Make no mistake: To most of the boxing world, Saturday's over-the-limit lightweight battle between Jose Luis Castillo and Rolando Reyes is a massive disappointment. After all, Feb. 4 was supposed to be the “War to Settle the Score” – the finale to one of the greatest lightweight trilogies of all time between Castillo and Diego Corrales.
But then Corrales hurt his ribs in training on Jan. 12, and the opportunity knocked for Reyes, an unheralded counterpuncher from Oxnard, Calif.
And while the bout has been greeted by and large with yawns, Rolando Reyes isn't deterred.
Saturday is his Super Bowl.
“We're ready for this fight,” said Reyes, 26-3-2 (16 knockouts), who was already in training for another opponent when his promoter, Gary Shaw, gave him the call that could change his life. “I am not going to let Gary, my family, or (trainer) Robert Garcia down. I will fight until I die. We're going to win.”
Yes, Reyes was a picture of relaxation and confidence Thursday at the final press conference before Saturday's scheduled 12-round fight in El Paso's Don Haskins Center, which will be televised by Showtime.
He wasn't nervous. He wasn't jittery. He even laughed and joked with Shaw and Garcia throughout the afternoon.
A contrast to Castillo, who wasn't in a joking mood.
The two-time WBC lightweight king was obviously annoyed at Shaw, whom he claims still owes him $100,000 from an alleged bet made prior to his October rematch with Corrales, also a Shaw fighter. Wednesday, Castillo said Shaw hadn't paid him a dime from his fourth-round KO victory of “Chico”, and semi-joked that he was going to sue the promoter.
Shaw took Thursday's press conference as an opportunity to respond – adding another chapter to a feud that started when Castillo failed to make the lightweight limit prior to the Corrales rematch.
Shaw confirmed there was indeed a bet, but said it was voided prior to the opening bell because nobody in Castillo's camp could “put up the money the other way.”
He also took some verbal jabs at Castillo.
“The younger Castillo is the better-looking brother,” Shaw said, referring to Jose Luis's sibling, Ricardo, who is also on Saturday's card.
Castillo's face, and mood, immediately changed after that.
Shaw went on to say that he respected Castillo, and that he will someday land in the hall of fame. But the damage had been done.
And a ho-hum fight with no real interest suddenly developed some drama.
After his turn on the dais, Castillo offered Shaw a departing volley of his own – a remark that Top Rank translator Ricardo Jimenez would only translate as “something about [Shaw].”
Later, Castillo said Shaw was “always saying stupid things,” and vowed that he wouldn't respond to the promoter's antics anymore.
In his official remarks, Castillo, 53-7-1 (47 KOs), praised Reyes. He also said he was happy to be fighting in El Paso, where he performed back in 1999 on the undercard of a Julio Cesar Chavez fight, also at the Haskins Center.
The native of Empalme, Mexico, is looking to cash in on his newfound recognition after his knockout of Corrales, which evened the series at 1-1. If he beats Reyes – oddsmakers aren't even posting bets on this one – Castillo is expected to reschedule his rubber match with Corrales for June, probably also in El Paso.
Then, if he beats Corrales, Castillo would likely face junior welterweight Miguel Cotto in what should be a riveting Mexican-Puerto Rican shootout.
But first things first. Shaw said no one should count out Reyes, who once fought under the Top Rank banner.
“I wouldn't be shocked if he had his hands raised (in victory),” Shaw said of Reyes.
For his part, Castillo's promoter, Bob Arum, steered clear of the barbs.
And, of course, he praised his own guy.
“There is so much pride in Jose Luis Castillo,” Arum said. “It is a pleasure to promote him. He is a gentleman and a family man. He is someone who trains and who is dedicated to the sport of boxing.”
Arum also took some time to pump up the semifinal to Castillo-Reyes, the NABF lightweight title fight between champ Mexico's Jose Armando Santa Cruz, 21-1 (12 KOs), and Edner Cherry, 19-3-2 (8 KOs), of Wauchula, Fla.
“When Diego Corrales was hurt, Gary called and said we owe it to the people of El Paso to have a very good fight card,” Arum said. “You will not be disappointed, believe me.”
Santa Cruzwas short with his comments: “I'm here to give a good fight on Saturday,” he said.
Cherry said he hopes he and Santa Cruz can be friends afterwards.
“I've been working a lot of years to get to this point,” Cherry said. “I will show the world who Edner is.”
Arum, looking to tap into the boxing-mad and ever-growing South Texas market, will take a press tour through the valley next month – possibly to test the waters for future shows.
Welterweights Antonio Margarito and Manuel Gomez will tour San Antonio, McAllen, Corpus Christi and Laredo in the weeks leading up to their Feb. 18 pay-per-view fight promoted by Arum.