LAS VEGAS, June 2 – There have been more words written lately about the weight of Jose Luis Castillo, which we’ll learn officially later today, than about the oxymoronic Senate Ethics Committee. This has to stop.
It is not that I have anything personal against weight problems. Castillo’s diet is just one of the myriad angles taken by bloggers and writers alike in anticipation of the third meeting between the Mexican stalwart and Diego (Chico) Corrales. Thousands of words have also been written in fond remembrance of the first two confrontations, thousands more over the two controversies – Corrales’s mouthpiece in the first, Castillo’s refusal to make weight in the second.
A classic fight is worth a thousand words, of course, but there is little more to be said until after the final act of the trilogy tomorrow night at the Thomas & Mack Center here (and on Showtime everywhere). Maybe Corrales “cheated” in the epic first fight 13 months ago, buying precious recuperative time by losing his mouthpiece after each of his two knockdowns in that wild and wonderful tenth round. Maybe Castillo “cheated” – certainly one of his cornermen did in trying to tip the scales with his foot – by not making the 135-pound lightweight limit and, thus not having to weaken himself, was able to hurt Corrales with just about every shot before putting him away with a perfect left hook in the fourth round last October.
But there was no “maybe” about the Nevada State Athletic Commission giving away free tickets to big fights in the last few years to Harry Reid, the home state Democratic Senate leader, in an attempt to influence pending legislation about boxing.
Most everyone has concentrated on Reid’s ethics in accepting the tickets, though in the long run, he still aided bills to create a federal commission, a position not favored by a state commission fearful of losing its considerable clout. Reid himself has apologized, saying maybe he should have bought the tickets all along, blah blah blah.
I say, turn this thing around. If a Senator gets bribed, sure he’s guilty. It’s just another day in the office, perhaps, but what about the bribe-givers? The Nevada commission has gotten an undeserved pass in this matter.
All along, I have been against a federal commission. Mixing greed and corruption with politics would give boxing its biggest scandals. The Reid case is the tip of a potential federal iceberg; look at how it affected even as respected figure as Marc Ratner, the just exited executive director of the Nevada commission.
Ratner, a states-righter in this matter, was hoping to convince Reid with a good view of Oscar de la Hoya squirming on the canvas after being punched in the side by Bernard Hopkins, that Nevada was more than capable of handling its own affairs. At the very least, Ratner said he hoped that Nevada would become the model for any federal overseer.
As fine as Ratner intentions were, he – and the commission he represented – should be found guilty of trying to “bribe” – a harsh word, perhaps, but it helps make the point – a United States Senator.
And that’s not even begging the question, what the hell was the commission doing with free tickets to give away? In fact, if you want to promote a fight in this desert, according to state rules, you must give the commission 60 – yes, SIXTY – freebies. There are five commissioners. Each gets two tickets, though I don’t see why more than one is allocated. Most people don’t get to bring the spouse along for a day at the office. Most of the free passes go to guests.
Sorry, I think it is inappropriate for a state agency to take – in fact, demand – handouts from the very people (promoters in this case) it is supposed to regulate.
The bad practice of boxing’s leading state is not an argument for a federal commission. It would be easier to plug the leaks in Nevada’s commission than to open the dikes all the way and let in the feds.
On the other hand, having Guantanamo Bay as a threat might keep everyone in line.
BACK TO THE GOOD STUFF: You’re right, gentle reader, I shouldn’t be sweating the small stuff, because every now and then, two guys come along and remind us of the big picture. Corrales and Castillo have etched their names alongside David and Goliath, Napoleon and Wellington, Ali and Frazier. You will never be able to think of one without the other. Let’s go back to the good old days.
Muhammad Ali was at his Deer Lake, Pa., training camp, getting ready for his rematch with Leon Spinks in 1978 when suddenly he waxed nostalgic. It was clear, even to him, that the end of his career was coming and he turned to me and said he would like, some day, to be able to sit on a porch with Smokin’ Joe Frazier, rocking back and forth, talking of the “good old days.”
Despite Frazier’s somewhat softening of the old antagonism – which was well deserved – it is unlikely that scene will ever take place. But as we get set for what should be the end to boxing’s greatest trilogy since Ali-Frazier – okay, Barrera and Morales deserve to be right up there, but not Gatti and Ward – Corrales was already talking about rocking chairs and front porches, well, with a Mexican accent.
“Every time we see each other, it will be in a cantina or having a cocktail together and celebrating and talking about what we did with each other.”
The odds are heavy that Castillo, who seemingly had the first fight won, will prevail in Act III. Maybe a trifle too heavy in my opinion, minus $2.40 (12 to 5) seems a tad high (minus $1.60, or 8-5, however, I would be tempted). Corrales, at plus $2, is tempting, especially since I don’t buy the theory that the two bouts with Castillo have finished him.
