SportsMap Weekend Boxing Rewind

Lara and Castano battle to draw

Erislandy Lara lands a jab against Brian Castano. (Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions.)

It was too close to call in Brooklyn as junior middleweights Erislandy Lara and Brian Castano battled to a split draw in the main event of Saturday night's fights at the Barclays Center. The judges turned in scores of 115-113 for Lara, 115-113 for Castano and a 114-114 draw. SportsMap.com scored the fight 115-113 for Castano, who retained his secondary world title belt with the draw.

Nearly every round of the fight was extremely close. Lara, (25-3-3, 14 KO) a Cuban defector who makes his home in Houston, scored by successfully using his longer, rangier frame to land one-two combinations off of his back foot. Castano (15-0-1, 11 KO) employed pressure throughout the night, cutting the ring off and trapping Lara into the corners. Castano looked less effective at the beginning of the fight, but started to score with force once he found a home for multiple punch combinations and thudding body shots through the middle rounds of the action.

Lara, who is now 35 years old, appeared to fade as the match went on. Castano's pressure seemed to relegate Lara to standing and trading in the final rounds of the fight rather than moving around the ring and landing potshots as he has done throughout the majority of his career. One has to wonder if the length of Lara's career has had an effect on his style. The slick Cuban boxer seems to be more willing to stay in the pocket and crack rather than circle the ring and look for easy points.

The night proved to be a missed opportunity for Lara, who couldn't reclaim his share of the WBA title. Lara held the WBA title for six defenses before losing the belt to Jarrett Hurd in a close split decision in April of last year. After the fight Lara told Showtime's Jim Gray that he was robbed, as he has done after every loss throughout his career, and demanded an immediate rematch. Castano also expressed interest in a rematch.

ORTIZ WINS BUT CAN'T CLOSE THE SHOW AGAINST HAMMER

In the co-feature bout heavyweight Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26 KO) won a wide decision against Christian Hammer. Ortiz was in control throughout the fight, in an entertaining albeit lopsided bout. The judges scored the fight 100-90 and 99-91 (twice) for Ortiz. SportsMap.com scored the fight 99-91 in favor of Ortiz.

Ortiz peppered Hammer (24-6, 14 KO) with head shots to start the action. The shots scored points for Ortiz, but didn't appear to have a big effect on Hammer's senses. Ortiz moved to the body as the fight went on, leaving Hammer gasping for breath and guarding his midsection as Ortiz continued to score. Hammer hasn't been knocked out in nearly nine years, so the fact that he made it to the final bell was not a surprise despite Ortiz's heavy hands.

Ortiz told Gray post-fight that he was not disappointed he didn't get the knockout. He said through a translator that he wanted to work on his boxing rather than his punching. Ortiz's only loss in his career is his knockout loss to Deontay Wilder in one of the best fights of 2018. Following his win Saturday Ortiz said he would be interested in fighting Wilder again or a fight with unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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