LAS VEGAS -- In 42 professional fights, Diego Corrales had been stopped twice but never was a knocked-out victim.
Saturday, in front of more than 15,000 screaming diehard fight fans packed inside the Thomas & Mack Center, Corrales was counted out by referee Joe Cortez after Jose Luis Castillo connected with a monster left hook at the start of the fourth round.
Corrales, now 40-3 (33), fell like a sack of bricks upon the heavy punch's impact to his exposed jaw. It was the first time in Corrales' career that he clearly was separated from his senses in a major prize fight and though he struggled to get to his feet, Cortez reached the 10-count 47 seconds into the fourth round.
The first nine minutes of the fight were the most intense and ultra-violent three rounds since Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns locked horns 20 years ago.
"I knew he wasn't getting up," said Castillo, now 53-7-1 (47), after the fight was stopped.
However, just like their epic first fight, which Corrales won with a miraculous come-from-behind 10th-round stoppage, this bout does not come without controversy.
Castillo's camp and promoter, Top Rank, complained that Corrales intentionally spat his mouthpiece out after being dropped twice in the 10th round, buying himself valuable seconds to recover before staging his unlikely rally.
The controversy of this fight was Castillo's failure to make the 135-pound limit for what was supposed to be a lightweight world championship bout. At the weigh-in Friday, Castillo weighed 137 pounds on his first attempt.
After being given two hours to sweat the excess two pounds off, Castillo returned to the scale and weighed even more, 138½, making many wonder if he was even trying to make the 135-pound limit.
To make matters worse, one of Castillo's camp members, supposedly his team doctor, was caught cheating (attempting to lift the bottom of the scale with his foot) by Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
There are two theories on this weigh-in fiasco: One is that Castillo's body, which has strained to make 135 for the last four years, was simply done with making
the lightweight limit.
The other is that Castillo's people never intended their fighter to make 135 pounds and were willing to take the fine (10 percent of Castillo's
$1.2 million purse, half of which went to Corrales) in order to have the weight (and strength) advantage going into the rematch.
Because Castillo failed to make the lightweight limit, Corrales keeps his WBO/WBC/The Ring titles even though he lost the fight.
Castillo obviously needs to move up to the 140-pound division, where many interesting matchups await him, including bouts versus junior
welterweight champ Ricky Hatton, Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto and arch nemesis Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The Mexican national has a blend of unreal durability, relentless-but intelligent pressure and veteran skills to beat (and beat up) any of the fight game's top 140
If Jake LaMotta followed the present-day fight game, he probably would be a Castillo fan. The former middleweight champ and former lightweight champ have a lot in
common. Like LaMotta, Castillo often struggles to make weight. And like the "Raging Bull," Castillo possesses underrated technique and craftiness to go along with
his hard rock-solid chins.
Both pride themselves on "never going down" (in 61 pro fights, Castillo's butt has yet to touch the canvas). As LaMotta was in the '40s and '50s, Castillo is too tough for the tough guys and is able to give the best "Fancy Dan" boxers of his era hell. Neither hardhead shied away from a tough fight or rematches of tough fights.
LaMotta engaged in 15 return matches during his hall-of-fame career, often fighting the top boxers of his era such as Jose Basora, Fritzie Zivic and Sugar Ray Robinson as many as six times. Those bouts thrilled fight fans during boxing's Golden Age.
Since the 21st century began, this generation of fight fans has witnessed two instant classic trilogies, Barrera-Morales and Gatti-Ward. But
a Corrales-Castillo trilogy might surpass those entertaining rivalries.
From the opening round, neither Corrales or Castillo wasted any time dropping leather, heavy shots on the inside, body shots, and hooks, crosses, and uppercuts
There were more bombs in the second round. Both fighters landed double left hooks and uppercuts, though Castillo appeared to land a little bit more often. However, Corrales, whose mouth bled and right eye already appeared swollen, stunned Castillo a few times with quick combinations.
Head-to-head, chest-to-chest, punch-for-punch, the third round, along with the previous two, was the stuff of boxing folklore.
Corrales was stunned and backed up by big right hand, but immediately fired back before the round ended.
If they fight a third time, let's hope both men make at least $5 million each. Let's also hope that it doesn't take place for at least a year. Oh yeah, let's hope that the rubber match remains controversy-free. And let's have them do it at 140 or 147 pounds to make sure of that.
"I apologize for not making the weight," Castillo said. "It was a mistake and it will never happen again. If Top Rank wants us to have a third fight,
we'll do it. We're ready."