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Avila Perspective, Chap. 92: Remembering Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo

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  • Avila Perspective, Chap. 92: Remembering Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo

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    By David A. Avila

    Some moments transcend all sports for example Diego “Chico” Corrales’ come-from-behind knockout victory over Mexico’s super tough Jose Luis Castillo.

    SHOWTIME will be televising both the first and second fight between Corrales and Castillo tonight (Friday, April 10, 10 p.m. ET/PT) on its network. Though it happened almost 15 years ago it remains one of the most memorable fights ever seen at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

    Yes, it was a sparsely attended lightweight world championship fight that May 7, 2005 night in Las Vegas. It seemed more media attended than fans.

    Castillo was the bully of the lightweight division when he signed to fight Corrales who had just captured the WBO lightweight title by knockout over Brazil’s Acelino Freitas. Also on the card was Juan Manuel Marquez who was promoted by Gary Shaw Productions at the same time as Corrales.

    Corrales (pictured) was not expected to defeat Freitas but when they met, the skinny Sacramento native chased and battered the Brazilian mercilessly until it was stopped in the 10th round.

    One week after that victory, another boxing card was taking place at the Mandalay Bay Resort. As I was walking toward the casino area, I spotted an unassuming Corrales just trudging along the corridor.

    “Hey Diego!” shouted a photographer walking with me.

    Corrales spotted us and walked over with a smile. We congratulated him and I asked if he knew the magnitude of his win over Freitas. He gave me a puzzled look and said confused “really?”

    The photographer and I shook our heads and laughed. We invited Corrales to lunch with us and headed to the buffet at Mandalay Bay. Inside we ordered food and ate rather quickly. Corrales got double and triple servings of dessert.

    “I really like dessert,” said Corrales who gobbled down cakes and pies.

    He talked about his fight with Freitas as he munched on cookies and told us he wanted a big fight with Castillo who nearly defeated Floyd Mayweather three years earlier in their first encounter. Their second match saw Mayweather defeat the Mexican fighter easily by staying on the outside.

    We explained to Corrales that he was going to be a big thing now. And as we walked out of the buffet several dozen people converged on Corrales as if on command. Autograph seekers and people with cameras took photos with the new WBO lightweight champion as he seemed surprised by the new attention.

    As we separated, Corrales asked if I was going to visit his camp at Joe Goossen’s gym in Van Nuys?

    Weeks before the actual fight I walked into Goossen’s gym and we discussed the various ways to defeat a strong fighter like Castillo. A month earlier Castillo had defeated Coachella’s talented Julio Diaz in a decisive win that featured elbows, head butts, shoving and blows below the belt.

    After the fight, Diaz was honest and blunt about the dirty tactics and loss to Castillo.

    “It’s a fight,” said Diaz plainly. “It’s not baseball or basketball. It’s a fight and I lost.”

    Goossen and Corrales sat and explained that the Mexican fighter was indeed known for his body punches and stamina. They seemed to plan to use Corrales length and height to their advantage. Or so they said.

    But if you followed Corrales’ career, he never opted to use his size or reach. He crashed into the killing zone like a kamikaze pilot.

    The Fight

    On May 7, 2005, the media arrived in full force knowing this fight featured knockout punchers with a lot of machismo. These guys don’t run.

    Corrales was half-Mexican and let everybody know he fought like a Mexican and that also seemed to let everyone know this was going to be war. Hardcore fans were giddy.

    Castillo was also giddy knowing that Corrales was not going to run. He had steamrolled other Mexican-American fighters and expected to do the same again. But Corrales was not just any other fighter.

    If you saw Mayweather’s win over Corrales most only remember the many knockdowns. But few remember that Corrales did not want to quit.

    It was something to remember when both touched gloves and opened up.

    Castillo was a deadly body puncher and a nasty hooker. He kept catching Corrales often and put down Corrales numerous times. Each time he went down he got up quickly and several times spit out the mouthpiece.

    Was it a ploy or strategy to gain time?

    Referee Tony Weeks deducted a point after warning Corrales.

    Back and forth they pummeled each other with such vicious abandon that fans and media looked at each other with amazement at what they were seeing.

    I sat one row behind journalist Rich Marotta who kept looking back at me and mouthing the words “wow!”.

    Back and forth they exchanged hellacious blows and when Corrales went down for maybe the final time his buddies Winky Wright and James Toney shouted encouragement. Corrales got up.

    And when Corrales suddenly connected and sent Castillo unconscious on the ropes the audience of more than 5,000 fans erupted as if 20,000 fans were there. And when referee Weeks stopped the fight at 2:06 of the 10th round even the media was excited. Toney and Wright jumped up and down like school kids on the final day of school.

    It was amazing stuff.

    I looked over at Marotta and he put his two hands on his head as if not sure he had witnessed this unbelievable comeback victory.

    Weeks later I read somewhere that the New York Jets coach was showing the fight to his team. The motto: never quit.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel