Miguel Ángel Castellini: the champion who came to fight between shots and had a cross with Julio Cortázar

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The pampeano was part of the great history of Argentine boxing. He achieved the title of the world and even starred in a strange counterpoint with one of the greatest Argentine writers.

The death of Michelangelo Castellini This Wednesday, at the age of 73, he generated deep pain in the Argentine boxing universe. The pampeano was not only an exceptional fighter, with technique, punch and an enormous attachment to the gym, but also a man distinguished by his personal virtues and his teaching quality. His 15-year career earned him a world title, 74 wins in 94 appearances, world travel, a shooting match and even a harsh criticism from Julio Cortázar.

The counterpoint between the Santa Rosa-born fighter and the author of Hopscotch It happened in 1973. By then, after more than five years of performing in different provinces and two years of standing in which he had dedicated himself to working as a disc jockey, Castellini had made a place for himself on the billboards of Luna Park, it was Argentine super welterweight champion and already carried the nickname of Chloroform, after a tremendous knockout of the Mexican Raul Soriano in November of the previous year at the Corrientes and Bouchard Coliseum.

Castellini, who had 18 consecutive victories (16 by knockout), had to face the American on April 7 of that year. Doc Holliday, a Columbus University History student with a modest boxing background. Taking advantage of a visit by Cortázar to Buenos Aires and his love for boxing, The graphic He invited him to attend Luna Park to witness the evening and to write a chronicle for the magazine.

The writer, who had not set foot in the stadium for 22 years, accepted. That night, he saw Castellini win in a low-flying match, as did Oscar Bonavena, located just a few seats away. He was very dissatisfied with the performance of the pampeano and thus left it established in the text that was published in the 2792 edition of The graphic.

“If Castellini does not learn all that he needs to learn, the endless instructions that he yelled at him will be of no use. Ringo Bonavena. At present there is no shortage of Doc Hollidays waiting for their hour and some have punch. Any of them can ruin Castellini’s career if he does not decide to convert physical power into that more complex and effective mechanism that defines great boxers, and that gives their victories the splendor that was so lacking last night, “said the writer. .

“Cortázar is a great writer who sees boxing very badly,” Castellini replied at the time. But, years later, he appreciated that criticism in a different way. “That Cortázar column helped me, it challenged me to fight to become world champion,” he acknowledged in February of this year in an interview published in Infobae.

After that questioning, Chloroform he scored 16 victories in his next 19 appearances, bringing him closer to a World Cup chance. Of those 16 triumphs, six were on European soil (he also reaped a defeat): he fought in Paris, Rome, Milan and Monaco. There he rubbed shoulders with personalities from different fields. “Jean Paul Belmondo was the warmest and the best boxing spectator I met in Europe. Living in Paris was an invaluable luxury ”, he recalled years later.

Despite this, there were still questions from the Argentine public for Castellini, who finally had his chance for the super welterweight title of the World Boxing Association and did not miss it: he beat the Spanish on points Jose Duran at the Palacio de los Deportes in Madrid on October 8, 1976. It was a hot night, in which some fans ended up attacking every Argentine they crossed paths with. Among them, Victor Emilio Galindez, a great friend of the new champion, who had traveled with him to the Spanish capital.

When he returned to Buenos Aires, he was asked if the title would allow a reconciliation with his critics. “I will never have a reconciliation with the public because it is a love relationship. In love, there are fights, encounters and disagreements. Maybe I have problems with the public, but we will always be united, “he explained. Years later, he also linked that triumph with Cortázar’s harsh chronicle: “When I won the crown, I felt that he, with his criticism, had been part of my world title.”

The reign lasted only five months. On March 5, 1977 and under a state of siege, he exhibited his crown at the National Baseball Stadium in Managua in front of the unknown Eddie Gazo, a non-commissioned officer of the Nicaraguan Army backed by the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, which at that time was facing the offensive of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).

In a packed stadium, a good part of the crowd were members of the bloody National Guard (disintegrated after the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution) who heated up the previous one by firing into the air and cheering Gazo and Somoza.

With such an atmosphere, there was not much Castellini could do, that even he was threatened with death during one of the combat breaks. Finally he fell on points and handed the title to the Nicaraguan. The celebration of the public was, again, with shots in the air. “I think Tito Lectoure He committed one of the greatest failures of his career, leading me to box there, ”he said three decades later.

While Chloroform he continued fighting for three and a half years and did one more test in Europe (he was knocked out in Denmark by the Ugandan Ayub Kalule, who would later become world champion), his flame went out after the defeat with Gazo, against whom he had a revenge in September 1980, when the Nicaraguan had already given up the title: he defeated him by knockout at Luna Park. After that triumph, he hung up his gloves.

After retirement, he never parted company with boxing. He founded and directed the Miguel Ángel Castellini Boxing Academy until his death, despite the fact that in the last four years he had suffered seven strokes. Married and father of three children, in 2011 he received the Delfo Cabrera Award for Exemplary Athlete in the Hall of the Provinces of Congress, a recognition granted by the Senate of the Nation since 1999.

FK

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