We are closing in on one of the most highly anticipated rematches in recent history. On October 8 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Diego “Chico” Corrales will face off against Jose Luis Castillo to once again decide the ruler of the lightweight division.  Their first fight has been sanctified in boxing lore as one of the greatest of all time. A tactical, brutal display of boxing skill and inhuman courage, Corrales survived the war with a miraculous knockout in the 10th round after being down twice earlier in the round. Corrales won the fight but suffered for his victory with terrible swelling to both his eyes and internal bleeding from the battering he took. After the fight, the controversy began as Castillo blamed referee Tony Weeks for long counts after his opponent was knocked down twice. His corner also thought that Corrales deserved disqualification for spitting his mouthpiece out after both his trips to the canvas.

The Castillo camp’s bitterness and frustration bubbled over at the post-fight press conference as they felt the referee stole the fight from them. On top of that controversy, they thought the stoppage was premature and that their fighter deserved a chance to continue, just as Corrales was given a chance earlier in the round. The truth is that the referee followed the rules of the Nevada State Boxing Commission which state that a fighter will be penalized for excessive spitting out of the mouthpiece, but not immediately disqualified. Corrales did buy time to recover from each knockdown, but the fact is that he utilized a legal tactic and then made a heroic comeback to cap the most exciting fight maybe ever.

And no, Castillo shouldn’t have been given another chance to continue as he was out on his feet and in grave danger. Boxing fans were given a chance to see their beloved sport in its finest hour and what an exquisite site it was. In my father’s eighty years as a fight fan, he couldn’t think of a fight more riveting and captivating than the show Corrales and Castillo put on.

The boxing world is now poised for the rematch. All the controversy surrounding that 10th round has only intensified our desire to see these two warriors go toe-to-toe once more. Will Castillo be able to recover mentally from such a crushing defeat? Can Corrales match the Herculean effort he gave in the first fight? Both fighters believe that they will emerge victorious in the rematch and have no doubt that this fight will match the intensity of their Super fight.

“The fans won’t be disappointed,” Corrales promised. “It’ll be as exciting as the first one.” He pointed to the Pryor-Arguello rematch as an example of how he expects this fight to live up to its billing. Let’s hope he’s right, because in that case, we’re in for a once in a lifetime treat.

Joe Goossen, Corrales’ trainer, agrees that this match-up will defy the odds of lackluster rematches and be another barnburner. “I think it would be beneath them to put up any less an effort than in the first fight.”

Castillo is still fueled to seek revenge by what happened in that fateful 10th round of their first encounter. In his mind, the referee took the fight away from him and he guarantees that he won’t let that happen again. “The fight with Corrales should’ve been stopped after the second knockdown. This time after I knock him down I’m going to make sure he stay down.”

The Mexican faithful reassured their boxing star that the fight was indeed stolen from him. When Castillo returned to his homeland, he was welcomed as a hero who was deserving of victory. “I felt very down after the fight but when I went to Mexico and they told me that the fight was stolen from me I felt better mentally.”

Despite Castillo’s clan claiming that Corrales cheated his way to victory by taking extra time to rest after both knockdowns, the fighter himself seems to have admiration for his foe. “I’m proud when I hear things like that. I respect him a lot,” Castillo said in response to Corrales’ praise for his great courage and toughness in their fight.

Yet, “the mouthpiece incident” still seems to be an issue on the eve of the rematch. Was it the deciding factor in the fight? It’s hard to predict in hindsight what would’ve happened if Castillo had the opportunity to jump right back on Corrales once he got off the canvas. We really don’t know, but what is clear is that the Castillo faithful have expanded this controversy to undeserving proportions. Castillo himself is quick to point out that his opponent purposely spit his mouthpiece out to buy extra time and that it was a cheap tactic that was even practiced in training.

“We all know that what they did, worked on in camp. They might say it’s not intentional but it sure looked that way. He’s experienced and he knew what he was doing. He needed that time to rest.”

Corrales prides himself on being a clean fighter and refutes any notion of being a dirty fighter. He even claimed that he’d never been given a deduction for any type of foul until referee Tony Weeks took a point after Corrales’ mouthpiece dropped to the canvas for the third time. Corrales though seems to be taking this controversy in stride as he prepares to defend his WBO and WBC lightweight titles.

“Controversy, I don’t pay attention to any of that.”

Instead, “Chico,” the big little man whose slender, gangly physique disguises his lethal punching power, is poised to defend his titles and reign supreme as king of the lightweights. We’re in the calm before the storm, but Corrales is ready for war and confident that he will be the last fighter standing, this time with no excuses attached.

Joe Goossen believes his fighter will perform even better in the rematch. “I expect him to be a better fighter and a lot more at ease in the ring.” Ironically, Corrales was happy to get right back to the gym after the Castillo fight despite the brutal punishment he endured. “I sharpened up much faster this time. It’s easier to come back quicker than to wait.”

Regardless of the outcome of this Super rematch, Corrales wants to make clear that he’s a fighter who’s always adhered to the boxing principles, not someone who breaks rules in order to win. “I don’t do things to try and cheat my way. I’m a straight arrow fighter. To say I did something to beat the rules, I never would, that’s beneath me.”

Nobody can take away Corrales’ victory, not the media, not Castillo, not even Mexico itself. “I won my war, I got it. I’m proud how I made out of it.”

Castillo accepts the fact that he’s the challenger come October 8th, but he’s coming for his titles and for revenge. “All I’m thinking about is getting my titles back.”

Castillo never even watched a tape of his epic fight with Corrales despite the fact that he believes the referee should’ve stopped the fight after the second knockdown in the 10th round. I guess there’s no point of rubbing salt in an open wound, but if he wins the rematch, I’m betting he’ll watch the tape, along with all of Mexico.

For Diego Corrales, his childhood fantasies of becoming a professional athlete have come true. He’s now surpassed that milestone to become one of the best athletes in his field, and he’s taking time to bask in the sweetness of such an accomplishment. “It’s been awesome to make an impact on the game and to make a slamming impact has been amazing.”

“Here I am. I have that dream. I’m not just a pro athlete; I’m a great one. I’m very happy with what I’m doing.”

“The game of boxing is great. It’s one-on-one, it’s beautiful,” Corrales said. Will it be as beautiful as their opening performance? We’ll find that out soon enough, but when these two lightweight thoroughbreds come snapping back at each other on October 8 in Las Vegas one thing is for sure, the game of boxing will be at its best.