Corrales vs. Castillo 2 & the Anti-Climax

Corrales-Castillo 2 and the Anti-Climax

                 By Alex Pierpaoli

originally published 10/8/05 on

The arena was freakishly empty for their first fight on May seventh of this year, and how magnificent the spectacle was for those privileged few who witnessed it live.  This time it’s a near sell-out crowd that will watch these two lightweight warriors pick up where they left off after that amazing round ten in bout one when Diego Corrales surged back from two knockdowns to stop Jose Luis Castillo with a series of left-hook cannon-blasts to the head.


Tonight the Thomas & MackCenter on the UNLV Campus in Las Vegas, is expecting a crowd of nearly 18,000 drooling fight fans to pile in for more of Corrales’ and Castillo’s unique blend of one-on-one sado-masochism.

Their first fight was more about each man against himself rather than each other; they each had questions to ask of themselves and their bodies.  Could Corrales stand up under the close and gritty pressure Castillo puts on his opponents?  Could Castillo handle Corrales’ bombs and keep fighting back?  If the bout became a war of attrition whose mettle would give out first?


Many have called Corrales-Castillo the greatest fight ever and they may be correct.  Fight one was as brutal but not as sustained as great-fight yardstick, Hagler-Hearns–those spectacular three rounds were a squall of violence; a furious and sudden tornado whipped up in a Las Vegas parking lot only to blow itself out 8 minutes later with only one man standing and the other crumpled and helpless in the arms of Richard Steele like 160 pounds of battered and bruised debris.  Corrales-Castillo was different.  It was a sustained and violent clash of elemental forces, the roughness of Jose Luis Castillo locked in a struggle with the tenaciousness of Diego “Chico” Corrales.


Corrales-Castillo was a category five hurricane–it started with a raging round one and thirty minutes later the fierce eye-wall of round ten brought eye-witnesses to their feet rather than blowing them to the ground.  In the end it was Ref. Tony Weeks, leaping between Castillo and Hurricane Chico like the US Coast Guard, milliseconds before a battered and helpless Castillo sustained anymore punishment along the ropes.


It was that theatrical, and to some controversial, finish that added even more to the already thrilling drama of Corrales-Castillo one.  When Corrales was dropped the second time in round ten and the mouthpiece he was trying to hold onto slipped to the canvas, Ref. Tony Weeks halted the action, deducted a point from Chico Corrales and brought him to his trainer to get the mouthpiece cleaned off and reinserted.


After knockdown number one we heard trainer Joe Goosen tell Corrales to get inside on Castillo, knowing full well that his fighter can slug in close with the best and after the knockdown Chico needed to regain the lost point on the scorecards.  When Weeks brought Corrales and his dislodged mouthpiece to Goosen that second time the trainer was more emphatic with his instructions and this time Corrales did exactly as told.


“You gotta f—in’ get inside on him now,” Goosen implored.  Surging back, Corrales bit down and fired left hooks with abandon, coming up with several bombs that rattled Castillo all the way to his socks.  Just like that Corrales had done what looked impossible a few moments ago when Castillo dropped him early in the round with a well-placed left hook of his own.


There was a kind of tender, street poetry in the way Joe Goosen and Corrales talked to each other.  Unlike the father and son relationships so common in boxing where trainer Dad hopes to live through his fighter Son and often loses the ability to make rational decisions in the corner, the relationship between Goosen and Corrales is more like two focused brothers working towards the same goal.  There is no competition, no rivalry of egos; there is only fighter and trainer, two men with a deep sense of responsibility and trust toward each other–trust that has been galvanized through the three most recent and most spectacular wins of Diego Corrales’ career; wins that place him within reach of the sport’s number one Pound-for-Pound honor.


Castillo and Corrales were, and still are, the two fighters at the top of the one hundred thirty-five pound division and both are one hundred percent willing to go to war.  It’s nothing personal; it’s what they train to do in the hurt business of professional boxing.  It is the height of competition–one man scores hard and the other feels obliged to respond in kind; or in this case unkind may be more apropos.


It began in the very first round of fight one when they banged away at each other.  Neither man ever allowed the other the edge of landing even one more clean hard punch; you hit me twice I’ll get you back twice, and thank you Sir may I have another.  And on and on it went like that until the tenth round.


For almost thirty minutes they fought at close range–at times almost resting a head on the other man’s shoulder only to catch their breath before hacking away at him with both hands.  The almost six foot Corrales is an anomaly like Riddick Bowe–a tall long limbed fighter who fights better on the inside than shorter stubby armed men who are built for in-fighting.  There is no question Chico likes to rumble.


