Winner should be world's best lightweight


LAS VEGAS – While the heavyweights plod along at a snail's pace trying to determine who is No. 1, there is no such issue at lightweight.

It's either Jose Luis Castillo or Diego "Chico" Corrales. Flip a coin now, but by the end of Saturday night – barring a draw – we'll have the answer, and finding out just what the answer is could be a whole lot of fun.

That's because lightweight champs Castillo (52-6-1, 45 KOs) and Corrales (39-2, 33 KOs), universally recognized as the world's top two 135-pounders, will have sorted things out in their eagerly-anticipated unification fight at Mandalay Bay (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT).

"Fights like this do not come about often or easily," says Showtime's Jay Larkin, who was instrumental in putting the bout together. "Castillo and Corrales are without a doubt the two best lightweights in the world and both have earned their reputations by fighting the best in the division. This fight has 'Fight of the Year' promise and is the last step in deciding who really is No. 1 in the world."

The boxers both view the match as a must-win.

"We both know that this is a very big fight, one that is important to both our careers," says two-time champ Castillo, who toppled top contenders Julio Diaz, Joel Casamayor and Juan Lazcano in his past three fights. "I feel that respect-wise, a victory would put me at the same level as Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales (among Mexican fighters). For me, this is my biggest fight since the first one with [Floyd] Mayweather."

Says Corrales: "This fight is so big for me. These kinds of fights are what legacies are made of and I want to be remembered as one of the best ever in my weight class."

Unified featherweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez (43-2-1, 33 KOs) defends against Victor Polo (34-4-3, 21 KOs) in the cofeature, but the main event is what has people buzzing on Cinco de Mayo weekend, as the boxing world braces for a head-on slugfest.

"This fight will be like two buffaloes colliding," Castillo promises.

"On paper, this has the potential to be as exciting a fight as you will see," Corrales says. "I definitely feel that at some point, it will be bombs away. Look at our resumes. We both have fought the best guys and have a lot of knockouts. I really do not see how it can go the distance with each of us dropping bombs on each other in the middle of the ring. I love these kinds of fights."

Castillo-Corrales has been as anticipated as any fight in the sport for the past several months because their aggressive styles seem like a perfect match. But what has raised the anticipation is two postponements.

In December, and again in March, they were supposed to meet. But it was postponed while Corrales ironed out financial issues with his co-promoters, Artie Pelullo and Gary Shaw.

The delays left Corrales idle since last August, when he seized a title with a comeback win against previously undefeated Acelino "Popo" Freitas. Down on all the scorecards, Corrales came back to pound Freitas into quitting in the 10th round.

Castillo has fought twice since then, while a frustrated Corrales sat on the sidelines while he and his promoters squabbled over money. That is apparently behind them.

"I am not worried about the layoff. The internal stuff between me, Artie and Gary is over," Corrales says. "I have one job and that is to defend my title and unify the 135-pound division. I am here for a war. I am here for a battle. It starts in round one."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.