He’ll enter the ring with a heart as heavy as his hands.
When Walter Castillo (26-3, 19 KOs) takes on Japan’s Keita Obara (15-1, 14 KOs) on Saturday in a 140-pound showdown (NBCSN, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. ET), he’ll be vying for a win while dealing with an incredible loss.
Recently, one of Castillo’s children died, an unspeakable tragedy for his family. But in an effort to keep supporting that family, he’s decided to fight on.
“Everybody goes through trials and tribulations in life. Everybody has obstacles. I’m not the only one. I recognize that,” the Nicaraguan fighter says through a translator. “I haven’t stopped training, haven’t lost focus as far as fighting is concerned. I know that this is a very big opportunity for me. But it still hurts.”
The opportunity Castillo speaks of is a treacherous one: Since losing his pro debut in August 2010, Obara has stopped every opponent he’s faced thanks to bowling-ball-hard fists that have turned more lights out in Tokyo than a certain B-movie lizard kicking over power lines.
Seriously, dude’s been cleaning more clocks than a Rolex dealer polishing his wares.
In a bid to end Obara’s impressive 14-fight winning streak, Castillo enlisted a trio of Obara’s countrymen to help him train: the Kameda brothers, Koki, Daiki and Tomoki, all of whom are former world champions and among the most celebrated fighters to ever come from Japan.
Castillo, who trains out of Miami, has been working with the Kamedas to get a feel for Japanese boxers, measuring himself against highly competitive siblings well-apprised for their blend of explosiveness and technique.
“We were able to familiarize ourselves with their style and their thought process inside the ring,” Castillo says. “I got to spend a lot of time with them and see their vision toward boxing, because every country has their own technique and tactics, their own style of counterpunching. I was able to gain a lot of experience working with them.”
That experience will be put to the test Saturday, probably in thrilling fashion: Both Castillo, who weighed in Friday at 139.6 pounds, and Obara, who checked in at 139.4 pounds, like to bang and seem to consider moving backward in the ring as an affront to their manhood—the boxing equivalent of a junkyard dog neutering itself somehow.
To hear Castillo tell it, this mentality is at least partially attributable to his heritage, with Nicaragua’s boxing pedigree defined by the likes of Hall of Fame multi-division titleholder Alexis Arguello, former 108-pound flamethrower Rosendo Alvarez, current 108-pound sensation Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and polarizing 160-pound brawler Ricardo Mayorga.
What unites them all, Castillo included, is that they put on a show, win or lose.
“It’s basically the same story for the few who have reached success coming out of Nicaragua,” Castillo says. “We’re warriors in the ring with a real exciting fighting style.”
Castillo is a native of Managua, Nicaragua, which was also Arguello’s hometown, and he trained in the late Hall of Famer’s gym when he was coming up in the sport. Castillo was also stablemates with Gonzalez for a time.
So he’s been in the presence of greatness, seen firsthand what it takes to reach the top of the sport.
In an attempt to scale those heights himself, Castillo has followed the path of many fellow countrymen: He's come to the U.S. to continue his climb in earnest.
“We have the dream to come to the United States to prepare better,” he says of Nicaraguan fighters, “to become stronger, more tactical in the ring, to make it to that next level.”
Now, it’s all about making that dream Keita Obara’s nightmare.
For full coverage of Castillo vs Obara, visit our fight page.