Castillo himself pointed out that Chico’s trainer, Joe Goossen, did everything humanely (cq) possible to get the Ruelas brothers, Gabe and Rafael, to retire on time, and would certainly not be allowing Corrales to take this assignment if he felt there was a danger.
And there is perhaps an upside to Corrales’s boxing. He puzzled some observers by not relying on his longer jab and “boxing” Castillo in the first fight, the way he did after Goossen prescribed stick-and-move to gain revenge against Joel Casamayor.
Castillo thinks it is possible Corrales might attempt more boxing and less brawling, but he doesn’t think it matters. I agree. If Floyd Mayweather Jr. couldn’t stick and move against Castillo, who is a master at cutting off the ring, why would anyone think Corrales will?
The question is how much getting down to 135 might have weakened Castillo. My feeling is not enough. I just think he is of slightly higher quality, not solely from how he faired in two close fights with Mayweather compared to how easily Pretty Boy handled a weight-weakened Corrales. Castillo was much more effective against Casamayor than Corrales was, even in the rematch, and let’s not forget that Corrales had some early struggles, needing to come on late against Roberto Garcia, for example.
No one in boxing, Arturo Gatti and Evander Holyfield included, has more heart than Chico. But frankly, though I’m one of the few boss scribes around to remember Chico’s old TV show – his brothers were guest stars on occasion – I still think Chico’s best days were in the movies with his brothers Groucho, Harpo and Zeppo.
Since I have to make a pick – the boss insists – I say it’s going to be a helluva fight, one that Harry Reid should be glad to pay for, but one I think Castillo wins.
PENTHOUSE: Let me play some catch-up here since I’ve been silent for so long (hey, never mind why, I deserve a break on occasion). A couple of fighters deserve kudos.
This was the first time I had the pleasure of watching Paul Williams, the long, tall welterweight with a surprisingly good chin, and the way he beat Argentina’s Walter Matthysse and quickly called out Antonio Margarito leads me to believe the division has another major player. Other young welterweights will be showcased in the near future (I’m anxious to see Jorge Julio vs. equally undefeated Carlos Quintana here June 24)….Also, congratulations to the wonderful fight put up by Rocky Juarez against the great Marco Antonio Barrera, who off TV I had winning by a couple of points but I wouldn’t argue if you had Juarez ahead. Juarez showed he belongs in the big leagues. And Barrera showed he still has that championship quality to battle back against younger and stronger punchers; every time he was hurt, he would automatically fire back.
OUTHOUSE: Nothing including Fres Oquendo should ever be called the “Best Damn Anything.” What does Dan Goossen have on Fox Sports Network to get Oquendo and Javier Mora as a main event matching heavyweight “contenders?” Mora showed up 23 pounds heavier than he was earlier this year for an undeserved TKO over Kirk Johnson – Mora accidentally tripped Johnson, who tore up his knee as he fell and instead of going to the scorecard, as in the case of an inadvertent butt, the California commission counted Johnson out. Johnson was ahead on points at the time. In any case, Oquendo may or may not have given Chris Byrd trouble, but he’s been living off that so-called “robbery” for much too long. He had the klutzy Mora hurt in the opening round, then went nine more dull rounds….Two judges, Duane Ford and Ken Morita, handed in 10-10 scorecards for the 12th and final round of the Barrera-Juarez fight. What’s so surprising is that Ford, whom I consider one of the three or four best in Vegas (along with Jerry Roth, Dave Moretti and Chuck Giampa), once told my buddy Royce Feour that a boxing judge is like a baseball umpire – if there’s a close play at the plate, the umpire can’t call it even (okay, a tie belongs to the runner, but Ford’s point was that the ump must make a call)….Another argument why boxing should do away with judges and let everyone fight to the finish.
MORE DISS AND DAT: It’s kind of like the “Old Man and the Sea,” Oscar de la Hoya off in a boat contemplating his navel. Hemingway’s old man never had to worry about his prospective opponent’s old man, the way Oscar has to think about Floyd Mayweather Sr. if he opts for the only fight left that makes sense. If I read Jim Lampley right when the president of the Golden Boy Fan Club interviewed de la Hoya by noting Oscar’s competitive nature, when he eventually docks, he’s going to announce that Sept. 16 he indeed will fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. in what might be the biggest grossing fight in history….In case you were wondering, Nicolay Valuev, who has some heavyweight belt, defends tomorrow against Owen Beck in Hannover, Germany, and don’t be scared. It’s not going to be shown on American TV….More interesting, though, is undefeated Chad Dawson’s step up in class tonight on ShoBox against the always tough Eric Harding….Yeah, Fernando Montiel was disappointingly dull in his challenge of much bigger Jhonny Gonzalez, but let’s give him credit for at least trying out someone a couple of sizes too big for him. Gonzo was the real culprit in giving the match so much down time.