Corrales, Castillo put on a show |

Corrales, Castillo put on a show

Appeal Boxing Columnist

Do you know anybody who watched Saturday’s lightweight unification bout between Diego “Chico” Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo and still isn’t a fan? If so, please be sure and check to see if he or she has a pulse.

The match, televised on Showtime from Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, was possibly the best bout since Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns created a mushroom cloud with their desert war in 1985.

While the Hagler-Hearns slugfest lasted only three seemingly endless rounds, Corrales and Castillo took turns beating up on each other for nine rounds before a climactic 10th round brought matters to a close.

Much like the first Mickey Ward-Arturo Gatti battle in 2002, the bout was heavy on ebb and flow until the last round. But in this case, the top spot in the 135-pound division was on the line, it was fought at a higher level of skill, and when it was over there was no arguing over scorecards.

The 5-foot-11 Corrales (40-2, 33 knockouts) elected to stand his ground and engage in trench warfare with the shorter, ever-pressing Castillo (52-7-1, 46 KOs).

Ahead on two of the three scorecards “Chico” found himself on the floor when a scorching left hook thrown by Castillo nearly ended matters. Although it’s up for argument, it appears that Corrales’ mouthpiece fell out on its own volition.

Nevertheless Corrales took full advantage of an eight-count before referee Tony Weeks walked him over to his cornerman Joe Goosen, who bought “Chico” valuable seconds while he took his time getting up to the apron to rinse out the mouthpiece.

The 27-year-old Corrales soon found himself back on the deck, courtesy of another Castillo hook, and looked to be on his way out as he intentionally pulled out his mouthpiece and gave it a toss.

Weeks correctly deducted a point from Corrales, who was now down a 10-6 round and after a nine-count went wobbling back to his corner to again get the mouthpiece washed out by Goosen. Goosen not only took his sweet time climbing the stairs, but also bought Corrales even more time by arguing with Weeks, whose patience was at an end.

Make no mistake about it, if the fight ended there it was still the fight of the year. But just when it looked over, Corrales, his left eye nearly swollen shut and his right eye getting there, then elevated the fight from excellent to one of the all-time greats.

Instead of retreating or clinching, Corrales slugged back with everything he had, catching Castillo, whose left eye had a huge gash, with wicked rights and lefts. Unlike Corrales, who went down in the middle of the ring, Castillo’s back was to the ropes and he was trapped with no place to fall or take a knee.

As Corrales turned it on, Castillo’s gloves fell down by his side and his head fell backward over the top rope while Corrales teed off. Weeks could’ve let the punishment continue, but it would’ve resembled what “Merciless” Ray Mercer did to a defenseless Tommy Morrison back in 1991, and Weeks made the right call in stopping the fight.

It was a bout with several possible awards: best fight of the year, of the new century and of the last two decades. But with Corrales’ rally you wouldn’t be out of line to say it was the best round of boxing since the opening frame of Hagler-Hearns and perhaps the best comeback since Jake La Motta stopped Laurent Dauthuill in the 15th round of their epic 1950 middleweight contest.

Of course there’s room to argue. There’s always Archie Moore’s 1958 epic with Yvon Durelle, but there’s no film of it to compare with. You can cite Aaron Pryor’s first knockout of Alexis Arguello in 1982 for pure savagery, but Pryor was never down and didn’t have to get off the deck twice to rally with a nearly closed eye.

Ditto for any of the three Gatti-Ward fights, none of which ended early or so suddenly or dramatically.

Even though George Forman and Ron Lyle engaged a multi-knockdown war of attrition in 1976, the contest wasn’t for a world title and it lacked the volume of and razor-sharp punching of Corrales-Castillo.

Now the fun part: talking of a rematch.

Corrales has a lot of options. He’s been struggling to make 135 and moving to 140 would afford him a shot at WBO junior welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto, a showdown with 140-pound world champion Kostya Tszyu or a brawl with big-and-bad Vivian Harris, the WBA titlist. There’s also the possibility of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. (who stopped Corrales in 10 rounds, in 2001) if he gets by WBC 140-pound titlist Arturo Gatti in his next match.

But there’s a very good reason for Corrales to fight Castillo again. “Chico,” who’s the more versatile fighter, doesn’t have to make things so tough on himself the next time. He can keep Castillo at a distance and still bang when he has to instead of proving how macho he is, like he did this time.

It’s the Hagler-Hearns, Foreman-Lyle rematch boxing fans never got. But one thing is almost certain: There’s little chance the rematch could live up to its predecessor.

As boxing people know, great fights like these sometimes take decades to come around. They become the standard to which all other great fights are compared.

Some days it’s just great to be a boxing fan. Saturday was one of those days. After enduring last week’s tedious James Toney-John Ruiz sleepwalk and Saturday’s workmanlike Juan Manuel Marquez-Victor Polo undercard bout, they were treated to a classic.

As for those poor people whose pulse didn’t pound during this fight, have pity on them. After all, there’s always golf and chess. Boxing may be an acquired taste, but as Corrales and Castillo proved, sometimes it can be a fine cuisine indeed.