Former world champion Diego “Chico” Corrales, who engaged in one of the most memorable come-from-behind wins in boxing history, died in a motorcycle crash Monday night in Las Vegas. He was 29 years old.
“He crashed on a motorcycle,” his manager, James Prince, told ESPN.com's Dan Rafael. “It don't look like he made it through this. He's dead.”
Corrales was born August 25, 1977.
He grew up in Sacramento, California, and managed to refashion his life, away from a budding interest in juvenile misbehavior, and debuted as a professional boxer in 1996.
He stood 5-11 but looked lankier than that as he made a name for himself in the super featherweight division. He earned the IBF super featherweight crown, his first major title, with a TKO victory over Roberto Garcia on October 23, 1999.
Corrales last fought on April 7, losing a unanimous decision to Joshua Clottey in Springfield, Missouri.
The heavy hitter, who finishes with a career mark of 40-5 (33 KOs) will be forever recalled as a stout-hearted warrior who dished out punishment fiercely. He, too, would sometimes take a wallop on the chin, and hit the canvas, but Corrales showed a warrior's stubbornness in defeat.
In his May 7, 2005 battle with Jose Luis Castillo, Corrales was sent to the canvas twice via left hooks in the tenth round. But he rose both times, and after the second knockdown, with his left eye swollen nearly shut, he returned fire.
He dazed Castillo with a right, and followed up with a savage professionalism. Corrales pressed forward, pinning Castillo on the ropes with a furious barrage, and the referee Tony Weeks stepped in and halted the bout. It was the fight of the year in 2005, and will stand as one of the most improbable turnarounds in fortune for the ages.
Corrales lost a rematch with Castillo, five months later, in a scrap overshadowed by Castillo's weight woes.
A planned tiebreaker with Castillo fell out, as Castillo again couldn't make the lightweight limit. But Corrales fought on. He dropped a decision to Joel Casamayor, his third match with the well-schooled Cuban, in his next appearance, on October 7, 2006. He had his own difficulty with the scale for this bout, ironically, and chose to make the leap to the welterweight class as a result. The bout with Clottey, in which he was knocked down in the ninth and tenth rounds, had fans of the boxer calling for him to exit the game for good.
Corrales, a Hall of Fame cinch, had the opportunity to climb high on pound for pound lists when he accepted a challenge to hand Floyd Mayweather Jr. his first loss, on January 20, 2000. But Corrales' head wasn't fully on the task at hand, as he was facing jail time for assaulting his wife, Maria, who was pregnant at the time. He was convicted, and sentenced to two years jail time. Mayweather knocked Corrales to the floor five times, and “Chico” was stopped in the tenth round. Corrales then served 14 months in a state facility.
His career arc took a turn for the better after the incarceration. On October 4, 2003, bleeding profusely from the mouth, he was stopped by Casamayor. But five months later, he edged out the Cuban, snagging a split decision win.
Corrales followed that outing by handing Brazilian Acelino Freitas his first loss, on August 7, 2004.
Then came the classic with Castillo, which is certain to remain a YouTube staple for decades. Corrales' refusal to stay down, his unwillingness to cave in to seemingly insurmountable odds, was on full display on this night, and will serve as his epitaph in video for perpetuity.
NOTE: The memorial service for Diego “Chico” Corrales, 29, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, May 15, at the Palm Green Valley Mortuary (7600 South Eastern Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89123) http://www.palmmortuary.com/map_green.htm. The public viewing will be from 9 A.M. to Noon PT with the funeral service, conducted by Richard Steele, beginning at Noon. Burial will be immediately following the service.
A two-division world champion, Corrales (40-5, 33 KOs), was killed in a motorcycle crash Monday evening in Las Vegas. It was the second anniversary of his epic lightweight title unification victory over Jose Luis Castillo.