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Castillo Scale-Tips his Way to Victory

BY Benn Schulberg ON October 12, 2005
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There was no controversy this time inside the ring as Jose Luis Castillo dropped Diego “Chico” Corrales with a devastating left hook to the head in the fourth round of their lightweight non-title bout Saturday night in Las Vegas. Corrales crumbled to the canvas, yet gamely got to his feet at the count of ten, stumbling into the ropes as referee Joe Cortez waved off the contest. Despite his dominating victory, Castillo heads back to Mexico with a swirling of controversy and without the WBO and WBC lightweight titles.

The mega rematch between Corrales and Castillo took a dramatic turn at Friday’s weigh-in as Castillo was unable to make the lightweight limit of 135 pounds. Rumor had spread before the weigh-in that Castillo was overweight by a couple of pounds and that was validated when he first tipped the scales at 137 pounds. After being given a two hour reprieve by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to make the weight, Castillo returned to the scales, this time at 138½ pounds. Why would a fighter GAIN weight in those two hours when he needed to get down to 135 pounds in order to fight for the title?

We got our answer in the name of Dr. Armando Barak, Castillo’s doctor and confidant, who attempted to cheat the official weight by manipulating the scale. As Castillo weighed-in for the second time, Commissioner Marc Ratner noticed Dr. Barak putting his sneaker under the scale and lifting it up in order to make Castillo seem lighter. Dr. Barak was then banned from the corner and fined one thousand dollars for his illegal actions.

For his inability to make the 135-pound lightweight limit, Castillo was fined 10% of his purse, half of which went to Corrales with the other half going to the commission. What did Castillo himself have to do with Barak’s blatant attempt to cheat? Disturbingly, it’s hard to believe that a fighter who knew he wasn’t going to make the weight limit did not know that his camp had a plan to manipulate the scale.

Corrales himself had no doubt that Castillo was involved. “Of course he knew what was going on. He knew he wasn’t going to make the weight.” If that is the case, if Castillo knowingly cheated in the biggest fight of his life, then shame on him for dealing boxing another black eye.

At the post-fight press conference, despite Castillo and promoter Bob Arum’s disrespectful and unsportsmanlike decision to abruptly leave the dais while their opposition was speaking, Corrales offered no excuses for his performance and congratulated Castillo on his victory.

“I’m not going to muck up his win by entertaining the thought that he had an advantage. He landed a good shot. Congratulations to Castillo. Good job. I made a silly mistake, dropped my right hand and I paid for it.”

Still, even “Chico” couldn’t overlook the fact that Castillo’s attempt to cheat the scale dealt his beloved sport another unnecessary setback.

“This is really what deals boxing bad blows. I love my game, I love my sport, I love my job. I don’t break the rules, I don’t bend the rules or manipulate the rules.”

With Team Castillo and Bob Arum on their way off the stage, content with rubbing their victory in the face of their opponent, Corrales’ promoter, Gary Shaw, took the microphone to remind the press of the underlying controversy.

“They tried to cheat. They put their foot under the scale and tried to cheat. They played games with Marc Ratner and they got caught with their feet under the scale trying to cheat.”

Did Castillo purposely not make the weight in order to have an advantage over Corrales? Castillo’s manager, Fernando Beltran, offered no evidence of that but did admit that his fighter was at least six pounds overweight on the morning of the weigh-in. If Castillo was that many pounds over the limit, there’s no way he was even entertaining the thought of making weight for the fight.

Considering the magnitude of this rematch and its PPV value, and the fact that boxing fans were bubbling over with anticipation of crowning a lightweight king, it’s disheartening to know that a championship caliber fighter like Castillo didn’t honor the code of boxing.

Fernando Beltran, Castillo’s manager, couldn’t apologize enough for the disgraceful behavior of his corner. He made sure though that he was in no way involved with the scale-tipping incident. “His doctor’s name is Armando Barak. He’s the one who put his foot under the scale. I promise you that he will no longer be in Castillo’s corner.”

