In light of his shocking failure to make weight, Jose Luis Castillo ruined my Saturday night, but he also provided some fond, unforgettable memories at the weigh-in. Who will forget the sight of Castillo, desperate for a drink, grimly walking to the scales, as if appearing from a desert, ready to meet his fate?
As Benn Schulberg wrote in his story for thesweetscience.com, “You Could See It coming” the second Castillo showed up for the weigh-in looking haggard, as though he had burned the midnight oil jumping rope. He wasn’t going to make weight (again!) and all hell would break loose.
I didn’t make the trip to Las Vegas – I might have sued Castillo if I did – but Showtime’s piece on Castillo Saturday night revealed a very odd scene at the scales (the countdown to make 135 pounds) – the way it slowly played out, like an execution, with Castillo walking to the weighing device, Jimmy Lennon Jr. announcing the weights, the groans from the crowd, Gary Shaw, arms crossed, appearing as though he might explode, Diego Corrales flexing his muscles and screaming when he made weight, Steve Albert leaning into the camera, condemning the whole thing.
It was almost better than the fight itself.
It reminded me of why Paul Malignaggi versus Miguel Cotto on June 10 at Madison Square Garden is such a great show. For one, neither would dare flunk the weigh-in. No matter how many rounds the fight goes, at least both will make weight. The rest, as far as I’m concerned, is gravy.
And second, Malignaggi (21-0, 5 KOs) has clearly gotten under Cotto’s skin, making the fight personal. Is there any other way with Malignaggi?
I’m not ashamed to say it: I’m a Paulie Malignaggi fan. I like the way he fights. I like the way he talks. I like the show-boating. I get it. When people say he’s a big-mouth, I say he’s just playing a part, like an actor, a very noisy actor. When people say he’s not on Cotto’s level, I counter with, “Paulie will surprise you with his ability. Cotto won’t be able to handle his speed.”
When people say he’s boring, I say, well, Malignaggi has been allowed to breeze through most of his fights. He hasn’t been challenged; what you get is a sparring session and a unanimous decision every time he fights.
That’s when I turn away and think: maybe that’s not such a good thing.
Cotto has beaten some of the toughest fighters in the junior welterweight division. Maussa. Sosa. N’dou. Pinto. Corley. Abdulaev. Torres. Someone, please call Top Rank and ask them what they were thinking. Cotto has fought a Murderers’ Row of opponents and survived with 26 wins, 0 losses, and 22 knockouts. Yes, he looked terrible against Torres. Yes, Corley almost knocked him out. Yes, he looked vulnerable against Gianluca Branco, but Cotto is still vastly, infinitely more experienced than Malignaggi, and that’s a little disconcerting if you’re a Paulie fan.
Their resumes simply don’t match.
The biggest win of Malignaggi’s career was against Donald Camarena in February, a ten-round unanimous decision that was supposed to be more difficult than it was. Malignaggi proved he could fight against Camarena. Later, when it was announced a deal had been reached for Cotto to face Malignaggi, I was surprised. Was there a steady drumbeat for Cotto to meet Malignaggi? Not really. Was this a fight Cotto had to take? No.
But, on the basis of Cotto’s recent trouble with punchers, it makes perfect sense if you’re a Top Rank employee. Meeting a stylist such as Malignaggi is just what the doctor ordered, right? The critics say Paulie can’t punch. That’s good for Cotto. Paulie has something for his critics.
“I plan on shocking everybody,” Malignaggi said during a conference call. “I plan on spoiling the show for a lot of the people who are expecting me to get stopped and a lot of people who think I’m going to be exposed as a fraud. The only thing I’m going to expose is that I’m a world-class fighter, and everyone’s going to realize that on June 10.”
Later, in a moment of bashfulness, he added: “I’m going to break his face come Saturday night. He’s playing with the wrong guy – believe me. I feel Cotto is a one-dimensional fighter who besides knowing how to punch, doesn’t know how to fight. On June 10, I’m going to expose him for what he is.”
Cotto was uncharacteristically blunt during the conference call, painting a clumsy picture of Malignaggi as nothing more than a loose cannon with an inferiority complex.
“This guy has done nothing,” Cotto said through a translator. “He’s done nothing yet. He’s obviously taking advantage of this opportunity that we’re giving him to sell himself, but once the fight is over he’ll go right back where he came from, where he’ll be fighting back in the clubs in New York. I don’t know much about him style-wise or anything. All I know is that he’s been talking a lot, and I don’t if he can back it up or not, but I don’t think he can.”
If Malignaggi’s plan was to draw his opponent into a war of words, it worked. The normally sedate Cotto was downright feisty during the hour long call. Will this affect his performance at Madison Square Garden? Cotto usually fights in measured strokes. If he aggressively goes for a knockout, Malignaggi could reap the benefits as Bernard Hopkins did against Felix Trinidad when he lured Trinidad into a dim-witted fight.
Can Malignaggi do the same?
One note on the weigh-in fiasco: Was this really bad for boxing? A lot of people (media types) rationalized that Castillo’s failure to make weight somehow hurt the sport of boxing, as if the public was let down, scarred by the experience. I contend that the experience hurt Castillo and damaged his reputation more than it hurt the sport itself. Scandals hurt boxing. Fighters dying because of a state’s commission’s ineptitude hurt boxing. A fighter disqualifying himself because he was overweight may disappoint a lot of people, but it’s not disadvantageous for boxing.
Now, if the fight had been allowed to continue and Corrales had gotten seriously hurt, or if Castillo had been able to pay off Corrales to allow the fight to go on… then that would have been harmful.
In this situation, the powers-that-be got it right: the interests of money and pressure didn’t overrule the good judgment of Diego Corrales, and he made the sensible decision not to fight. What I don’t understand is why Corrales doesn’t get paid for his troubles. It seems only fair that Castillo should have to compensate Corrales for jeopardizing the fight.
I’d say $50,000 for every pound he came in overweight should do it.