Well, with or without the titles, Jose Luis Castillo is the best 147-pound lightweight again. Regardless of the weight controversy — and some say that's perhaps too big of a controversy to disregard — “El Temible” is a hot commodity.
His performance last week against Corrales, in which he knocked out the two-time world champ with a single left hook in the fourth round, was near-perfect. His punches were hard, his combinations were seamless and his confidence was sky-high.
Which will catapult the Sonora, Mexico native into another big fight. The question is, which one.
Here are five candidates.
5. Miguel Cotto: The Puerto Rican superstar would probably want no part of the experienced, seasoned Castillo, but, judging by Cotto's impressive resume so far, you never know. Cotto would probably have a significant advantage in strength and power, something that Castillo is completely unaccustomed to. Castillo is used to being the bully in the ring, shoving and pushing around his opponents at will with his unparalleled lightweight strength. Junior welterweight is a different animal, however, and Cotto often enters the ring as a junior middleweight or middleweight. This may be too much of a physical mismatch to even consider, but Castillo's experience could be the great equalizer. He knows about leverage and proper punch placement and, perhaps most importantly, how to get an opponent out of there. Plus, you have the always-volatile Mexican-Puerto Rican angle. An interesting matchup, to say the least. Odds: Even; Pick: Cotto W 12 (split).
4. Kostya Tszyu: It's almost impossible to say how much Tszyu has left after his knockout loss to Ricky Hatton in June. But, even if he was a shell of himself, he still has his power. And Castillo gets hit. Which could make this a war comparable to the first Castillo-Corrales fight. How would Castillo react once Tszyu lowered the boom with one of his signature right hands? And how would Tszyu react if Castillo trapped him in a corner and dug in that famous left hook to the liver? Both are seasoned and have been around the block a few hundred times. So there's no real edge for anyone there. Castillo may be the fighter closer to his peak. But you'd have to think that Tszyu's natural strength would be the deciding factor in an otherwise even fight. Odds: Tszyu, 2-1; Pick: Tszyu W 12 (unanimous).
3. Floyd Mayweather: Of course, Castillo and Mayweather have already met twice before. The first time, in April 2002, Castillo was the victim of perhaps the worst decision of the year. Once he found a rhythm in the middle rounds, the lightning-fast Maywsather had a hard time keeping Castillo at bay — which meant he couldn't unleash his blinding combinations at will. By the late rounds, Castillo appeared to wear Mayweather down, and was surely the stronger fighter down the stretch. Mayweather got the nod. The second time, in December 2002, wasn't nearly as close. Mayweather stayed on the outside, using his foot speed, and completely refused to trade with the Mexican. He won a unanimous decision. This time? No reason to think it wouldn't be different than the rematch. Mayweather can stay away all night and not get tired, using his jab and legs to keep Castillo on the outside, where he is unable to do his usual damage to ribs, livers, etc. It may be interesting for a while, but Castillo has already found that this is a bad matchup for him. Odds: Mayweather 3-1; Pick: Mayweather W 12 (unanimous).
2. Ricky Hatton: Can you say war? This one would be highly anticipated whether it was in the United States (unlikely) or United Kingdon (likely). But, regardless of where it was fought, it would be a can't-miss candidate for fight of the year. Both fighters salivate at the thought of inside warfare, are strong for their respective weight classes, are tough as nails and are almost impossible to discourage. Hatton may have an edge in workrate, because he throws a ton of punches. But Castillo's pinpoint-accurate counters may convince Hatton to slow his attack a tad. Early in the fight, you'd have to think that Castillo would probably hold his own with his experience and know-how. But, as the fight drew on, Hatton's incredible strength would start to take effect, and Castillo would slowly be overwhelmed. In short, a good 140-pounder against a good 135-pounder. The bigger guy wins. Odds: Hatton 3-1; Pick: Hatton TKO 11.
1. Diego Corrales: After the weigh-in controversy that proceeded the rematch, it would almost be criminal for Castillo to not grant Corrales a third fight. And, that appears to be the course of action for Temible. This time, Castillo will surely make the weight (some say he intentionally didn't make weight the first time to ensure a strength advantage), because the powers-that-be will probably not tolerate another debacle. All the belts will be on the line — even the recognized “Ring” championship — and the winner will be considered the winner of the series. Right now, it doesn't appear Corrales has the capacity to make a fight of it a third time. Sure, he's come back in the past. But his body has absorbed plenty of punishment over the last six years. And, at 6-foot, 135-pounds, he's not equipped to take much more. Expect the third fight to be slightly more competitive, because Corrales will make some adjustments. But, in the end, he'll fight the way he's always fought. And, as a result, he'll lose big again. Odds: Castillo 2-1; Pick: Castillo TKO 8.