WBA Super Flyweight Champion Martin “Gallito” Castillo is arguably one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world and is set to defend his title for the fourth time on July 22nd in Osaka, Japan.  Nicknamed “Gallito” (the little rooster) by his father who now rests in peace, Castillo has thirty one wins and sixteen knockouts against one loss which came against Venezuelan Felix Machado. A loss that he feels shouldn’t be counted as such since Castillo easily out boxed Machado until the fight was stopped due to a head-butt that opened up a gash on top of Castillo’s head. It was an uncalled for stoppage to say the least since the cut posed no threat to Castillo. “That fight doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t count it as a loss. Everyone who saw it knows I won,” said Castillo. Although most of press row including the now ESPN.com boxing columnist Dan Rafael had Castillo ahead on the scorecards, the fight was awarded to Machado by technical decision in the sixth. The fact that Machado was part of the fight card promoter’s stable (Don King Promotions) surely didn’t help.

Castillo then stormed forth with nine straight wins including pitching a masterpiece against the undefeated and hard brawling Venezuelan Alexander Munoz. He then defeated one of the slickest fighters in the world in Eric Morel of Puerto Rico. An exciting rematch against Munoz on his second pay per view performance capped off an excellent run for the Mexico City native.

While Castillo gets plenty of play on Top Rank’s pay per views, the Japanese are also willing to pay him some decent bucks to display his eye pleasing style. His first performance in Japan was a so called “interim” title shot in 2004. The result was a thrilling come from behind knockout of Hideyasu Ishihara in the 11th round. His performance was very much appreciated by the Japanese audience. “The Japanese have a lot more respect for the smaller weight classes. They know that we train just as hard as any other division and that we’re just as talented,” said Castillo. On his second trip to Japan, Castillo easily defeated Ishihara once again in the city of Nagoya. This time by unanimous twelve round decision

Castillo is one of the few Mexican fighters that posses an interesting “hybrid” boxing style that I have yet to find a name for. Just what is this “hybrid” style? It’s a mix of a Mexican attack a la “Chavez Sr.” with some “Sugar Ray” soul added in for aesthetic purposes and sleekness. The great Mexican champion Ricardo “Finito” Lopez had it; the also great Salvador Sanchez had it. A lot of boxing fans and pundits believe that Castillo is carrying on that torch. “He’s got beautiful movement,” says Manager Frank Espinoza. “I think he has better movement that “Finito” and “Finito” is a legend.” Martin’s father recognized his son’s ability to move in the ring from the beginning. “Most people think that I was nicknamed Gallito because of the way roosters fight when they’re around each other. My father was referring to all the movement I used to do in the ring. He said I moved around like a little rooster when they’re playing around,” said Castillo from his home in Los Angeles. Castillo finished up preparations at the Azteca Boxing Club in the city of Bell, California to face the Japanese Super Flyweight champion Nobuo Noshiro.

Noshiro seems to be overmatched on paper with a record of 7-0 which includes a victory over Prosper Matsura who was 25-5 when they met in the ring. Castillo feels strongly that the fight will go his way. “I don’t think it’ll go the full twelve rounds. I’m fully prepared for the long flight and Noshiro. My training was great as always. I treat my work very seriously and I put a lot of effort in the gym. I’ll be back in L.A. with the world title still around my waist,” assured Castillo.

The future for Castillo after the Noshira fight seems uncertain. Like all other fighters, Castillo would like to step into a high profile encounter. He’s currently targeting one of Mexico’s most popular boxers who is also a crossover star. WBC Flyweight champion Jorge Arce is as popular in the Mexican community as any soap opera star. Arce owes his popularity to his exuberant charisma, a forceful, fan pleasing boxing style and a stint on one of Mexico’s most popular television shows, “Big Brother.” “That would be a big fight for me. If God wills it and everything goes well in Japan then we can talk about it more seriously. I would love to do it,” said Castillo.

The only other fight that has some sort of appeal would be a unification clash against WBO Champion Fernando Montiel who is coming off a loss to WBO Bantamweight champion Jhonny Gonzalez. Castillo admits he didn’t see the fight. “I was told about it. I don’t know if a fight against Montiel is ever going to happen at this point. Maybe if he gets a couple of wins. There’s other fighters out there like Luis Perez and maybe Rafa Marquez,” stated Castillo. IBF Bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez may be out of the question  since he’s reportedly moving up to the super bantamweight division and IBF Super Flyweight champion Luis Perez is coming off a controversial decision win against Dimitri Kirilov. “For the right kind of money I would fight either of them. This is all about business. My manager tells me when to fight and who to fight and I show up to win. It’s that simple,” said Castillo.

For now, Castillo’s focused eyes are set on Nobuo Noshiro. Always the consummate professional, Castillo is aware that no one can be underestimated. “I don’t care what kind of record your opponent has. Anyone can pull off an upset on any given night if you give them the chance. Unfortunately for Noshiro it won’t be his night. I’ve put in too much time and work to let anyone take the title from me. The Japanese can expect a great showing from me but they’re going to be disappointed if they’re rooting for their countryman,” finished Castillo.

It looks like 2006, like 2005, will again be the year of the rooster.