Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo: Remembering the FOTY for May 2005

Levi NileContributor IIIMay 26, 2014

WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo, left, of Mexico, lands a left to the face of WBO lightweight champion Diego Corrales, of Sacramento, Calif., in the first round of their unification bout on Saturday, May 7, 2005, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
ERIC JAMISON/Associated Press

As we come to a close for the month of May, it seems criminal not to give celebration to one of the greatest fights in recent memory for said month: Diego Corrales versus Jose Luis Castillo, which unfolded on May 7, 2005.

As part of a new series that recognizes those special bouts that earned FOTY (Fight of the Year) honors in their calendar month, Corrales vs. Castillo is a special bout for so many reasons.

Once again, like Arturo Gatti versus Micky Ward, Corrales and Castillo were two good men who harbored no ill will toward each other. Their pre-fight meetings were spirited yet respectful, both men fully aware of the expectations attached to their bout and both men eager to see them realized.

For Corrales and Castillo, it seemed to be all about the respect that is only found on the other side of true, brutal, soul-searching combat. Like attracts like, after all, and we as viewers and fans were gifted with a bout that surpassed all the hype our considerable imaginations afforded it.

Both men wanted the mantle of “Best Lightweight in the world,” but more importantly, they seemed interested in the bragging rights that would come after their clash, which was of styles and skill.

Before the bout, many felt Corrales needed to outbox Castillo, who had never really been significantly hurt in any of his previous bouts. For Castillo, the prevailing wisdom said he needed to box Corrales in and ship him out, sooner rather than later.

As soon as the bell to end Round 1 sounded, we knew that both men were going to do whatever it took to win, and it was going to take a lot on either side.

As Round 1 opened, it was clear that Corrales had a significant height advantage, yet he was shockingly quick to step inside, where Castillo did his best work. Both men took turns sticking their jabs and winging exploratory hooks to the head and body, looking for that favorable range.

Yet after just a single minute, the punches were coming hard, both men seeming to orbit each other tightly; Corrales was landing thudding combinations while Castillo was landing good, hard punches to the head and body. Then, with just 20 seconds remaining, Corrales let loose with a stinging combination to the head and body and Castillo fired back with equal energy, both men going toe-to-toe until the end of the frame.

ERIC JAMISON/Associated Press

Round 2 saw both men eager to jump back into each others' faces. Much like the opening frame, Corrales was landing well with heavy combinations, but Castillo was finding a home for his left hook, landing it more and more. They continued to spin and turn, digging into each other with hard hooks; it was a constant siege on two battlements, neither side seeming to tire or buckle.

Then, with two minutes remaining, Castillo landed with a hard right uppercut and then a flush left hook to the jaw; Corrales stayed strong, but those two punches were clearly the best of the fight thus far. Both men continued to lean on each other, throwing heavy leather to the ribs and face, fighting in a phone booth. Then, with 70 seconds left in the round, Corrales landed a chopping right hook to the jaw, instantly followed by a stinging left hook to the body first, then the head.

After spending the next several seconds bombing each other with hooks from both hands, Corrales caught Castillo napping and landed a nasty right uppercut-left hook-left hook to the head, making Castillo take a step back. Both men went right back at it, banging away and landing well; then, near the end of the round, Corrales landed another hard combination that hurt Castillo, punctuated by a hammering left hook that rocked his head to the side, making him stumble ever so slightly.

Corrales tried to press the advantage, wading in with both hands blazing, but Castillo met him with fierce resistance and the bell finally sounded.

After two rounds, Corrales was doing the improbable: He was hooking with a hooker, and he was winning, thanks to superior hand speed and timing.

Round 3 saw Corrales assuming the role of aggressor in the opening seconds, only to fall into that same distance and cadence that had seen both men hit hard and often. The level of work both men were doing was shocking, especially when both fighters seemed open to every hard punch being thrown their way. Corrales was finding a home for his own left hook over and over, while Castillo seemed to be playing the role of patient workman, chipping away all over.

LAS VEGAS - MAY 7:  Jose Luis Castillo lands a left on Diego Corrales during their World Lightweight Unification bout on May 7, 2005 at The Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. Corrales won the fight after the referee stopped the fight in the tenth round.
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The workman then found his right uppercut, landing it well repeatedly while Corrales seemed to be waiting for a chance to counter with his left hook. With a little under a minute left, both men were landing hard shots, trading hooks and Castillo looked as if he was growing stronger as the battle went along. This became terribly evident as he owned the last 15 seconds of the round. He was landing hard hooks to the head, wobbling Corrales, then letting both hands fly in a sustained combination that saw “Chico” knocked around with little resistance.

After three rounds, the ebb and flow was so constant and dramatic that it seemed nearly impossible to tell who was honestly winning.

Round 4 saw more of the same. Corrales was landing fast, sharp combinations while Castillo continued to turn, letting his own hooks fly, especially to the body. Midway through the round, both fighters were throwing and landing at the same time, faces contorting with each blow and somehow they remained upright and aggressive.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 7: (L-R) Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo swing left hooks during their World Lightweight Unification bout on May 7, 2005 at The Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images).
Nick Laham/Getty Images

This level of action was sustained and endured for Rounds 5 through 7, each of them working hard, landing and eating solid shots and combinations that never seemed to end. Just as one looked as if he were gaining momentum, it would all be taken away as the other rallied back, landing flush to the head and body, the punches coming fast and sharp. It was this kind of action that saw Corrales clearly wobbled near the end of Round 6 and Castillo badly buckled in the closing seconds of Round 7.

