What? Diego Corrales v Jose Luis Castillo I
When? May 7th 2005
Where? Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada.
It’s often easy to lose sight of what makes boxing great. These days there’s the alphabet soup of titlists, the fact that the best don’t always fight the best (Manny..cough…cough..Floyd…) and the Cold War between opposing promotional companies. But from time to time a fight comes along that reminds you of all that is great in the sport. The meeting between Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales was one such fight.
Diego “Chico” Corrales was a decorated former super-featherweight titlist and at the time the reigning WBO Lightweight titlist. He had only suffered two defeats at that point in his career, both to top quality fighters. In 2001 he was the victim of a Floyd Mayweather master-class in a super featherweight unification bout and suffered a 10th round stoppage. Two years later he was again stopped by Cuban sensation Joel Casamayor but Corrales would avenge that defeat in an immediate rematch. He entered the bout with Castillo sporting a 39-2 record.
Jose Luis Castillo was a former WBC Lightweight titlist and is notable for having pushed Floyd Mayweather as close as anyone has thus far pushed the undefeated pound for pound king. Indeed, some people felt Castillo may have done enough to edge his first meeting with “Money”. Castillo entered the fight with a 53-6-1 record. Aside from losses to Mayweather he had not lost a fight in almost 7 years.
Everyone focuses on the infamous tenth round but that ignores the fact that the fight was non-stop action from the opening bell. Corrales was perhaps the better boxer and naturally the lighter man, so to engage in a brawl would seem counter intuitive. Castillo had never been knocked down and his only stoppage losses entering the fight were on cuts rather than being knocked out.
In round one Corrales let his intent to brawl be known. He was willing to push the letter of the law with borderline low blows and punching the back of Castillo’s head. He wasn’t going to be intimidated by the reputation of Castillo as a mean and nasty brawler. From the end of the opening round, the excitement in the crowd began to build as they sensed they could have a real action fight on their hands.
Castillo was hurt in the second whilst Corrales was hurt in the third. From the third round onward, Corrales’ right eye began to swell having absorbed a number of left hooks. Later in the fight, his left eye began to badly swell also. Castillo was cut in the 4th round which worsened as the fight progressed. The fight continued to swing one way then the other, just when it seemed one fighter was about to get on top, the other came back to turn the momentum in his own favour.
The middle rounds became a real war of attrition, with war being the operative word. Round six in particular featured some incredible action whilst Castillo was badly rocked at the end of round 7. Many of the rounds were so close they were very difficult to score. After 9 rounds Corrales was narrowly ahead on two score cards and narrowly behind on the third. During the 9th round, the Showtime commentary team labelled the fight one of the best ever shown on the network. And then came round 10.
The 10th round of this incredible fight had it all; knockdowns, point deductions, controversy, incredible action and a stunning ending. Castillo opened the round with a perfect left hook that detonated right on the chin of Corrales. Corrales staggered forwards then wobbled backwards onto the canvas. Badly hurt, he spit out his mouth piece whilst lying on the canvas. He beat the count and was brought to his corner to have his mouth piece put back in, buying him valuable seconds.
But Castillo was relentless. Two left hooks later, Corrales was back on the canvas, again he removed his mouth piece, and again he bought valuable seconds to recover. This time he was given a further couple of seconds as referee Tony Weeks correctly decided to penalise Corrales one point for spitting out the mouth piece.
These stoppages bought Corrales perhaps an extra 15 seconds recovery time. However, he had been knocked down twice and had a point deducted. Knowing the scorecards must have been close at the beginning of round 10 Corrales now knew he was surely behind on all three. Castillo on the other hand had a badly hurt opponent in front of him, an opponent who was perhaps one combination from being stopped. Castillo set about looking for the stoppage.
Corrales was wounded and backed up against the ropes but came out swinging, going for broke. He managed to stun Castillo with a right hook and as Castillo pursued him Corrales hurt him again with a left hook. The tables had begun to turn; now it was Corrales who was the hunter and Castillo who was back pedalling. A series of winging hooks from Corrales left Castillo stunned and defenceless on the ropes. Referee Tony Weeks had no choice but to step in and stop the fight with just over a minute left in the round. Corrales had achieved an incredible turn around victory.
This fight swept the boards at end of year boxing awards, winning Fight of the Year and Round of the Year awards. The drama of the 10th round highlights boxing at its most exciting and is one of those examples of the sport living up to the “theatre of the unexpected” tag. Few other sports can offer such sudden and decisive switches in momentum. Seeing Corrales somehow snatch victory from the jaws of seemingly certain defeat was reminiscent of Manchester United’s famous Champions League Final victory in 1999.
There was understandably a huge public demand for an immediate rematch. However, the rematch, in October 2005, proved a little disappointing. Corrales made the weight for the 135lb clash but Castillo weighed in 3 ½ lb overweight. Firstly, this made the fight a non-title bout and secondly the extra weight Castillo brought to the ring helped swing the action in his favour. Corrales was knocked out in the 4th round. A third fight was scheduled for February 2006 to settle the trilogy. However, when Castillo again failed to make weight, this time by 4 ½ lb, the fight was called off at the last minute.
Victory in their first fight would prove to be the final highpoint of Corrales’ career. He would lose the aforementioned rematch and then drop decision losses to both Joel Casamayor and Joshua Clottey. The loss to Clottey took place on the 7th of April 2007. Exactly one month later, on the second anniversary of his historic clash with Jose Luis Castillo, Corrales was involved in a three vehicle accident. Although rushed to a Las Vegas hospital, Corrales was pronounced dead on arrival. He was just 29 years old.
Castillo, no longer able to make the lightweight limit would move up to light welterweight and challenge Ricky Hatton for the Ring Magazine title in 2007. Hatton would stop Castillo with a devastating body shot in the 4th round. Although Castillo would continue to fight on until 2013, he never again challenged for a world title. He retired with a record of 64-11-1 but more significantly with one of boxing’s all time great fights on his resume.
Michael McCarthy, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By Bret “The Threat” Newton, Bret Newton on flickr [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.