It could’ve been a classic! - Diego Corrales v Joel Casamayor

04.01.06 - By James Slater: In the wake of his scintillating fight with Jose Luis Castillo and all the writing that has been dedicated to this epic brawl, another excellent fight featuring Diego “Chico” Corrales is unfortunately not being held in the same high esteem as it perhaps should be by many fight fans, overshadowed as it has been. The fight I am referring to is the first bout between Corrales and Joel Casamayor. This fight, but for its sudden termination at the end of round six due to facial injuries suffered by Diego, would, in my opinion, have gone on to be just as good as, if not better than, the brilliance of Corrales v Castillo. Had the twists and turns that still lay in store for the two fighters in this up and down thriller been allowed to unfold, then this fight would have been a boxing match destined for the time capsule, possibly alongside the super fight “Chico” would be involved in some nineteen months later.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the stoppage, by doctor Margaret Goodman, was a bad call. A fighter’s health is, and always should be, paramount. I think she made a good and brave decision. However, this doesn’t mean I can’t moan about the stoppage and how it brought a halt to a fight I believe was heading into its all-time classic phase, does it? I know what you’re thinking, “Don’t be greedy, you got your super fight in May 2005, think yourself lucky.” And I do, believe me. It’s just that moments like these are so special and rare these days and we’ll never know now whether or not Corrales v Casamayor would have gone on to become held in this high regard in the years to come.

Maybe we would now have two mesmerising exhibitions of never to be forgotten boxing if the bout had gone on, or perhaps fate had the date of May 7th 2005 planned all along as the moment in time when Diego Corrales would reach into the very depths of his fighting soul to reveal his true greatness?

Whatever the case, the fight held on October 4th 2003 at The Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas was pretty damn good!

The Vegas boxing crowd was buzzing, (perhaps another reason I list the subject of this article amongst my own personal favourite fights is because I was present) because of the intrigue that surrounded the upcoming heavyweight clash between Evander Holyfield and James Toney. The Corrales and Castillo fight provided the support action and surely if it were not
competing with the heavies then this high quality pairing of super featherweights would have been given top billing. The action was set to start at an earlier hour than usual due to a rival promotion by Bob Arum, being held at the Staples centre in L.A., featuring the great Erik Morales. As it turned out, the action in this fight (promoted by Joe Goossen) would come quickly too!

Casamayor and Corrales put on an incredible performance and their fight was a bitterly contested war. Both were top contenders in their division, this was a very important fight in their careers, and the effort both men gave mirrored this. Diego towered over his man and came out stalking his southpaw opponent. Casamayor was the former WBA champion, having lost
that title to Acelino Freitas, and a win tonight would prove he was still able to compete at the highest level. For Corrales, who had only lost once also, to Floyd Mayweather Jnr, victory would provide the same.

In the opening round Corrales used his big reach advantage to good effect while Casamayor did some back pedalling and counter punching. Diego was putting all his power into his shots and clearly won the round, but he had also picked up some damage from an accidental head butt and his corner men had to go to work on a cut on his left eye. The stalking continued
unabated in the second as he did his best to ignore the blood. Diego was doing a lot of chasing and he would have loved Joel to have stood and traded with him. This wasn’t in the Cuban’s best interests though, and he remained elusive, frustrating Corrales.

Then, in the third round the fireworks really started. To the surprise of everyone, probably even Casamayor, Diego was floored at the start of the session by a sharp left hand. Joel had said before the fight that he could be a big puncher if he wanted to but this was generally dismissed as pre-fight hype. Corrales was the proven puncher of the two. But he was on
the receiving end now and had to take the mandatory eight count, with blood trickling down the side of his face. He had definitely been hurt despite the smile he gave as the count was given.

The action came thick and fast, almost too fast to keep up with. Only seconds after the knockdown the referee, Tony Weeks, deducted a point from Casamayor for illegal use of the head, to the boos of the crowd, most of whom seemed to be on Joel’s side. The two quickly resumed their previous tactics, but now the upper hand was with Casamayor, though the extra point he’d gained from the knockdown was now erased because of the infringement. He had some more success with his left hand and was looking very confident at the bell. Corrales now knew he had to respect his opponent’s punching power and he looked pensive as he had his minute’s rest prior to round four.

His refusal to deviate from his game plan of obliterating Casamayor cost him severely at the start of this round. He was knocked down for a second time, again with the left hand, and a stoppage win for Joel loomed.

What a surprise, he looked like the genuine banger, just as he’d claimed. The fight had very quickly turned one sided. Corrales fought back as best he could under the fierce pressure, as Casamayor tried to finish him, and then unbelievably, from out of nowhere, he scored with a cracking right hand and Casamayor was down! This fight was awesome, bringing to my mind the relentless intensity of the Hagler-Hearns classic. What a round the fourth was, one of the best I’ve seen. The fight was now anybody’s and the crowd was ecstatic.

By the fifth, both men had due cause to be nervous. Casamayor was landing good work and, at times, Corrales was the one being backed up. I felt the fight would no way go the distance and therefore even if I had been calm enough to have been scoring the rounds, I would have believed them to be purely academic at this point. The fifth was Joel’s round and it was a
relatively calm one. At the start of the sixth there was a noticeable lump emerging on the right side of Casamayor’s head, so now both men were marked up. The fight had all the essentials needed to be a great slugfest. I hoped injuries would in no way decide the outcome but at the end of the sixth, after Diego briefly staggered Joel, this turned out to be the case as
a badly busted up mouth led to Corrales’ downfall. His mouth was terribly swollen and it appeared as though there was a hole right through his upper lip.

The action had been brutal and over the protest of the ever courageous “Chico” ,the doctor called a halt. Many in the crowd were unhappy with the stoppage, along with Diego. Immediately he called for a rematch and Casamayor, having scored one of his best ever victories, said he was willing to grant him one, in time, but that Acelino Freitas, who he never felt really beat him, was his immediate priority.

I got my breath back and looked forward to the Holyfield v Toney fight. But that’s a different story. The fight that I now think was going to develop into a true classic had ended. It was still a very good fight, maybe even a great one. But still, when you get out your copy on tape, and you sit back and watch the raw, electrifying action on screen don’t you,along with me, at the point of the stoppage, say to yourself, “ If it wasn’t for this, it could’ve been a classic!”

Article posted on 04.01.2006

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