By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Twelve rounds didn’t determine anything Saturday night for Brian Castano and Erislandy Lara, except that there’s not much separating these top 154-pounders.
Castano and Lara battled to a 12-round split draw in their 12-round, super welterweight title fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The draw was the third of Lara’s career and enabled Castano to retain his WBA world 154-pound championship.
One judge, Kevin Morgan, scored seven rounds for Castano (115-113). Another judge, John McKaie, credited Lara with winning seven rounds (115-113).
Judge Julie Lederman scored their back-and-forth 12-round even (114-114).
“It was a great fight, but I saw myself winning eight rounds tonight,” Lara said, according to a translator. “My punches were much clearer. He was applying pressure, but I was dominating the pressure. He was waiting a long time for this fight, so that’s what I expected. I showed that I’m not old. I’m still fine-tuned.”
The aggressive, relentless Argentinean champion stalked the experienced southpaw throughout their bout, and landed some thudding body and head shots in the main event of Showtime’s tripleheader from Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Lara landed his left hand regularly, often one at a time, and rarely came forward during the 12 rounds. The former WBA champion still landed enough punches to earn a draw.
Argentina’s Castano disagreed with the decision.
“I think I won the fight,” Castano said. “I think I was robbed.”
Regardless, the 29-year-old Castano retained the WBA world super welterweight title and firmly established himself as a top fighter at 154 pounds.
Castano (15-0-1, 11 KOs) made the second defense of a version of the WBA title he won by defeating France’s Michel Soro by split decision in July 2017.
The previously unknown Castano had beaten IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. during an amateur fight in 2011. He also topped middleweight contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko in the World Series of Boxing, before making his official pro debut in September 2012.
The Cuban-born, Houston-based Lara was the best opponent Castano fought in an official professional fight, though, a steep step up in class from his previous opponent – France’s Cedric Vitu.
The 35-year-old Lara (25-3-3, 14 KOs) hadn’t fought since a 12th-round knockdown cost him a 154-pound title unification fight against Jarrett Hurd last April 7 in Las Vegas. Hurd’s knockdown in the final round earned him a victory on two of the three scorecards (114-113, 114-113, 113-114).
Lara wanted the immediate rematch the WBA ordered. Hurd didn’t agree to it, so Lara challenged Castano.
Lara nailed Castano with a straight left hand very early in the 12th round. That only made Castano unload combinations to Lara’s head and body.
Both boxers were determined to impress the judges as the fight came to a close. Castano and Lara landed various power punches in the final minute of the bout, a sustained period of action that thoroughly entertained the crowd.
Castano connected with a couple short, chopping right hands in the middle of the 11th round. Lara fired back with body and head shots to briefly halt Castano’s momentum.
Lara landed plenty of left hands during the ninth round, when he often got off his punches and moved out of Castano’s punching range.
Castano’s pressure affected Lara again in the sixth round, particularly when he trapped Lara in his own corner and landed an array of head and body shots. Lara tried his best to keep Castano off of him, but his single left hands weren’t enough to neutralize Castano.
Late in the fifth round, Castano landed several hard head and body shots as Lara tried to fend him off. Lara landed a few straight lefts, but nothing the prevented Castano from coming forward.
Castano caught Lara with a right hand at around the 1:20 mark of the fourth round. Lara briefly lost his balance, but he didn’t seem hurt by that shot.
Castano continued stalking Lara for the rest of the fourth round and hit him with a straight right hand late in it. Gonzalez warned Castano earlier in the fourth round for holding Lara behind his head and hitting him.
Castano connected to Lara’s body just before the halfway point of the third round and again with a vicious left to the body about 15 seconds later. Lara felt that second body blow and moved away from Castano, who also blasted with a right hand up top toward the end of the third round.
Lara stood his ground early in the second round and unloaded straight left hands, several of which connected. Castano connected with a short right hand on the inside late in the second round.
Castano slowed down Lara briefly with just under a minute to go in the first round. He tried unloading to Lara’s body, but Lara covered up well and got out of that trouble.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.