You might be about to feel a little old, but here we go.
17 years ago today, Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo fought for the first time, putting on one of the greatest battles in boxing history.
Here’s the epic 10th round, if you’ve never seen it before or have watched it a thousand times:
Corrales, then 27 years of age, came in with a pro record of 39-2 (32 KO) and defending the WBO lightweight title, which he’d taken via 10th round stoppage from the previously unbeaten Acelino “Popo” Freitas in Aug. 2004.
Castillo, 31 at the time, was 52-6-1 (46 KO) and had the WBC lightweight title, which he’d picked up when vacant in June 2004, beating Juan Lazcano. By the time he fought Corrales 13 months later, he’d already successfully defended against Joel Casamayor and Julio Diaz.
After nine rounds of action, judges Lou Moret and Daniel Van de Wielde both had Corrales up, 87-84 and 86-85, respectively, with judge Paul Smith seeing it 87-84 in Castillo’s favor.
Then the fight, which had already been great, became one for the all-time history books.
A wicked left hook dropped Corrales shortly into the 10th round. It was a stiff, hard shot, and Corrales spat his mouthpiece, a veteran move that would give him a few extra seconds to try to recover. With Corrales coming to the corner to have it replaced after rising to his feet, trainer Joe Goossen barked at his fighter, “Get inside on him!”
Corrales walked back into another left hook, and Castillo landed a couple more, with Corrales getting dropped once again. This time, he just blatantly removes the mouthpiece with his glove, probably accepting that it was going to cost him another point on top of the two knockdowns. He got to his feet at a count of nine, and referee Tony Weeks notified him quickly that he’d be taking another point, shouting that to the judges ringside as quickly as he could, not trying to break the flow of the fight any more than necessary.
At that point, with two knockdowns and a point deduction, it’s a 10-6 round already for Castillo. If the round stays that way, Castillo will be up 97-90, 95-92, and 94-93 after the 10th round. But it’s pretty clear that he’s on his way to stopping Corrales, because there’s a lot of time left in the round.
Back to the corner to get the mouthpiece in again, Corrales is stared down by Goossen.
“You gotta fuckin’ get inside on him now,” the trainer says, plainly and clearly.
Back to the action, Castillo steps in full of confidence. Corrales, with his back to the ropes, lands a hard right hand in counter. Castillo ties up, but once the action resumes, it’s a left hook from Corrales that pushes Castillo back to the ropes himself.
Everyone in the Mandalay Bay is on their feet. Mouths are open, people are shouting and reacting to every blow.
It becomes clear quickly that Castillo has been rattled, and “Chico” is going for it, full of a desperate confidence that he just might be able to turn this around.
Castillo keeps trying to push Corrales back, but he can’t do it. They begin to trade, because nobody has any other option. Corrales rocks Castillo’s head around with another hook and pushes him back to the ropes again, unleashes six or seven shots that land and have Castillo out on his feet, and referee Tony Weeks steps in.
“The fight is over!” Steve Albert shouts on the Showtime commentary. “Corrales with a remarkable, dramatic turnaround to win this fight! Unbelievable!”
It truly was unbelievable. A fight and a round for the ages. Some of the most dramatic, incredible fighting any of us will ever see.
What came after wasn’t as good.
In October, Corrales and Castillo were set for a rematch. Castillo didn’t make weight, but the bout went on anyway, and Castillo scored a fourth round stoppage in a fight nobody ever talks about today, a massive disappointment for fight fans. A third fight was set up, but Castillo again wasn’t on weight, and Corrales opted that time not to risk going in with a weight disadvantage.
Corrales would never win another fight. In Oct. 2006, he faced Joel Casamayor, the third meeting between them after two bouts at 130 in 2003-04, which they split. For that one, it was Corrales who didn’t make weight. Casamayor won a split decision in the rubber match.
In Apr. 2007, Corrales tried his hand not at 135 or even 140, and not even quite at welterweight, as he took a 149 lb catchweight bout with Joshua Clottey. Clottey dominated him over 10 rounds, winning a wide decision.
One month later, and two years to the day after his epic battle with Castillo, Diego “Chico” Corrales was dead, killed in an accident in Las Vegas while riding his motorcycle. Corrales’ blood alcohol content was reportedly about three times the legal limit for the state of Nevada. He was just 29 years old.
Castillo, meanwhile, would continue his boxing career for nine more years, though he never reached the heights he had seen in the early 2000s.
Most of his fights after the Corrales rematch were smaller-scale, lower-level bouts, though he did get a shot at Ricky Hatton’s lineal 140 lb championship in 2007, and was knocked out in the fourth round. His last fight came in Moscow in 2014, a TKO-5 loss to Ruslan Provodnikov in a matchup that never really should have happened, with a 40-year-old Castillo well past his prime and well over his best weights.
That fight and that 10th round, though, will live forever in the boxing world. It was a special display of determination, a shining example of what attracts people to such a brutal sport in the first place.