Editor's note: This article appears in the Oct. 24 issue of ESPN The Magazine
For the rematch of the greatest fight in 20 years, cable companies were charging $44.95 plus tax. You rarely get to say this about a boxing pay-per-view event: the price seemed like a steal. Not only would I have paid $100 without blinking, I probably would have gone up to $250.
See, I have only a few rules in life. Never wager on a lousy quarterback playing on the road. Never drink tequila under any circumstance. Never play poker with someone who has the same first name as a city or state (the coach from "Teen Wolf" taught me that one). Never answer the question "Do I look heavy to you?" if a woman asks it. And never turn down the chance to see Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo beat the crap out of each other.
Five months ago, their first battle could best be described as "Hagler-Hearns, if that fight had lasted 10 rounds." Some experts say it was the greatest ever. My vote goes to Ali-Frazier I for surpassing the overwhelming expectations that preceded it, but I know where they're coming from. Castillo-Corrales unfolded like "Fight Club," a word-of-mouth phenomenon, the rare event that sneaks by the public. Like so many others, I didn't see the fight live. I caught a Showtime replay days later, and only after my buddy Sal called me 500 times to make sure I'd watch it.
Well, that replay has earned Keep Until I Delete status on my TiVo, along with such luminaries as the Pistons-Pacers melee, Tom Cruise's "Oprah" appearance and the Conrad-Kaplan 110-yard dash on "Battle of the Network Stars." I've probably watched it eight more times since. No two boxers are better suited to one another; both are fearless punchers with almost unfathomable amounts of energy. Even before Corrales rose from the canvas to finish Castillo, it was a remarkable, once-in-a-generation fight. The rematch would be just as good. It had to be.
Except, of course, this is boxing -- the only sport that can ruin a can't-miss thing. First, Castillo weighed in nearly four pounds over the 135-pound limit. (Is it possible he sacrificed a chance at the lightweight title just to get a weight advantage?) But, anxious to keep its main event alive, Vegas' boxing commission just fined Castillo $120,000 and made it a nontitle bout. Fantastic. Imagine the Eagles showing up at last February's Super Bowl with eight extra players and refusing to change their roster, and the NFL levies a heavy fine and removes the trophy from the game ... but allows Philly to play with the extra players. Could that ever happen?
With Castillo basically fighting as a welterweight, the odds swung in his favor, and with good reason. He battered Corrales for three electric rounds that culminated with a textbook left hook that crumpled the champ for good. Another rematch seems inevitable, which is fine -- these guys should be fighting every six months, anyway. Ironically, Corrales emerged from the beating not only with his belts but with new-found respect for his character, having handled the defeat with dignity by refusing to use Castillo's weight as an excuse. Not bad for a guy who once spent 14 months in prison for beating up his pregnant wife.
And so I find myself mired in a familiar scenario: disenchanted (again) by a corrupt, rudderless sport that is filled with the sleaziest of characters. Boxing is the place where heroes like Hearns and Ali end up slurring their words, where warriors are rewarded for flagrantly defying the rules and wife-beaters are considered good guys, where Roy Jones spends 12 rounds running from Antonio Tarver without anyone expecting a refund, where Leavander Johnson gets killed because the referee stops the fight about 20 punches too late, where John Ruiz and Evander Holyfield can have a third fight even though no one was that interested in the first two. In the undercard of Castillo-Corrales II, Carlos Hernandez was robbed of a decision over Bobby Pacquiao -- and I mean, Pacquiao's trainer admitted, "Hernandez won the fight, he outhustled us" -- and nobody seemed surprised because it's the kind of thing that happens in boxing.
Everyone agrees the sport needs an overhaul, but no one is willing to do it. Things will change only when fans stop paying for the fights ... and the problem is, like everyone else with the bug, I don't have the willpower to stay away. Klitschko-Rahman and Hopkins-Taylor are coming up, and it sounds like Castillo-Corrales III is already in the works. All three will be showing up on my cable bill -- that's a mortal lock.
And there's the twisted beauty of boxing. No matter how comically screwed up it is, it always manages to keep us coming back.
On that note, I'm off to watch Castillo-Corrales II 10 more times.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine and his Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace" is available right now on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.