It remains one of the biggest upsets of the year. Martin “Gallito” Castillo (30-2, 16 KO’s), a fighter who was on many of the boxing media’s pound-for-pound lists, had just lost his WBA Super Flyweight crown to Japanese challenger Nobuo Nashiro, who only had a total of seven fights. The loss was precipitated by some disturbing-looking cuts that Castillo suffered over the left eye. Famed cutman Miguel Diaz, who was working Castillo’s corner, called the two separate cuts that turned into one among the worst he’d ever seen. Some media that were in attendance described the cut as looking like a “third eye.”
“I was feeling fine for the fight but I made a couple of mistakes that cost me,” remembers Castillo. “His record was very deceiving and I felt a bit overconfident. In my mind I was going to blow this guy out.” That was exactly the problem. Castillo is a fine puncher but he excels as a boxer-puncher. Castillo’s finest performances in the past were not about trading punches with ferocious sluggers like Alexander Munoz, whom he beat twice in hotly contested matches for the WBA crown. His best game resides in his foot work and slick movement. Castillo is adept at hitting and not getting hit. Yet here he was, trading bombs with the young and hungry challenger. A bad idea since Castillo has always had the tendency to cut during a fight as far back as I can remember.
The fact that Nashiro was a better fighter than his record indicated didn’t help matters either. Nashiro was a strong challenger, but he certainly wasn’t in the same class as former WBA champion Munoz or former Flyweight champion Eric Morel whom Castillo easily defended against in a classic boxing style, chess match. Castillo hurt Nashiro early in the fight which encouraged him to look for that one big bomb.
While Castillo seemed to be on the upswing when the bout was stopped in the tenth round due to cuts, he believes that luck played a part in the eventual result. “Yes, Nashiro was tough, but that wasn’t the real Martin Castillo in the ring that night. The loss was a fluke and I want a rematch to prove that luck played a big role for Nashiro,” Castillo, 29, said. Castillo, like many proud ring warriors, has trouble accepting defeat. “It will be different next time. You’re going to see the Martin Castillo that you saw before. Someone who boxes pretty. Someone who punches and gets out of the way. That’s what real boxing is about. I didn’t stick to that game plan.”
A viewing of the fight reaffirms that Castillo was turning the fight around before it was halted. The judges had the bout scored 87-85 for Nashiro, 87-85 for Castillo and the third judge had the bout even at 86-86. Castillo’s corner tried to keep the cut closed, but even the accomplished cutman Diaz had to admit that they lost the battle in trying to keep the wound from opening any further. The cut was beyond repair and the referee let the fight go as long as possible. “I had two rounds to go. I know I would’ve pulled it off if the cut wasn’t so bad,” said Castillo.
The valiant but tiring Nashiro was ready to be picked off but Castillo’s wounds looked dangerous enough to make the ex-champion believe that the stoppage was a correct one. “I agreed with the decision. I would’ve kept fighting of course, but some permanent damage was avoided in the end,” said Castillo. Every time he watches the videotape of the fight it makes him cringe. “I watched it twice. I couldn’t watch it anymore. That wasn’t me that night,” repeated Castillo. The loss derailed his path towards a mega-fight against Mexico’s biggest boxing star and former Flyweight champion Jorge “El Travieso” Arce. “I still want that match but I’ll have to earn it again,” said Castillo. “First I want Nashiro.”
Getting Castillo the rematch is a task that manager Frank Espinoza wants to take care of very badly. “I’ll be working closely with our promoters at Top Rank to try and secure Martin the rematch,” Espinoza said. “There’s no doubt that the loss was a fluke. Martin will be champion again. I guarantee it. He’s proven his world-class talent in the past and he’ll prove it again. But first we have to care of the cuts Martin suffered.”
Castillo will be undergoing surgery to repair the damage and to hopefully prevent future bout-ending lacerations. On October 27th, Castillo is scheduled to go under the knife where a surgeon will shave the bone down under his brow. “Martin’s brow sticks out a bit and that makes it easier for him to cut. Hopefully this procedure will help,” said Espinoza. There’s never any guarantee, but Castillo’s longtime manager feels it’s a necessary move. “There was also a problem with the stitching they did in order to close the cut. It was a terrible job they did in Japan and that will also be addressed.”
Castillo, a pro for seven years, has been with Espinoza since he was twenty-two years old when he and the now-WBC Super Bantamweight champion Israel “Magnifico” Vazquez made the trek to Los Angeles in order to train and fight under the management of Espinoza Boxing. “It was very hard getting used to this environment coming from Mexico City but I’ve adjusted. Having Israel Vazquez around made the transition a lot easier,” reminisces Castillo. Vazquez is also from the Mexican capital and they became quick friends. Eventually Castillo met his wife in Los Angeles and had a son with her. “This is my home now and I feel very content here. The only thing I’m lacking is my world title and I plan to get it back as soon as possible. Not being a champion anymore eats at me.”
The wait could be a while. After surgery, Castillo will be out for six months in order to insure he heals properly. “Martin may be at a low point but in the good times and bad we’re here for Martin. I see him getting another title shot by next spring if every thing goes to plan,” said an optimistic Espinoza.
Castillo feels like he let a lot of people down but he promises his fans that they haven’t seen the last of his world-class performances. “Remember that old saying about having lost the battle but not the war?” asked Castillo. “That’s exactly how I feel. Right now I’m working on healing my cuts and I’m still in the gym every day. The only person I think about is Nashiro. The loss to Nashiro is going to drive me to become one of the world’s best fighters again. I’ll get my revenge. Maybe the loss was for the best. I’ve never been so motivated.”
To watch the final round of the Martin Castillo vs. Nobuo Nashiro fight click the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MokPb6XR6s4