But perhaps it is his passion for the inside that could lead to Corrales’ undoing.  When asked by Jim Gray what it was like to be involved in such a brutal fight as the first match-up Corrales responded by saying it was an honor.  Aside from other fighters, few can relate to that warrior’s code of conduct that sees any day when you taste your own blood and live to tell the tale as a great day indeed.


In tonight’s rematch, it is Corrales with the more varied and exotic offense versus the crafty but utilitarian Castillo.  Goosen and Corrales’ well practiced combinations were visible in fight one and are sure to play a part in tonight’s second showing.  Corrales often threw a high left jab, followed by a right to the belly, a double left hook, right uppercut and then finished the barrage with another left hook.  Two handed artillery bursts like that from Corrales were answered repeatedly with hacking lefts and rights that did damage from Castillo.  This time Chico doesn’t need to prove anything to himself and he would be wise to box and roll away from the Mexican before he can retaliate with his chopping blows.


The conventional wisdom about rematches, with a few exceptions, is that they rarely live up to the original.  Yes, sometimes–like in the case of Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, The Road Warrior, and Spiderman 2–the sequels do surpass the drama and excitement of the original.  But for every Gatti-Ward 2 there are the Ali-Frazier and Holyfield-Qawi sequels that don’t quite live up to the expectations of the first.  Corrales-Castillo 2 looked to be an exception–these guys both vow to pick up right where they left off in May.  But last night’s weigh-in seemed to cast some doubt over the likelihood we’d see another heads-up, face-first slug-fest.


Stepping on the scale at 137, two pounds over the lightweight limit of one hundred thirty-five pounds, Jose Luis Castillo jeopardized the rematch even taking place at all.  Given two hours to make 135, Castillo got back on the scales fifty minutes later only to find he had gained another pound and a half and was up to 138.5 pounds.  How that happened is unclear, did he go off and eat a yogurt or something?


Also, during the confusion of the weigh-in, one of Castillo’s handlers, physician Armando Barak, was actually thrown out for trying to lighten his fighter by pressing up the scale with his foot.  Barak has been suspended from the Castillo corner and locker room for tonight’s bout.  The fight itself must now be considered a lightweight special attraction since Castillo is too heavy to be called 135 pound Champion should he win.  The Mexican fighter was docked $120,000.00 for not making the contracted weight limit.


As to the physical well-being of Jose Luis Castillo; reported to weigh as much as 143 on Thursday, serious questions should be asked about how rigorous a training camp the former champ might have had.  Coming in slightly overweight is not all that uncommon but trying to lose eight pounds overnight less than 36 hours before one of the toughest fights of your life doesn’t bode well for your chances at victory.


Rematches often unfold as a more cautious and controlled re-telling of the original story and considering the potential dehydration Castillo could suffer it seems far more likely today that Corrales will get a repeat victory.  But at what price?  There is little doubt there will be periods of scintillating violence in tonight’s bout and just five months after their bone-numbing first bout, how will either man stand up under that type of pounding?  Corrales loves the fray and rarely finishes a fight without facial lacerations and bruising but tonight he may realize he doesn’t have to subject himself to that.  With Goosen Corrales has proved he can work and stick to a fight strategy, and putting some distance between his own noggin and Castillo’s fists tonight might be exactly the prescription that brings on another victory.  Castillo’s hefty frame may be harder for Corrales to out-wrestle, but won’t Castillo’s endurance be suspect after struggling to make the lightweight limit of 135?


Soon we’ll see whether or not the sequel to Corrales-Castillo has thrilling, unforgettable moments like the Battle of Ice-Planet Hoth or the toe-to-toe brawl of Sigourney Weaver versus the Alien Queen.  Tonight we’ll witness a sequel Hollywood can only hope to emulate or simulate–their best fights never come close to reproducing the impact of real prize-fighting.  Nothing Hollywood can reproduce stirs up butterflies in the stomach and sends out electricity in the air like during a referee’s instructions before a big fight.  When the bell rings and the drama unfolds the action may resemble what was envisioned but there is no script being followed, no narrative being laid down in subject-predicate form.  The action is unscripted and unrehearsed.


How vicious and spectacular the fight will or will not be is unlocked as it occurs–there can be no true preview for the uncontrolled tempest that Corrales-Castillo 2 will be.  Even Hurricane Katrina’s follow-up storm, Hurricane Rita, didn’t come close to taking the same toll in flesh of her infamous precursor.  How both men prepared for their coming storm will dictate how well they handle its gale force once it’s upon them.  All we can do is board up shop and get to the water’s edge to watch these elemental forces collide all over again.


Send comments or questions to Alex Pierpaoli at:


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