Time away from ring shows as Castillo backs into win

LAS VEGAS -- Hermann Ngoudjo was supposed to be nothing more
than a tuneup for Jose Luis Castillo. He nearly ended up being a
lot more.

Castillo barely escaped with a split decision win Saturday night
over his far less experienced opponent, winning by the slimmest of
margins to keep his hopes alive for a possible June fight against
Ricky Hatton.

Castillo used a relentless attack to the body to win 115-113 on
two scorecards, enough to offset the 115-113 margin given Ngoudjo
by the third judge. The Associated Press had the fight even,

The fight was on the undercard of the Hatton-Juan Urango
140-pound title fight.

The decision was widely booed by the crowd at the Paris
hotel-casino, which watched as Ngoudjo acquitted himself well in
only his 16th professional fight against a fighter who was in his
63rd pro fight.

Ngoudjo (15-1) stood on the ringside corner ropes after the
decision was announced and raised his arms in victory.

"I thought I outworked him on the outside and I roughed him up
on the inside," Ngoudjo said. "I thought I won this fight by four

Ngoudjo, who fought for Cameroon in the 2000 Olympics but now
lives in Montreal, was fighting for only the second time outside of
Canada. He was unbeaten coming into the fight, but had never fought
a fighter of the caliber of Castillo.

Castillo (55-7-1), meanwhile, hadn't fought in nearly a year
after failing to make weight for his lightweight title fight
against Diego Corrales in June. The effects of the layoff were
evident in the 140-pound fight.

"I did the best I could," Castillo said. "I've been away from
the ring for a long time. It wasn't one of my greatest

Castillo won the fight by going to the body, especially with a
left hook that he continually pounded into the ribs of Ngoudjo.

But Ngoudjo had his moments as well, rocking Castillo with a
left in the seventh round and fighting well from the outside.

Ringside punching stats showed Castillo landing 245 of 682
punches to 208 of 783 for Ngoudjo.