CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Jermell Charlo had to exercise incredible patience during his quest to become the first undisputed super welterweight champion.
After a split draw in his first bout with Brian Castaño last year was followed by a three-month postponement of their rematch because of an injury for Castaño, Charlo had to wait again Saturday night because Castaño showed up late to the arena.
When the showdown finally began, Charlo survived Castaño's early attacks and waited for the moment to pounce.
The moment arrived in the 10th round, and Charlo emphatically seized it.
Charlo became the first man to hold every 154-pound title in the four-belt era when he stopped his Argentine opponent with two knockdowns in the 10th. He completed his remarkable quest by becoming just the seventh fighter to reign as the undisputed champ of any weight class since the four-belt era began in 1988.
“This is legacy,” Charlo said. “This is something that is legendary. I’m a legend. This is a beautiful thing.”
After an entertaining bout with ample toe-to-toe action, Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) dropped Castaño twice in rapid succession in the 10th. Charlo leaped onto the ropes in celebration while the referee was still counting out his opponent, celebrating the addition of Castaño's WBO super welterweight title to his WBC, WBA and IBF belts.
Charlo survived several impressive early rounds by Castaño (17-1-2) in the rematch of the fighters’ split draw 10 months ago in Texas.
“I got in my bag around the seventh round,” said Charlo, the Houston native and twin brother of middleweight champ Jermall Charlo. “I started sitting down a little bit more instead of boxing so much and moving around. I saw that he was wearing down a little bit, and I was breaking him down. I just saw my punches being more effective. I get stronger in the later rounds, if they didn’t know.”
Charlo executed a tactical, counterpunching game plan impressively under a nearly full moon at Dignity Health Sports Park, the famed outdoor stadium south of downtown Los Angeles.
Castaño's aggression and Charlo's sharp responses led to big exchanges in almost every round, highlighted by a sensational fifth round of relentless action. But Castaño's early pace slowed in the middle rounds, and Charlo ended it in dramatic fashion at 2:33 of the 10th.
After catching Castaño with a right uppercut and a left hook for the first knockdown, Charlo dropped Castaño again seconds later with two left hands to the head and a left to the body, leaving Castaño on the canvas.
“We showed that we are warriors,” Castaño said through a translator. "We both were fighting back and forth. It was power back and forth, and then his right hand came over and stopped the fight. He’s a champion. He hit me. He got me. But I’m OK.”
After unbeaten Philadelphia welterweight Jaron Ennis stopped Custio Clayton with a vicious right hand in the second round of the show's penultimate bout, the main event was slightly delayed because Castaño showed up late to the arena, according to the fight's promoters.
Traffic and parking were terrible around the sports complex, which hosted a match for Major League Soccer's LA Galaxy at the same time as the fight card in the tennis arena that shares the property with the soccer stadium, but it wasn't clear whether that was the reason Castaño was tardy.
Both fighters still came out eager for exchanges, with Castaño again pressing forward and Charlo counterpunching adroitly. Charlo was sharp off the ropes, but Castaño got the better of him in back-and-forth action during a thrilling fourth round.
The fifth round was even better, with devastating shots thrown by both fighters. Charlo then buckled Castaño’s knees with a huge left hand in the seventh, but Charlo curiously didn’t move in to pursue a finish.
Turns out Charlo had a better plan after all.
Charlo’s victory is a landmark moment in the history of top fighters between middleweight and welterweight.
The 154-pound division was created in 1962, and talents ranging from Thomas Hearns and Terry Norris to Felix Trinidad and Winky Wright have excelled at the weight. But no boxer had held every major title at super welterweight since the WBO formed and inaugurated the four-belt championship era in 1988.
Charlo won his first version of a 154-pound title in 2013, and he claimed the WBC belt in May 2016. He lost it to Tony Harrison in December 2018, but reclaimed it with a knockout victory in the rematch and swiftly added the WBA and IBF belts by stopping Jeison Rosario in September 2020.
Castaño has carved out an impressive career fighting out of Buenos Aires, although he has trained in Los Angeles since January. He held versions of the WBA 154-pound title for three years before claiming the WBO strap last year.
Castaño got agonizingly close to an impressive upset in his first meeting with Charlo last July with a similarly aggressive strategy. But the judges in Charlo's native Texas couldn’t decide, with one scoring it for each fighter and the third seeing a draw.
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