After Saturday’s battle of the ages between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo, Corrales said he considered it an honor to wage it. But he was wrong.
It was an honor to watch it.
It was perhaps the greatest boxing match any of us will ever witness. The pace alone was enough to make it a candidate for Fight of the Year, but this one had so much more: ebb-and-flow, toe-to-toe exchanges, high drama, and probably the greatest single round comeback in the sport’s history.
Which is why it surpasses the mere Fight of the Year standard.
It’s the best fight of the last five years, probably a lock for fight of the decade, and possibly the best slugfest of the last quarter century.
Yes, it was that good.
It is rare when a fight can immortalize both the winner and loser. But that’s what Corrales and Castillo did for one another Saturday. They etched the other’s name in boxing history – punch-by-punch, flurry-by-flurry and exchange-by-unbelievable-exchange.
Ali and Frazier did it for each another. Leonard and Hearns, too. And, more recently, Barrera and Morales.
Now Corrales and Castillo will have their own special place in boxing annals.
It was so violent that those who stand to make money on a rematch aren’t so eager to see one. Corrales’ promoter, Gary Shaw, said he’s not sure a return would be appropriate, given the punishment the duo heaped upon one another.
And when has a promoter ever said anything like that?
Beyond the physical ramifications, it’s impossible to improve on a masterpiece. It’s like remaking a classic movie (remember Psycho?), or covering a classic song (Sheryl Crowe’s head-scratching remake of Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine”).
What’s the point, really?
If Corrales and Castillo never cross paths again, no one will complain. Everyone who watched knows they might have seen the best fight in boxing history on May 7, 2005.
*That said, it is impossible not to feel for Castillo, who was the latest fighter burned by that ridiculous no-mouthpiece rule. Last year, it was Acelino Freitas who tried it, against Corrales, to no avail. But, to his credit, Corrales took advantage of it Saturday.
It was the smart, experienced thing to do – kind of like grabbing a facemask before a football player enters the end zone to prevent a touchdown.
And it certainly wasn’t the fault of referee Tony Weeks, who was once again outstanding and simply did as the rules dictated.
It’s the rule that’s dumb.
Corrales, who was severely hurt, spit the mouthpiece out, and received invaluable recovery time as Weeks called time to reinsert it. This is simply not fair. Sure, the rule was created to ensure the safety of the fighters, since a lost mouthpiece can result in a lot worse than a busted lip or a dislodged tooth.
It can cause serious brain injury.
But this is boxing. Its essence is its brutality. And state commissions are taking away from the integrity of the sport by continuing to implement the rule as it reads now.
*It’s not right to criticize a well-meaning rule without a suggestion. So here’s a suggestion: Make the referee carry a pair of extra mouthpieces.
Since most mouthpieces are form-fitting, the fighters simply boil an extra one, and each give the extra to the ref – who puts it in his shirt pocket during the fight. You can even color coordinate, and make one mouthpiece red and the other blue, corresponding to the different corners or to the trunk colors – which would help the ref quickly and efficiently decipher the situation in the heat of battle.
It also ensures that the right gumshield goes to the right fighter.
So, if a fighter goes down and loses his mouthpiece, the ref can simply remove the corresponding mouthpiece from his pocket after the count, stick it in the fighter’s mouth, and carry on without an unfair delay.
The mouthpiece may be a little dry, but the fighter’s health wouldn’t be in danger, and the fighter who produced the knockdown would retain his advantage.
Think about it, Marc Ratner, and commissioners worldwide. Think about something. Because the current rule is awful.
*What’s the fuss about the stoppage? Weeks’ timing was immaculate. He intervened right as Castillo’s body went limp, and he physically forced himself between the two combatants to ensure Corrales wouldn’t connect with another punch.
Great job, referee Weeks. Your expert reflexes, knowledge of the two fighters, and courage to step in at precisely the right time could have possibly saved Castillo’s life. Don’t let anyone tell you different.