A terrific clash between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano proved befitting the high stakes with the two best junior middleweights fighting to a split decision draw in their terrific twelve-round battle.
What should have been a memorable Saturday night at AT&T Center in San Antonio, however, was marred by one scorecard far removed from what took place in the ring.
Judge Nelson Vazquez (Puerto Rico) drew immediate scorn on site and on social media for his scorecard which had Houston’s Charlo winning by a score of 117-111 in a bout many felt should have been awarded to Castano. Judge Steve Weisfeld (New Jersey)—long regarded as one of the best judges in the sport—was in line with the court of public opinion, scoring the contest 114-113 in favor of the unbeaten Argentine.
Judge Tim Cheatham (Nevada) turned in a card of 114-114, resulting in both boxers leaving with the belts they brought to the Showtime-televised main event.
The three judges agreed on eight of the twelve rounds scored, with Vazquez on his own for three of the four remaining rounds. Judge Cheatham was in agreement with at least one other judge on all twelve rounds.
Charlo (34-1-1, 18KOs) swept the final three rounds, along with claiming rounds two and five on all three scorecards. Buenos Aires’ Castano (17-0-2, 12KOs) won rounds three, seven and nine in the eyes of all three judges.
Judges Cheatham and Weisfeld agreed on every round but the sixth, one of several early swing frames in the fight. Charlo won the round on the scorecards of Vazquez and Cheatham, while it served as the first of four consecutive rounds that Weisfeld would award to Castano.
Judge Weisfeld was also the lone of the three ringside officials to award Charlo with a 10-8 round in the tenth, by far the best of the fight for the reigning lineal/WBC/WBA/IBF junior middleweight champion. Castano—the reigning WBO titlist—was badly hurt on at least two occasions during the round, the first time he showed signs of truly feeling the power of Charlo since round two—with both of those sessions scored unanimously for Charlo.
Interestingly, the fight was already out of reach for Charlo by that point, as Weisfeld awarded seven of the first nine rounds to Castano. Charlo never led on Weisfeld’s scorecard and was only even at one point, when the fight was 19-19 after two rounds in the eyes of the New Jersey judge.
Charlo pulled even on the scorecard of judge Cheatham after rounds two (19-19), six (57-57) and at the end with his strong surge producing the final 114-114 tally. He never led at any point on that scorecard.
That appeared to be the reality in the eyes of most, and in line with the final round instructions from head trainer Derrick James who urged Charlo to go for the knockout.
The scorecard turned in by Vazquez was all the more baffling in that regard. The Puerto Rican judge never had Charlo trailing at any point in the fight, scoring the first two rounds for the Texan along with rounds four, five and six to give him a commanding 59-55 lead by the midway point. Vazquez was on his own in scoring rounds one, four and eight in favor of Charlo—none of the three which were embraced by home viewers.
Castano officially needed a clean sweep on Vazquez’s card through eight rounds, and the verdict officially off the table after round ten where he trailed 97-93 at a point where most observers had the fight scored in the opposite direction. The final 117-111 card is the second stinker in less than a month for Vazquez, who was the lone judge to score in favor of Efetobor Apochi in his Fight of the Year-level split decision loss to Brandon Glanton on June 27 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Vazquez had the bout 96-93 in favor of Apochi, while Glanton—who scored a sixth-round knockdown—deservedly won by matching scores of 95-94 on the cards of judges John Mariano and Mike Fitzgerald.
The stalemate leaves the junior middleweight division without its first-ever undisputed champion in the four-belt era. The high level of action and skill provided in Saturday’s bout lends the suggestion of Charlo and Castano running it back sometime in the near future, as long as mandatory challengers don’t get in the way.
Whenever that day comes to do it all again, it’s far to reason that they can do it without the services of Nelson Vazquez.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox