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Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Boxing--- RIP, Diego Corrales
As you may or may not have heard by now, Diego "Chico" Corrales died last night in a motorcycle accident in Las Vegas at the age of 29.
Corrales' boxing career provided fans with many memories that they will never forget, the apex of which was his May 7, 2005 fight against Jose Luis Castillo, which is widely regarded as one of the best boxing matches of all time, and is absolutely the best I've ever seen.
Corrales' performance in that fight was so courageous that coaches and trainers in various sports (in addition to boxing) have shown the fight to their players and teams before big events to inspire them and to remind them that they should never give up.
Here is a look back at a blog entry that I posted just a couple of hours after the legendary fight.
Originally Posted on May 8, 2005 at 1:09 AM:
If you don't think boxing is all that exciting and typically greet any mention of boxing by saying something like, "Boxing? Why do you watch boxing?" then I have a simple answer for you: Watch the replay of the just-completed match between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. It was a thrilling, action-packed fight that was filled with more real human drama than you will see on an entire season of highly-edited, movie-like, crowd-shot-happy "boxing" on NBC's The Contender.
Not only did it beat out the great fight between Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao earlier this year, but Corrales vs. Castillo was also the best boxing match thus far in 2005 by a wide margin. It was a back-and-forth fight with a lot of changes in momentum, along with a good mixture of strategy (should Corrales box from the outside or take big risks on the inside?) and all-out action. Both men fought through major adversity starting in the fifth round... Castillo with a cut over his left eye and Corrales with a giant hematoma directly under his left eye.
Through nine rounds of action, it was an extremely close fight. Both fighters were in excellent shape from a cardio standpoint and were ready to go three more rounds, but Corrales' eye in particular was swelling badly. Through nine rounds, I had the bout scored 5 rounds to 4 in favor of Castillo. Two of the three judges had Corrales ahead by a small margin, as did two of the three journalists on Showtime's Press Row. With no knockdowns having been scored yet, it was a very close fight that looked like it could easily swing in either direction in the last three rounds.
I don't think anyone, least of all the two fighters, could have expected what would happen next, as the tenth round was one of the most dramatic rounds of boxing you will ever see. Less than 30 seconds into the round, Castillo caught Corrales with a clean hook to the jaw that knocked Corrales down. The swelling around Corrales' left eye seemed to be getting worse, but he wasn't dazed by the knockdown and made it up before the ten-count.
Maybe 30 seconds after the action resumed, Corrales went down again when another punch landed cleanly on his face. He still didn't appear to be particularly dazed and made it up at the count of nine, but he had just gone down twice in a short period of time, and by this point his left eye was swollen almost completely shut. When the action resumed, the referee was watching very closely and was ready to stop the bout if needed, as everyone held their collective breath and waited for what appeared to be the inevitable. Jose Luis Castillo was going to knock out Diego Corrales, and Corrales' only chance was to somehow make it out of the round and hope to recover between rounds.
Instead, Corrales started trading punches with Castillo, and they were exchanging punches just about evenly. Corrales was holding his own and even wobbled Castillo briefly--- not something you'd expect from a fighter who had just been knocked down twice. Just when one started to think, "I can't believe Diego Corrales is still fighting," Corrales landed a huge right hand on Castillo, and Castillo was never the same after that. Castillo was dazed but still throwing punches with his back up against the ropes, until Corrales landed a sensational flurry of punches that reduced Castillo to essentially being out on his feet. Castillo was no longer defending himself and was taking unprotected blows to the head, so referee Tony Weeks had no choice but to jump in and stop the fight, giving Corrales the TKO victory.
As I said, it was one of the most dramatic rounds of boxing you will ever see. Both fighters showed nothing but class after the fight with their mutual respect for one another. The willingness of both fighters to take punishment in order to dish out punishment throughout the fight is the main factor that made this such a great fight, but a big part of the credit also has to go to referee Tony Weeks, who has also been the referee for some K-1 and MMA bouts.
Weeks showed great discretion and seemed to make the right decision on a lot of tough issues, especially in the climactic final rounds of the fight. When Castillo landed two consecutive low blows, Weeks did the right thing in giving Castillo a firm "final warning" before he would take a point away, and he also did the right thing in not taking a point away prematurely. When Corrales spit out his mouth-piece to buy a few precious seconds of time, Weeks did the right thing in warning Corrales the first time and taking a point away from Corrales the second time.
The most important decisions that Tony Weeks got right were the big ones for any ref--- when to stop the fight and when not to stop the fight. When Corrales was knocked down on two separate occasions, Weeks did the right thing by not stopping the fight prematurely, as he instead looked into Corrales' eyes, and accurately determined that he was not particularly dazed and was still able to continue fighting. When Castillo first looked dazed up against the ropes in the tenth round, Weeks did the right thing by staying back, letting the situation develop to see what would happen, and giving Castillo a chance to keep himself in the fight.
When Corrales landed an unanswered barrage of punches to Castillo's head, and it was clear that Castillo was out on his feet with his back up against the ropes, Weeks did the right thing and stopped the fight. I don't want to hear from even the most die-hard fan of Castillo that the fight was stopped too soon, because Corrales landed a half-dozen uncontested punches on Castillo's face at a point when Castillo was no longer defending himself and had his eyes rolled back in his head. Anyone who thinks that a fight should be allowed to continue under those circumstances--- with a fighter against the ropes, out on his feet, not defending himself, and taking uncontested blows to the head--- needs to watch the documentary "Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story" and then let me know if you still feel the same way.
Boxing is boxing, and MMA is MMA. In general, I find MMA to be a far more exciting sport than boxing. But it would be a big mistake for anyone to take that to mean that boxing doesn't also have its fair share of extremely exciting, dramatic, and memorable fights. Corrales vs. Castillo stands as proof of that.