Corrales vs. Castillo I: A Retrospective

diego corralesBy Brandon Desmond - Looking back, there were many other fights between 2000 and 2009 that were excellent in their own right and should be considered for the title of “Fight of the Decade.” But Corrales vs. Castillo I, in my opinion, takes the cake hands down. Furthermore, in terms of the action in the ring, the dramatic finish, and the controversy that surrounded the bout, an argument can be made that it may have been the greatest fight in the history of Boxing.

May 7th, 2005. I was sitting on my couch, excited as hell about the Showtime Championship Boxing card about to show on my TV. So excited, in fact, that I decided to attempt to persuade my then girlfriend (Now, wife) to actually sit down and watch the fight with me. That night, Diego “Chico” Corrales and Jose Luis “El Temible” Castillo set out to unify the WBO and WBC Lightweight titles, as well as the Ring Magazine Lightweight Championship, by battling each other in the ring. And battle they did.

By now, the story of the fight is well known, and if you call yourself a boxing fan, you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years if you’ve never heard it. For those of you rock-dwellers, I will recap.

For more than nine rounds “Chico” and “El Temible” stood toe-to-toe and waged flat-out war. Both fighters refused to take a step back, both fighters landed hard shot after hard shot. To the body, to the head, they continued trading punches. By the 6th round, Corrales’ left eye was swollen nearly shut, and Castillo was cut under his left eye. Tony Weeks, the referee, had an easy job for the first eight rounds, as there was maybe one clinch the whole fight. Then came that 10th round. In what was basically an even match up to that point, Diego and Jose Luis squared up once again. After a short exchange, early in the round, Castillo connected with a short, flush left hook that put Corrales on the seat of his shorts. In my heart, having seen the way Corrales crumbled due to an accumulation of punches late in his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., I knew he was on the brink of defeat once again. Diego spit out his mouthpiece while on the canvas, got up, and beat the count. This is where the controversy started. After completing the 8-count Tony Weeks called time to gather, rinse, and return the mouthpiece to Chico’s grill, giving the hurt fighter valuable extra seconds to recover. When “time-in” was called, Castillo didn’t pounce right away, he calmly stalked the fading Corrales. After another short exchange, Diego was down again, this time from a short left “hookercut.” Again, Chico spit out his mouthpiece (now using his gloved hand to assist its removal). Again, Tony Weeks began an 8-count, again Corrales beat the count, and again time was called to return it to Diego’s mouth. This time however, Tony Weeks deducted a point from Corrales for (obviously) spitting out the mouth guard on purpose. Point deduction or not, Corrales was given valuable recovery time once again. “Time-in” was called and the action resumed. Corrales still appeared to be on shaky legs, and Castillo was moving in for the KO. And out of nowhere, Diego Corrales landed a counter left hook that clearly rocked the attacking Castillo. Seconds later, Castillo was pinned on the ropes, getting hammered by left-right, left-right combos, out on his feet. Tony Weeks was forced to step in and halt the fight, giving Diego Corrales the TKO victory in one of the most dramatic finishes the sport of Boxing will ever know.

This was one of the few fights I can remember having to stand up in my own living room with excitement while yelling at the TV (waking my wife who had fallen asleep around the 4th round). Even though I wasn’t in the arena that night watching it live, I will never forget that fight, and I knew it right away.

Of course, Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo fought again in October of the same year. That time, Castillo came in at 138 and ½ pounds (3 ½ pounds over the 135 pound weight limit). And that time, Castillo put an early end to another all out brawl with a one-punch KO win in the 4th round. After that fight (and another canceled faceoff due to more Castillo weight problems) neither fighter ever looked the same again.

Castillo Is still fighting today. In his last world title fight (at junior welterweight), he was knocked out in four rounds from a body shot by Ricky Hatton. Although he would tell you differently, Jose Luis Castillo’s heyday is likely over as a result of his first brutal battle with “Chico.”

The same was for Corrales, who lost his Lightweight titles on the scales as he had his own trouble getting down to 135 pounds in a rematch with Joel Casamayor, losing the fight itself by split decision. And in what turned out to be the final fight of his career, a clearly faded Corrales was defeated by Joshua Clottey by unanimous decision in a welterweight fight. A month later, on May 7th, 2007 (Exactly two years to the day after his comeback victory over Castillo) Diego “Chico” Corrales was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident near his home in Las Vegas.

I live in Las Vegas. The day after Diego Corrales died, I felt compelled to visit the scene of the accident. Like a magnet, I gravitated to the spot. I quit my job that day to go, and I made a little tribute sign from a rough piece of cardboard that read:
“RIP Chico, He was a warrior!”

When my wife and I arrived, we were surprised to find only one other person there, a sports photographer documenting the scene. There was already a small memorial started, to which I added my sign. The photographer showed me the bloody spot in the street where Chico had passed away. That was another day I will never forget.

Questions, comments, or admonishments? Direct them to my email:

Article posted on 05.01.2010

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