February 24, 2024

Jermell Charlo became the first four-belt undisputed champion at 154 pounds on Saturday after knocking out Brian Castano in the 10th round of their thrilling rematch at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.  

Nearly one year after fighting to a disputed draw that most felt he had won, Castano (17-1-2, 12 KOs) came up empty in this second meeting that actually exceeded their first in terms of entertainment as a sure-fire Fight of the Year candidate.  

Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) unified Castano’s WBO title with his WBA, WBC and IBF titles to become just the seventh male boxer overall to unify all four recognized world titles in a single division. Let’s take a closer look at the biggest takeaways.

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1. Intention was the key to Charlo’s historic win 

There are very few fighters in the world as talented as Charlo, the twin brother of unbeaten WBC middleweight champion Jermall. But despite his lethal combination of speed, power and boxing IQ, Charlo hasn’t been able to harness the most dangerous version of himself on a consistent basis. In the first fight against Castano, he largely abandoned his jab and allowed the hard-charging Argentine to get inside and pin him to the ropes at will. Charlo was forced to rally, claiming the final three rounds on all three judges scorecards just to pull out the decision of a split draw. This time, however, Charlo worked harder to make Castano pay for advancing real estate and sat down on his hard counter shots from the opening round to send the message.  

Charlo fought with a nasty edge and almost looked as if he was purposely trying to make Castano pay for arriving to the arena late and causing a delay of nearly an hour before the main event. And when things eventually did get hairy in this thrilling track meet, which included a Round 4 of savage two-way trading, Charlo showed a sturdy chin and better technique to win the majority of exchanges. This was the best and most complete performance of Charlo’s career and it came in his biggest fight.

2. Staying off the ropes was just as important 

Looking back at Castano’s performance in their first meeting, one has to wonder whether Charlo had taken him too lightly. It’s not that Castano isn’t elite; he fought former division king Erislandy Lara to an exciting draw in 2019 and soundly outpointed Patrick Teixeira in 2021 to win his title. And it’s not as if Castano isn’t deceivingly slick and powerful. But he does largely play the same single note as far as his strategy is concerned, which is to barge forward and get inside. In addition to reinstating his jab to create distance, Charlo did an exceptional job keeping his back off the ropes and forcing the majority of skirmishes to take place in the center of the ring. And with more room to operate, that’s where Charlo shined as the more balanced, explosive and thoughtful fighter with more ways to win. Yes, Castano rallied on Saturday and made it a fun fight but he was never able to visibly hurt Charlo (unlike their first fight) and took the brunt of heavy blows in their exchanges until he could take no more.

3. Charlo is the face of the sport’s most balanced division 

The new undisputed champion may have used the rematch to separate himself from the rest of the pack at junior middleweight. But the group right behind him is exciting just the same, in large part because of how vulnerable each has looked at times. The top 10 at 154 pounds has no shortage of big names and former champions, which perfectly illustrates just how much parity has taken place in recent years as the division’s power has slipped through the hands of everyone from Lara to Jarrett Hurd and from Julian Williams to Jeison Rosario. Charlo has no shortage of big names available to him for future fights, including a pair of mandatory challengers that would make incredibly fun events. Speaking of … 

4. The undisputed king has plenty of reasons to hang around 

Although he teased the idea of possibly moving up to middleweight in pursuit of an undisputed crown in a second division, Charlo should strongly consider waiting to do so. Moving up to 160 pounds might also make more sense after his brother, Jermall, makes his own rumored move up to super middleweight. But even if it happened, Charlo is in a great position to stay put. Rising star Tim Tsyzu, the son of Hall of Famer Kostya, secured a mandatory shot at the undisputed crown by defeating Terrell Gausha in March. Fellow unbeaten Sebastian Fundora did the same weeks later when he outbrawled Erickson Lubin. Charlo could make fan-pleasing fights against either, especially Tszyu, a star in his native Australia, who might be a big enough name to make it a pay-per-view fight. Add Tony Harrison to the group of former champions like Hurd and Williams who could also make attractive B-sides to Charlo in big title fights. And then there is WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, who said that after he beats Errol Spence Jr. to unify welterweight titles, he vows to move up and knock Charlo out.  

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