The rematch between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo is about second chances. It is another chance for Castillo to prove that he is the better fighter. It is another chance for Corrales to prove that he would have won, despite spitting out his mouthpiece.
Corrales-Castillo I is grouped among the great fights of our sport, Ali-Frazier, Hagler-Hearns, Gatti-Ward, Barrera-McKinney. It is another chance to prove that boxing – when done right – is as exciting and dramatic as any other mainstream sport in our land.
But this goes much deeper than that for Corrales. He has been given a second chance at fame and fortune. A second chance to do what he loves. A second chance to right a ship that was sinking fast.
Diego “Chico” Corrales, from Sacramento, California, turned pro in 1996 and became a fan favorite within four years. Corrales is tall and lean and very busy once the bell rings. He is a hard puncher who delivers blows from different angles. He captured the IBF 130-pound world title and had high-profile wins against Derrick Gainer and Angel Manfredy.
Then, in 2001, Corrales accepted a plea bargain and was incarcerated for 14-months on two counts of felony domestic abuse charges. Among the revelations was that Corrales hit his then-pregnant wife. This came as a shock to people inside of boxing. On the surface, the fighter did not seem to possess the kind of rage and irrational thought for such a deed. In the years that I have covered boxing, I’ve found that most often, the violence required to compete inside the ring is often left inside the ring when the fight is over.
Fighters tend to rise from violent surroundings. Somehow, when they channel their energy to boxing, they develop a serenity – or maybe it’s self-assurance – that shunts the violence away from the ring. There have been exceptions, but I never thought Corrales was one of them.
The fighter that the public knows and sees – myself included – is largely an accessible and friendly individual. All that could change behind closed doors, but “Chico” seems as pleasant as he is game. This past summer in Canastota, he freely interacted with fans and his fellow fighters. He signed countless autographs, his smile seemed permanent.
You might be smiling too after resurrecting your career from the stench of a prison cell.
Perhaps because of Corrales' infectious personality we have not seen Gloria Allred or the marchers from NOW protesting his fights. Mike Tyson did not endure such good fortune. I'm not trying to equate rape with domestic violence, but the protesters were out en masse after he was released from prison. Maybe they knew that going after the heavyweight champion would provide a bit more publicity than going after a lightweight. (The fact that Tyson remained unrepentant may also have had a lot to do with it.)
Not that Corrales didn't escape unscathed. His last fight before his incarceration was a mega-showdown against Floyd Mayweather Jr. Prior to the bout, Mayweather said he would dedicate his victory to all the battered women of the world. Mayweather's manager, James Prince, even purchased a front row ticket for Corrales' first wife so she could witness the beating up close.
While both men entered the ring unbeaten, Corrales exited beaten in many ways. His corner threw in the towel in the 10th round after Pretty Boy Floyd dropped him for the fifth time. Some say his legal woes were a distraction; others blame the poor performance on the hardship of making the 130-pound junior lightweight limit.
Nonetheless, Corrales had a lot to think about while he was away. The sessions of soul-searching during a prolonged confinement can cause a man to reinvent himself. The fighter has said that he was filled with self-doubt and wasn't sure that he'd ever fight again. He spent his time shadowboxing with his soul, fighting back the demons.
Whatever doubts existed have been erased.
Corrales returned to the ring two years and five days after the Mayweather fight. He has gone 7-1 and captured the WBO super featherweight title and the WBO and WBC lightweight titles. He has defeated Roque Cassiani, Joel Casamayor, Acelino Freitas and Castillo.
And how is this for irony? James Prince is now his manager, Joe Goossen is now his trainer (Goossen was in the corner when Casamayor defeated Corrales and was in Corrales' corner he returned the favor) and Mayweather Jr. has been forced to go through his own legal troubles with domestic violence. While he didn't go to jail, Floyd received probation and community service.
At the time, when he was apprised of Mayweather's situation, the affable Corrales simply wished him the best. He was not bitter, not vindictive – at least not publicly. Corrales said he wouldn't wish what he went through on anyone.
There is a school of thought that suggests Corrales’ incarceration has helped preserve his body and his career. Castillo was out to destroy it in one night. He’ll be attempting to do the same this Saturday. Castillo is bitter over the mouthpiece tactic employed by Chico in the first fight. Corrales, as has become his norm, just smiles through all the criticism.
There are many reasons to cheer to Corrales-Castillo II. It is because of what Corrales has gone through and because of what he has become since his incarceration that he is worth applauding. And I’m not just talking about boxing. Corrales has a new wife and a new home in Las Vegas. He insists his life is in order and that his past is behind him. We’ve heard that before from athletes. This time, we want to believe him.
Who ever said you don't get a second chance to make a first impression?