Exactly 10 years ago today, the greatest boxing match of this century took place in Las Vegas, as Diego Corrales came back to stop Jose Luis Castillo in Round 10. The victory unified Corrales’ WBC lightweight title with Castillo’s WBO belt and made him the lineal champion at 135 pounds.
After nine brutal rounds of back-and-forth slugging, Corrales entered Round 10 ahead 86-85 on one judge’s card and 87-84 on another. Castillo led with the third judge, 87-84.
Corrales’ eyes were both nearly swollen shut as Round 10 began. Shortly into the round, Castillo knocked him down. Corrales got up, but seconds later, Castillo dropped him hard again.
Corrales beat the count but then lost a point for deliberately spitting out his mouth piece. The three point swing would have put Castillo up on two cards and even on the third, if the round had made it to the end.
Instead, Corrales managed to catch up to Castillo with what Castillo would later call “a perfect right hand.” Castillo was driven to the ropes where he hung defenselessly as Corrales opened up with a barrage of punches. Castillo was out on his feet and referee Tony Weeks was forced to call a halt at 2:06.
It was no shock that Castillo and Corrales made for such a thrilling conflict. They already had reputations as two of the best, and toughest, fighters in the world below welterweight. Corrales was a former street kid from Sacramento. He’d compiled an impressive amateur career, but his fearless, brawling style was much more suited to the brutalities of the pro game.
Corrales’ 2001 showdown with rising star Floyd Mayweather had been a hotly anticipated bout and was regarded as a “pick-em” fight going in. Instead, Mayweather pounded Corrales, knocking him down five times before his corner threw in the towel in Round 10.
To this day, there are still many fans who believe Castillo deserved to win when he faced Mayweather for the first time in April 2002. Mayweather dominated that fight early but injured his hands and Castillo took control in the middle rounds, eventually out-throwing and out-landing the future pound-for-pound king. Mayweather received a controversial unanimous decision, then won a close, but decisive, rematch with Castillo in December 2002.
Corrales died tragically in a motorcycle accident in 2007. Castillo was still active as a fighter as of last year, though any true fan would rather see him retired and living in comfort at this point. Last November he was hammered by Ruslan Provodnikov in Moscow.
As a fantasy matchup between fighters of different eras, Provodnikov vs. Castillo is a dream fight. But at this point, it was merely an opportunity for a great former champion with nothing left to prove to take damage his body shouldn’t be taking, just for the sake of collecting a paycheck.