It was in-fighting at its finest and it was a sustained storm of action that threatened to lay both men low, time and again. In addition, both men were also cut and swelling around their eyes (especially the cut around the left eye of Castillo and the swelling around the left eye of Corrales), making it a nightmare to score.

Round 8 saw Corrales coming out hard, landing a stinging right-left combination in the opening seconds, inspiring Castillo to take a few steps back. Corrales kept throwing his combinations and Castillo responded with a hard right hand upstairs.

Both men were winging short, accurate punches, but something had changed: Things were now both desperate and dangerous, the ending seemingly available for both men if they could just seize it.

Corrales would land sweeping hooks to the head, knocking Castillo back, only to see him come back and land a jarring hook of his own. Corrales landing a meaningful combination midway through the round, then Castillo came back with short, straight punches that ratcheted the head of Corrales left and right.

Then, with a little over 30 seconds left, Castillo got into a groove, landing with both hands as they stumbled around the ring. Corrales lost his mouthpiece but continued to fight unabated, landing a counter left-hook flush to the jaw, causing Castillo to lean like a tree about to fall.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 7: Jose Luis Castillo hits Diego Corrales with a right during their World Lightweight Unification bout on May 7, 2005 at The Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. Corrales won the fight after the referee stopped the fight in the tenth rou
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The crowd was on its feet, roaring in approval as they had nearly all of the fight and as the bell sounded, both men walked back to their corners basking in the adulation of all.

After eight hard rounds, most observers had the bout dead even at 76-76; a clear testimony to the constant switches in advantage that have been present since the opening frame. Both men were fighting terribly hard, landing well and unwilling to concede anything without a fight.

In Round 9, the damage continued to pile up on both fighters. Corrales could barely see out of his left eye and Castillo wasn’t that much better off due to his cut. Then, Castillo began to score with stiff, straight punches, knocking his opponent back.

Corrales answered with a hard combination, yet Castillo refused to retreat. It was then that it seemed like Castillo was taking over; he looked to be absorbing punishment better and he was landing hard punches with greater ease than before.

They continued to trade bombs in the center of the ring, exchanging right hands with Corrales emerging on the losing end in terms of power. Castillo went on to control the last of the round, catching Corrales with solid punches, leaving him no safe haven in the ring.

After such an incredible fight, it seemed impossible that anything could provide the appropriate closure to so much action; so much aggression needed a near-storybook ending. It looked as if it would be akin to the epic bout between Wilfredo Gomez and Guadalupe Pintor, where the latter, after 14 rounds of insane action, finally collapsed due to exhaustion.

As honest as that was, this fight seemed different; something other than exhaustion had to give.

In Round 10, it all came crashing down in a ways that everyone and no one was expecting.

ERIC JAMISON/Associated Press

With his left eye closed to a slit, Corrales went right back to work, just as he had every round prior. Castillo responded in kind, and they both settled back into their familiar and damaging rhythm. Then, at the 2:35 mark, Castillo caught Corrales with a crunching left hook to the jaw that saw him sag and then fall to the canvas.

Corrales lost his mouthpiece and looked for a moment if he might not make it to his feet. He climbed off the canvas by the count of eight, but you could tell he was badly hurt.

After the referee called time to get the mouthpiece back into the mouth of Corrales, both men returned to the center of the ring, Castillo firing with both hands. Corrales tried to fight back but was caught with another short left hook and just like that, Corrales was back on the canvas for the second time in the round.

Corrales spit out his mouthpiece and struggled to his feet by the count of nine, convinced Tony Weeks that he could continue, then suffered a point deduction for spitting out his mouthpiece.

Suddenly, Corrales was behind 10-6 on points for the round, making it impossible for him to win a decision of any kind.

As Corrales had his mouthpiece put back in his mouth, his trainer, Joe Goossen, summed up the gravity of his situation simply and bluntly: “You’ve gotta f--king get a sign on him now.”

Eric Jamison/Associated Press

Corrales and Castillo found each other in the middle of the ring and the action resumed. Corrales was looking to attack, but at another combination from Castillo that drove him to the ropes. As Castillo opened up with both hands, Corrales fought back hard from the ropes, catching Castillo with a hard right hook just as he ate one in return.

Suddenly, it was Castillo backing up and Corrales walking forward. Corrales caught Castillo with a hard counter-left hook that put him against the ropes and from there let both fists fly. Castillo ate more shots, only to catch Corrales coming in with a hard combination that staggered him for a moment.

Then, Corrales was once more into the breech, blocking a hard uppercut and landing a hard right hand counter. Then, both men began to let their hooks fly, landing flush, but it was Corrales who was suddenly doing more damage.

Castillo sagged against the ropes, eating left hooks and right hands. Another right  hand turned him and then Corrales swarmed, unleashing a combination of lefts and rights, the blows knocking the guard aside and cranking Castillo’s head side-to-side.

Then, Corrales landed a monster left hook that knocked Castillo’s head back, his eyes rolling up white. Before he could land another punch, the referee jumped in between them and stopped the fight.

Diego Corrales was the winner via TKO in one of the most shocking come-from-behind victories ever, after being knocked down twice in the opening 90 seconds of the same round.

The crowd exploded with shock and disbelief as the corner or Corrales stormed the ring, lifting their battered man high.

It was perhaps one of the most demanding fights seen in recent years and it yielded one of the greatest endings in recent memory, providing the kind of drama one normally only sees in the world of fiction.

Diego Corrales versus Jose Luis Castillo: Fight of the Year from the month of May, 2005.

One of the greatest in-ring dramas ever witnessed.