Jezreel Corrales was one of the major breakout fighters of 2016. He was virtually unknown on the world stage when he travelled to Tokyo in April of last year, to challenge WBA super featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama. Uchiyama was undefeated, with a collection of stoppages over top contenders. Some viewed him as a pound-for-pound, top 10 fighter.
It was Corrales’ first fight outside of his native Panama. But he shocked the world, knocking Uchiyama down three times in the second round, before stopping him with just a second left in the frame. In December he returned to Tokyo and defeated Uchiyama via split decision in the rematch. I’m almost most impressed by the second performance than the quick stoppage in the first fight. Earning a split-decision over a popular, hometown star is no easy task.
Saturday night the emerging star makes his U.S. debut, sharing a billing with WBC belt holder Miguel Berchelt. The shared card suggests a potential unification fight down the line, something the sport could always use more of.
Corrales’ opponent for this fight will be Robinson Castellanos. Castellanos is an interesting figure. His 24-12 record suggests that he is a journeyman, but the 35-year-old Mexican deserves a bit more credit than that. He is classic graduate from the Mexican Boxing School of Hardknocks. In his first 10 professional bouts, he went just 3-7, often facing opponents with far more experience.
But he persevered and in recent years has turned himself into something resembling a contender. He beat Celestino Cabellero by split decision in 2013, to really put himself on the map. In 2014, he handed Ronny Rios his first professional loss, via TKO. Castellano’s biggest professional win was his last one–a shellacking of Yuriorkis Gamboa last May. Maybe Gamboa isn’t the same fighter he once was, but Castellano’s performance was still an eye-opener and it has earned him the kind of high-profile fight he will be in this Saturday night.