MEXICALI, MEXICO-Ricardo “Piolo” Castillo rallied from a near knockdown early in the fight to gut out a win over hard-hitting Abraham Rodriguez (14-6-2, 7 KOs) and win the vacant NABF featherweight title by technical knockout on Saturday.

Castillo, the baby brother of Jose Luis Castillo, used the hometown cheers at Palenque del Fex in his hometown Mexicali to win a battle of wills against Mexico City’s Rodriguez in front of more than 2,000 fans. HBO-plus showed the fight.

“I’m happy to have got the win in front of my fans,” said Castillo (36-7, 25 KOs), who could be fighting for a world title this summer.

Both fighters hurt each other early in the fight. When it looked like Castillo was going to fold he seemed to ratchet up the punch volume and fight off the very strong Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was deducted a point for a head butt in the third round and seemed to get motivated. Some strong punches followed the deduction and he had Castillo teetering.

Castillo began using right hands to the Rodriguez head for several rounds, then he switched to left hooks. By the sixth round it was clear he had changed the momentum for good.

Just when the bell rang to open round 10, the corner of Rodriguez signaled to stop the fight 10 seconds into the round. Castillo was declared the winner by technical knockout.

“I’ve been promised a world title shot,” said Castillo. “I’m very glad I got the victory.”

In the semi-main event Oxnard’s David “El Peligroso” Rodela (12-1-2, 6 KOs) won by split-decision over Nicaragua’s Marion “El Raton” Aguilar (19-6-1, 14 KOs) in a 10-round junior lightweight bout.

Rodela used his speed and reach to keep the muscular Nicaraguan from landing too many bombs but more than a few did land. Neither fighter was in danger of being knocked down and the judges split their vote. Two saw it 97-93 and 96-95 for Rodela and the third saw it 97-95 for Aguilar.

The crowd booed the decision.

Preliminary bouts

Obregon’s Ruben Tamayo (16-11-2, 14 KOs) stopped Tijuana’s Ricardo Lopez (28-18-1, 12 KOs) at 1:38 of the second round in a junior bantamweight bout.

Mexicali’s Carlos Garcia (3-0-1) and Roberto Hernandez (1-0-1) fought to a split decision draw in a four round lightweight bout.

Pablo Cano (14-0-1, 12 KOs) of Tlalnepantla, Mexico needed less time than it takes to pronounce his hometown to beat Obregon’s Luis Rey (at 1:58) of the first round with a left hand in a junior welterweight fight.

Chihuahua’s Luis Grajeda (4-0, 3 KOs) knocked out Mexicali’s Gilberto Avila (3-3-1) with a left hook to stun him, then a right hand to end the story 46 seconds into the first round of a welterweight contest.

Vera Cruz’s Azael Villegas (10-0, 10 KOs) pounded out his tenth knockout in 10 tries in a rugged test against Sonora’s Daniel Valenzuela (3-4). Most of the fight was tightly contested but the skinny Villegas turned up the juice in the last round of the six round fight and forced the referee to stop the fight at 1:16 when Valenzuela refused to punch back.

Mexico City’s Marco Periban (3-0) blasted out Navajoa’s Javier Esquer (0-6) with a three-punch combination 52 seconds into the first round of a super middleweight bout.

Mexicali’s Roberto Castro (5-1-1) landed a left hook to the body of Navajoa’s Daniel Yucupicio (3-8) at 2:17 of the first round to end the welterweight fight.

Tijuana’s Roberto Lopez (29-17-1, 13 KOs) was too busy and too clever for Mexicali’s Ruben Lopez (15-12-2, 13 KOs). Three successive bolo punches found their target and ended the fight at 2:10 of the fifth round.