It was, of course, something of a classic … something Hollywood only wishes it could produce.
But can you reproduce a masterpiece? Can a sequel ever be as good as the original? With the exception of “The Godfather” and some of the “Rocky” spin-offs, special moments are very difficult to conjure up again.
October 8, Saturday night, center ring, Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas. Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo will try it again. It was something special that first time, a slugfest that endears itself to fight fans everywhere. It was the kind of fight that makes fans fall in love with fighters. The sheer grit and guts and heart of the two men trading bombs in the middle of the ring spins a special tale about the human spirit.
Castillo is a veteran fighter and a very good fighter. For so many years, he flew his career below the radar. He is 31, but he began his ring wars all the way back in 1990 — a good seven months before his 17th birthday. He fought most of his early battles in his home of Mexicali and the first three times he tried to step up in class — once in Juarez, once in Mexico City and once in Guadalajara — he received a beating.
No one was quite sure Castillo would be anything special back then, a strong young featherweight with lead in his fists. He was turned away by Cesar Soto in Juarez for the Mexican featherweight title in 1993. He was stopped by Javier Jauregi in Mexico City in 1994, then again by Jauregi in Mexico City in 1996 — the last time in another attempt to win the Mexican featherweight belt.
His record was good. Solid. But few saw what he might become — a tough, talented professional. A world champion.
Castillo got better and better, improving with age and seasoning. And the power was still there. The power will always be there. Remember the old boxing adage: you are born with power and you take power to the grave.
This was the man who was becoming another Mexican icon … until the night Corrales spit his mouthpiece out, bought some time and ultimately introduced Castillo to his own thunder.
He has been training in the mountains of Mexico. He will have six weeks of mountain training in his system when he travels to Las Vegas for the Saturday night fiesta in the desert. He has strong thoughts about the whole mouthpiece incident. But he also takes it like a man … like a former world champion.
“Yeah, I knew exactly what he was doing,” Castillo said of Corrales, the man he had rudely deposited on the canvas for a second time in a matter of seconds during that historic 10th round bangfest. “I was looking at him and when I saw that, you know, he was taking some time and was hoping to get some time for the referees in that. Maybe I was too confident. I was maybe overconfident. I was sure I was just one hit away anywhere — in the body, in the head, anywhere where I could hit him — and the fight would be over for sure. And that’s all I was thinking. Get one more shot in. And then he got me.”
But Castillo said he did not feel cheated.
“I’ve been in boxing a long time and everybody knows that in boxing everything is allowed. You learn a lot of things, you know, tactics throughout your career and you’re always going to use them. That was his plan. I think he had it in his mind if he got in trouble, what he was going to do and he did it. I just have to be more focused and make sure that I finish it.”
A fight takes a flight pattern of its own and every fighter knows anything can happen. You land, you drop a guy and everything you have been told resonates through your head. It is not over until the referee says so. Yet there is something far more basic than logic, than all the things you have been taught. I’ve got this guy. He is mine. But …
“I guess during the time, you know, when he went down twice, I just felt like I had the fight; the fight was won,” Castillo remembered. “I felt like it was done. Even when he got up I knew one more shot would put him down for good. That’s all I kept thinking. Maybe I got overconfident. He caught me and the referee stepped aside and it was over. Very quickly. So I just felt very sad and frustrated at letting myself, at allowing myself to get caught at a time when I had the fight won.”
The two fighters dueled eyeball-to-eyeball, forehead-to-forehead, fist-to-face, fist-to-anywhere. Boxing at its best.
Will this brutal tango be any different?
“Well, as far as I’m concerned, that’s all you’re going to see out of me,” Castillo said. “That’s the way I fight. That’s the way I’m going to go at him all the time. If he does something else, then we’ll figure it out there. I hope he fights like he did last time. I think everyone will enjoy it and maybe we’ll have an even better fight than we did last time.”
While many people seemed stunned that Corrales dug in and traded pops, Castillo said he was not surprised: “I don’t think he’s that good of a boxer. I think his strengths have always been the inside fighting and that’s the way he’s always going to fight.”
And again, for his part, Castillo said, “I’m not going to do anything different. I’m going to go right at him. I’m going to be probably a lot stronger. My punches are going to be a lot more accurate, a lot stronger in this fight. I just want to get back my title.”
Castillo said if Corrales sticks his mug in tight again, he will do what he did last time.
Uppercuts. Many, many uppercuts. Lefts and rights.
Not so many people saw the first Corrales-Castillo rumble. Millions have seen it since that night. Promoter Bob Arum said he thinks it ranks in a lofty status in terms of sheer brutality.
“There are two fights that come to mind that are comparable in my opinion that I’ve seen,” Arum said. “One was the Hagler-Hearns fight, which lasted only three rounds. So it was an unbelievable three rounds. And the other was the third Ali-Frazier fight, which was one of the most brutal fights I’ve ever seen in my life. I would put those two fights in the same category as Castillo-Corrales as being really tremendous action-filled fights.”
Jose Luis Castillo grew up like most young Mexican fighters. Fighting and dreaming. He lived a few paces out of the spotlight for most of his career. Then, all of a sudden, he thrust himself center stage. He was a champion; a hero in Mexico. And now he wants back in the spotlight. And now he wants his world title back.
The days, the weeks, the months have erased themselves since that first battle. Now, we are only days away from Round Two, Uno Mas. Will it match the intensity of the first? Will it be a Rocky-like sequel? Or will it simply be a good fight?
These two men will tell us on a hot October night in the desert. And, this time, we will all be watching.