As for Castillo’s inability to make weight, Beltran replied, “Unfortunately this time in the biggest fight of his life, the kid (Castillo) was irresponsible. I’ve never had any problems like this with him before.”

Supposedly, Dr. Barak decided to fire Castillo’s trainer and nutritionist, Tiburcio Garcia, two weeks before the scheduled fight. Bob Arum reacted with outrage after Castillo weighed-in 3½ pounds over the lightweight limit. With his face turning a furious shade of red, Arum explained, “They said everything was fine with the weight this morning. Now I find out that he was 6 to 8 pounds overweight this morning. They (Castillo’s camp) lied to me.”

Getting to the bottom of this controversy is no easy task. How do we know Arum and the Castillo camp didn’t conspire together to have their fighter come in overweight in order to have a physical advantage over Corrales, who had to slim down to the 135-pound limit? What about Fernando Beltran? He knew Tiburcio Garcia, the man instrumental in controlling Castillo’s weight, had been fired by Dr. Barak, but still had no concern with checking his fighter’s weight in the two weeks leading up to the fight. Ironically, Garcia was still invited to Las Vegas even though he’d been fired two weeks earlier. As Beltran said, “He’s around, but he hasn’t been with the Castillo camp.”

You’d think enough subplots had already infiltrated this rematch by the eve of its commencement that it would be impossible to add to the complexity of the moment. The weigh-in fiasco at Caesar’s Palace Roman Plaza set off a frenzy among both camps, the promoters, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission in order to determine whether the fight would take place and under what terms.

Tempers flared under the blaring Las Vegas sun as rival promoters Arum and Shaw faced-off. Suddenly, Arum barked out, “Cancel the fight Gary, I don’t give a damn. Do whatever you want.” He was upset with Shaw because he refused the Castillo camp’s request to weigh-in one more time Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. Instead, Shaw and the Corrales camp wanted a 5 p.m. weigh-in to insure that Castillo wouldn’t be able to gain too much more weight.

The shouting match continued between the two promoters. Shaw couldn’t believe Arum’s disrespect considering that Corrales held the key to making or breaking the fight, thus putting Shaw in the negotiating driver’s seat. “I can’t believe how sick Bob is. There’s something really wrong with him. He’s getting mad at the wrong guy.”

“Chico” Corrales never thought twice about canceling his rematch with Jose Luis Castillo. He worked too hard and he loves his job and his fans too much to walk away from any fight, let alone one of the biggest fights of his life. His $2 million purse was guaranteed, fight or not, but as “Chico” told me as he was relaxing up in his suite, “I’m not doing this for the money. I’m doing it because I love my job and I owe it to my fans to deliver. The sport of boxing needs this fight. This is about pride and my legacy.”

Corrales’ stipulation for taking the fight was that Castillo had to weigh-in on the day of the fight at 146 pounds, and for every pound over that he would be fined an additional $75,000. More importantly, the bout would be a non-title fight, and regardless of the outcome Corrales would keep his WBO and WBC lightweight titles.

As we sat with the defending champion on the eve of his fight, he seemed confident that Castillo’s inability to make weight and the “scale-tipping” controversy that surrounded it would damage him mentally. Furthermore, Corrales believed that he had the physical advantage because of the fact that Castillo had to watch what he ate in the twenty-four hours leading up to the fight in order to make the negotiated 146 pounds, whereas “Chico” could relax and enter the ring at whatever weight he felt comfortable with (he came in at around 150 pounds).

We know now that those supposed advantages didn’t come to fruition. Castillo was the stronger man, handling Corrales’ punches into the fourth round, and landing the harder shots throughout, culminating with the monster left hook that sent “Chico” down for good. Was Castillo’s domination due to his increased strength derived from not having to get down to 135 pounds? Corrales refused such a claim at the post-fight press conference, gracefully congratulating his opponent for his great performance.

