ARGENTINA’S TOP PROSPECT. Argentine boxing has suffered a long slump since the retirement of Marcos Maidana, the semi-reclusion of Lucas Matthysse and a few other setbacks and delays in the careers of a few notorious names. But all that could change this Saturday night, Nov. 26, when unbeaten young gun and perennial “promise” Brian Castaño finally gets his chance to have a somewhat legitimate major title belt wrapped around his waist when he faces Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel De Jesus for the “vacant interim” WBA super welterweight title.
“It is gratifying, of course, and it is a dream come true, to be able to fight for my people in Argentina is beautiful,” said Castaño, who was born and raised in the Isidro Casanova section of the sprawling, blue-collar municipality of La Matanza, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. “I knew my chance would come someday. I worked my whole life for this, and there is nothing more beautiful than fighting for your people and in your land.”
Castaño (12-0, 9 KOs) will be fighting in his homeland again after a one-year hiatus in which he trained and fought in the US, amassing a 4-0 record in the process as part of an assembly of expatriates gathered under the banner of “Team Maidana” to earn a shot at the vacant trinket against De Jesus (17-1, 12 KOs), but Castaño will be bringing much more than an unbeaten record as a professional.
“In the US you learn every day, there is a different sparring partner every day, and you accumulate new experiences all the time,” said the 27-year old Castaño, who deflected his foe’s promise to “bring the pain” with a gentlemanly gesture. “We’re going to bring our best. We both trained to give the fans a short fight, and at the end I will have the belt in my possession.”
Castaño’s official record does not include his stellar amateur career in which he accumulated an alleged 186-5-5 ledger that included a South American Amateur Championship and a victory over current titlist Errol Spence, but also a strong run at the AIBA’s controversial WSB competition, a semi-pro team effort in which Castaño participated for two years under the banner of the Condors, the Argentine team.
“Each fight gives you the experience you need at that stage, but with the Condors I had fights in a different level, all of them with tons of experience in international competition,” said Castaño. “Fighting with them and staying at that level strengthened me on a mental and physical level as well.”
During his tenure with the Condors, Castaño managed to beat another current great prospect in Ukraine’s Sergey Derevyanchenko, in what could be seen as Castaño’s greatest performance to date in any type of competition. He went 3-0 in two years during that competition, participating only occasionally but scoring decisive wins against battle-tested opposition that would have been too hard to lure into the ring within the realms of “proper” professional boxing.
The idea of meeting Spence and Derevyanchenko in the ring once again, this time with a title belt and a lot of money on the line, is something that Castaño looks forward to, but he has learned the hard way not to confuse an illusion with a post-dated check.
“I would love to fight them, but we’re going to take it step by step,” said Castaño, who in spite of his enormous experience will be fighting in his first scheduled 12-rounder this Saturday (he went the 8-round distance once). “Those fights can give you a name and measure your worth and your abilities, but we can take on anyone and we’ll take care of them anywhere. That’s why we work so hard for.”
Castaño’s style was in full display in the Derevyachenko fight: a two-fisted, mobile fighter with plenty of speed and power, ability to land short punches on the inside and move out of harm’s way to continue his onslaught at a mid-range. Giving up almost two divisions to the barrel-chested brawler of the Astana Arlans team, Castaño held his own and outlanded Derevyanchenko throughout the bout to score a heart-stopping victory that has given him the confidence to pursue his career as a professional after a serious health scare in 2014.
“It was a dehydration that every athlete goes through. I lost potassium and sodium, a lot. But I bounced back and we have it under control,” said Castaño, in regards to an episode that triggered all kinds of speculations including the possibility of a premature end to his career. “I had panic attacks after that because I was inactive for a while and didn’t know whether I could continue fighting. At the end it was just dehydration and we are now working at the fullest.”
Castaño, with only a half-dozen pro bouts under his belt back then, was getting set to face a tough former contender in Sebastian Lujan when he fainted in the street during his morning run, victim of a severe dehydration. His father had to perform CPR on him to revive him, and a battery of studies ended up with a diagnosis of a light arrhythmia and an imbalance in his fluids that he has since corrected and tested over and over again.
Castaño’s professional debut took place at the most venerated boxing venue south of the Equator in September of 2012, when he defeated Alejandro Dominguez at Buenos Aires’ Luna Park. He would go on to score a picture-perfect, highlight-reel stoppage of Jose Paz in his next outing a month later at the same place, all while mixing up his duties as an occasional representative of the Condors. And he will carry all of that experience, nurtured by his father (himself a boxer, now his trainer) into the ring in his long-awaited first title bout.
“It is an important title, a WBA title, it is a belt that opens a lot of doors to start facing big names in the near future,” said Castaño about the belt he’ll be disputing on Saturday, conscious of its second-rate nature. “But it is a great first step towards opening bigger doors and we’ll take full advantage of this moment.”
The “godfather” and former boxer who gave his name to this team steps in for a final comment, and agrees with his young charge. “I believe he is in the best moment to fight for the title,” said Marcos Maidana. “The fight is a toss-up and there will be great things waiting for the winner.
Fabian “TNT” Maidana (brother of Marcos) will be putting his 10-0 (7 KOs) unbeaten mark on the line against the upset-minded and always tough Christian “Chuña” Romero (16-8-1, 8 KOs). Romero holds wins over Emmanuel Peralta and the previously unbeaten Adrian Veron.
Alan Castaño (brother of Brian) will be trying to improve his 11-0 (7 KOs) unbeaten mark against Venezuela’s Jose Villalobos (9-2-2. 5 KOs) in a 10-rounder at the 140-pound limit.
Power-punching Neri Romero (4-0-0, 4 KOs) will also be featured. He opposes Jacinto Gorosito (5-8-5, 1 KOs).
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