The undefeated Super Welterweight World champion takes a major step up in class against former world champion Erislandy Lara in a 154-pound showdown Saturday night on Showtime.
Brian Castano’s career nearly ended before it really began.
Castano was 7-0 when he agreed to fight fellow Argentinean Sebastian Lujan in the summer of 2014. The contract weight for their bout was 147 pounds, a full division below where Castano commonly competes.
The young prospect struggled so mightily to make weight, he fainted from dehydration. Luckily for Castano, his father, Carlos, was with him while he was in the process of trying to lose 15 pounds the week of that fight – an inordinate amount of pounds that close to a weigh-in.
Carlos Castano, a former fighter, rushed his son to a hospital in their native Buenos Aires. He was released later that night, but the incident hurt his career.
Brian Castano suffered from panic attacks once he returned to training because he was afraid something similar would happen when he tried to make weight again. Castano needed a psychologist and a seven-month layoff before resuming his career in April 2015.
“That was a tough experience for me,” Castano said. “But in the end, I see it as a learning experience, a lesson. After that, I started training in a different manner, I focused more and started taking it more seriously. That way, I’d never have to go through that again, so I’d never have to cut that many kilograms, that much weight again. I think it bettered me as a person, too, from a psychological perspective. I learned to handle difficult situations.
“When you have a panic attack, you cannot control yourself. It’s out of your control. But in the end, it is in your control. Your mind can be so powerful for good things or for bad things. Once you learn to handle your own mind, I think you’re able to accomplish anything. To me, that was a very rich experience, a rich lesson, not only for my career, but my life.”
That invaluable lesson led Castano to Saturday night. That’s when the rugged champion will defend his WBA world super welterweight title against former world champion Erislandy Lara in the main event of a Showtime tripleheader from Barclays Center in Brooklyn (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Castano (15-0, 11 KOs) and Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs) were supposed to box late in the fall, but their 12-round, 154-pound title fight was pushed back three months mostly for scheduling purposes. The 29-year-old Castano didn’t have to fight this highly skilled southpaw, who’s considered one of the best technicians in the sport.
It’s just a perfect opportunity, according to Castano, to introduce himself to unfamiliar fans in the United States. He went 181-10 as an amateur, including a convincing victory over Errol Spence Jr. in 2011, yet might as well be anonymous among American boxing enthusiasts.
“ This is the kind of fight I’ve been dreaming to have since I was a kid, since I started boxing. ” Undefeated Super Welterweight World Champion - Brian Castano
“This is the kind of fight I’ve been dreaming to have since I was a kid, since I started boxing,” Castano said. “A win over a name like Lara really would open new doors. That would probably lead me to the next level, and that’s also something I’ve been dreaming of. So, I’m happy and I’m proud to have this opportunity. That’s why I worked so hard to beat Lara. I’m sure that will do great things for my career.”
The heavy-handed Castano hopes to follow in the footsteps of Argentina’s best boxers, accomplished ex-champions Carlos Monzon, Marcos Maidana, Sergio Martinez and Lucas Matthysse. Beating a highly respected former champ like Lara would establish him as an elite fighter within the 154-pound division.
Lara hasn’t fought since dropping a split decision to IBF and WBA champ Jarrett Hurd on April 7 in Las Vegas.
That 12-rounder, the Boxing Writers Association of America’s 2018 “Fight of the Year,” was physically taxing on the smaller Lara. A 10-month layoff has re-energized the Cuban-born boxer, however, and Castano expects to encounter a fresh 35-year-old opponent.
“I know there might be some people that think age may be a factor [for Lara],” Castano said. “I’m not one of them. I’m prepared to beat the best Lara ever. I’m expecting to beat the best version of him on Saturday. Because you’ve gotta think boxers like Floyd Mayweather – well, he’s retired now – but Pacquiao, they were close to 40 years old and they still were at their best. So that’s not something I’m counting on, the aging of Lara. I’m ready to beat the best Lara on Saturday night, and I think he’s ready to go, too.”
For Castano, boxing a top opponent in a Showtime main event validates everything he endured while he wasn’t quite right mentally a few years ago.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if I would keep fighting,” Castano said, referring to his weight-related incident. “I’m not gonna lie. I didn’t know what was really going on in my mind. At times, I said, ‘OK, if I cannot box any longer, I probably can teach boxing, along with my father, in his boxing gym.’ But that really lasted the first four weeks.
“After that, I said to myself, ‘This situation cannot beat me.’ I knew it was not gonna be easy, but I tried my best and knew I had to get some help. So, I started training with my psychologist at the time and I said, ‘I’ve got to beat this.’ And I’m so happy and so proud that I did.”
For more on Brian Castano, check out his fighter page.