopsis of each respective judge’s experience. Instead of expressing the same anger that someone fans and even some others who cover the sport have, I felt it necessary to illuminate that all three judges were among the most experienced and seasoned in the sport having scored bouts on every level including the world championship level. As experienced as judges might be however, they like the rest of us are human and are not going to agree on every round every time they judge a fight. Much like all of us, judges too can have a bad day or as yours truly often refers to it as a bad night at the office.


With this in mind, obviously I do not agree with how Nelson Vazquez saw this fight, but like I, he is entitled to his point of view. Although ultimately the split decision draw has left things unsettled as far as the unification process of the Jr. Middleweight division, which involves Charlo, Castano, and for the time being sees current IBO world champion Erislandy Lara on the outside the equation, the Boxing world can prepare for what will likely be a rematch at some point in 2022 between Charlo and Castano.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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