The Corrales camp though weren’t as quick to overlook the facts of what happened on the scale. Joe Goossen explained, “Diego is extremely tall and to get down to 135 lbs. is very taxing on his body. He did it because he’s a champion and we signed the contract that said we’d be fighting for the lightweight championship. If we knew we’d be fighting at 138½ pounds, then we would’ve trained accordingly.”

After the fight, Gary Shaw was left to second-guess his decision to let Diego Corrales enter the ring against an opponent who weighed-in 3.5 pounds above the limit. “I’m seriously questioning whether I should’ve let this fight happen. I’ll tell you this, if we fight him again it will be for the lightweight championship at 135 pounds. If he (Castillo) can’t make the weight, we will walk. I’ll leave so fast that all you’ll see is the back of my head getting on that plane.”

By the way, one more strange sub-plot to report. After Castillo weighed-in at 146 pounds hours before the fight, he angrily predicted that he would knock Corrales out and then challenged Gary Shaw to a bet of $100,000. They shook on the bet and of course the rest is history.

With so many questions unanswered it seems inevitable that Corrales-Castillo III will be a prophecy soon to come true. Both fighters now have something to prove. Castillo was impressive in knocking out Corrales, but can he repeat that performance if he actually weighs-in at the lightweight limit?

“Chico” is upset with his performance but says he will be back to revenge this defeat and settle the score. “He caught me with a good shot. It’s disappointing that I didn’t learn anything from the first fight and dropped my right hand again. I won’t make that mistake next time. I’ll get him.”

The rematch clause in the contract states that Castillo is bound to fight Corrales before any other opponent. Gary Shaw, Corrales’ promoter, left no doubts as to his fighter’s intentions. “We will invoke the rematch clause. The next fight for Castillo has to be Diego Corrales.”

Corrales himself seems eager to get Castillo back in the ring. When asked how soon he’d like to revenge the loss, the response was a swift “immediately.” A third match with Showtime PPV will be a victory for all those involved and nobody who stands to profit from this event should complain about Castillo’s “scale-tipping incident” because it only adds to the intrigue of this matchup.

Yet, we can’t overlook the low blow that the Castillo camp dealt the sport of boxing. In trying to cheat their way to 135 pounds, Dr. Barak and Castillo himself broke a cardinal boxing rule that attempts to protect the integrity of our sport. Why not be a man and be honest rather than embarrass yourself and your sport on its biggest stage?

Unfortunately, we are now marred in yet another controversy and Castillo heads back to Mexico maybe a hero and champion to his own people, but a cheater to me. Boxing fans deserve to see their champions live up to their heroic status both in and out of the ring. Castillo goes home without the lightweight belts, which is exactly what he deserves, because his deceitful actions were not befitting of what a champion represents.

At the post-fight press conference, Castillo was visibly upset when he realized that the “-tipping controversy” would overshadow his victory. After refusing to answer questions about his weight and whether or not he purposely didn’t make the lightweight limit of 135 lbs., Castillo’s frustration finally emitted a response.

“It feels like a court in here. You guys are interrogating me.”

He seemed to believe that his performance inside the ring would overshadow what happened outside at Caesars Palace Roman Plaza the day before. He was wrong. Despite Castillo’s great talent, he’s left a permanent scar on our beloved sport and he doesn’t deserve to be forgiven for that just because he knocked out Diego Corrales.

Castillo says he “doesn’t know” if he can fight a third time at 135 pounds. Believe me, if the money’s right, he should have no problem making the weight and challenging Corrales in the highly anticipated rubber match.

Let’s hope Corrales-Castillo III will cement the trilogy as one of boxing’s greatest match-ups of all-time. It would be a travesty to see these battles wasted away by controversy considering how talented and made for each other these two fighters are. For the sake of our sport, may integrity and decency prevail. Stay tuned for World War III.

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