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The draw between Brian Castano and Erislandy Lara in the Barclays Center, Brooklyn on Saturday night was an excellent battle of two boxers trying to impose their styles on one another while reacting and adapting to what the other was doing. Overall, a quality technical matchup.

Lara is sharp on the counter, and always gives opponents something to think about with his speed and timing. You could tell by the way Castano bobbed and weaved into range, the way he slid the feet to cut off the ring, this was a guy who knew exactly what he was doing. As much as we love a good old-fashioned slugfest, it’s always pleasing to see two well-schooled guys who have mastered the moves after years of practice, making it all look so natural.

Stylistically similar to Fernando Vargas in a lot of ways, Castano’s game was all about high work rate and punch output which, surprisingly, Lara though matched for the most part. The Showtime commentary team made a great point when they said Castano was refusing to accept the clinches. Lara wanted to throw his regulation one-twos from the southpaw stance and clinch. Castano said no, I want to throw. This garnered success throughout.

Lara can snake charm an opponent if they’re not careful. He has the ability and experience to stop a volume puncher from throwing so much. Castano did manage to utilise the left hook to the body – which was a tactic used so effectively by Jarrett Hurd when he won a narrow decision over the Cuban a year ago. Castano slowed around the ninth but rallied back to retain his title by scores of 115-113 for either man and a 114-114, all of which exemplified how close the bout had been.

Luis Ortiz remains a key player in the heavyweight division but is showing vulnerabilities. Ortiz brings no belts to the table and is more risk than reward. His entertaining style came to the fore against Christian Hammer. The visitor was pretty game himself; luring Ortiz inside to land a big right hand as Ortiz jabbed his way forward with body shots in mind. Hammer enjoyed plenty of success with that winging right hand as the rounds progressed. Ortiz has plenty of variety in his offensive moves, and he has the potential to cause problems for any of the big men (his 2018 loss to Deontay Wilder a case in point). Both men suffered bloody noses during an exciting scrap. Ortiz’s handlers need to move fast before his time bracket closes.

Tommy McCarthy is at a career crisis point after losing by fourth-round knockout to improving Richard Riakpore. Successfully defending his WBA Inter-Continental bauble, Riakpore is rough around the edges but carries substantial power, a good jab and boasts impressive physical size for the weight. Given his amateur experience, McCarthy should be beating opponents with such relative inexperience.

Tommy will have to come in as an opponent himself moving forward, hoping to spring an upset to the get back into the mix, as prospect status drifts away from the now 13-2 cruiserweight.

As for the champion, Eddie Hearn talked about a possible fight with British champion Lawrence Okolie. Riakpore’s manager Dillian Whyte correctly dismissed that proposed contest due to his man’s lack of refinement.

Jordan Gill looked very impressive in his third-round demolition of Emmanuel Dominguez. Gill was one of the bright spots on a lacklustre Peterborough card. He dropped his Commonwealth title to pursue the fringe world title route and that is a shame as bouts with the likes of Isaac Lowe, Ryan Walsh and Gamal Yafai would be more appealing than the string of foreign imports now likely to be drafted in as defences of his WBA International featherweight strap.

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Steve Wellings
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Honorary graduate of the Prison Canteen. Covering boxing since 2005 ~ Wolves fan ~ wannabe boxing raconteur.

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