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Castillo looking to shed anonymity

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

The Beach Boys weren't The Beatles.

Bruce Springsteen isn't Elvis.

And Martin Castillo is no Floyd Mayweather Jr.

OK, duh. But Castillo, unbeknownst to, oh, 99.35 percent of the world, is one of boxing's elite fighters.

His invisibility is more indicative of the larger problems in boxing than a lack of performance in the ring.

Castillo, a one-time WBA super flyweight champion, will face Fernando Montiel for the WBO super flyweight belt on Feb. 16 at the MGM Grand Garden.

Of course, that bout will largely be obscured because it will be swallowed by the hype surrounding the rematch between middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and ex-champion Jermain Taylor that will headline the card that night.

Castillo, who is 33-2 and could, with a couple of breaks (and a couple fewer elbows and head butts), be 35-0, shrugs at his relative lack of anonymity. He's even proud to be sharing the same card with Pavlik and Taylor.

He's not the guy crying for attention. He's not the type to demand anything.

"He feels honored that people want to see him fight," his wife, Patty, says.

For a guy who fights like a wolverine when a bell sounds, Castillo is remarkably placid outside of the ring.

And Castillo is a guy who has had legitimate beefs. His first loss came to Felix Machado in controversial fashion in 2003 when a ringside physician ruled he couldn't continue because of a laceration on the scalp caused by an accidental head butt.

His other loss came to Nobuo Nashiro in 2006 in a fight in Japan in which there were more elbows than in a mixed martial arts bout.

Castillo, though, chooses not to complain. He is the rare athlete who goes all out bell-to-bell and lets the officials do their jobs.

"I wasn't angry," he said of the physical manner in which Nashiro was allowed to fight. "I feel better fighting at home, but that's because everything is more familiar. I have my way of doing things and I can be home with my family. But if you want to be a world champion, you have to fight anywhere in the world they tell you to fight."

Just by looking at the guy anywhere in the world, you can tell he's a fighter of some sort.

The flat nose, the scar tissue around the eyes and the leathery skin are reminiscent of legendary brawlers like Carmen Basilio and Jake LaMotta.

Castillo, like Basilio and LaMotta many years before him, has always been anxious for a good scrap. And in Montiel, he may have met his match.

Montiel has held the super flyweight belt for nearly three years, winning six consecutive title fights in that span. His only loss since winning the belt from Ivan Hernandez on April 9, 2005, was when he moved up to bantamweight and tried to take the WBO 118-pound belt from Jhonny Gonzalez.

Montiel poses a formidable threat, a point that Castillo readily acknowledges. But he also believes in himself, and not without good reason.

Castillo has won most of his big fights by wide margins. He won 11 of 12 rounds on all three cards in successfully defending his WBA belt against former U.S. Olympian Eric Morel in 2005.

In his first title defense, against a 25-0 Alexander Munoz, Castillo scored two knockdowns and won nine rounds on two judges' cards and eight rounds on the other. It's been that way in most of his fights, yet Castillo is one of the game's most anonymous souls.

In part, that's why he is excited to be fighting beneath Taylor and Pavlik. Their notoriety will draw fans and media in larger than usual numbers and Castillo hopes a good performance will boost his visibility.

He's 31, which in the super flyweight division is about the time to apply for an AARP card. That he has been able to make 115 pounds for as long as he has should, in and of itself, have earned him recognition.

But to perform at the level he has so consistently for so long is one of boxing's remarkable stories.

"You shouldn't expect to win an award just because you come to the ring in shape and ready to fight," Castillo says. "It's your job to come in shape. I always have always tried to work hard because I have pride in myself and in my job. I want to be able to give the kind of performance the fans' expect."

What Castillo doesn't realize is that outside of the heavily Hispanic Southwestern U.S., he is as anonymous as the Patriots' third-string quarterback and so there are no expectations for him.

Montiel-Castillo carries as much promise as does Pavlik-Taylor, even if most of the world doesn't realize it.

His age and his many wars in the ring may soon catch up with Castillo. In the end, time always wins.

"If anyone thinks I'm too old, tell them to watch me on the 16th," said Castillo, in the closest thing to a boast he'll make. "I don't think I'm too old and I'm going out there to prove it."

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