- Dan Rafael, Boxing
- 0 Shares
Diego Corrales' misfortune has turned into the opportunity of a lifetime for Rolando Reyes.
Corrales was supposed to defend the lightweight title against rival Jose Luis Castillo in their much-anticipated rubber match on Saturday night at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.
However, Corrales suffered an injury to the soft tissue in his rib cage while training for the fight, forcing his withdrawal. While that bout will be rescheduled, probably for June 3, Castillo will fight anyway Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT).
But it takes two to make a fight, so enter Reyes, who took the bout with Castillo on three weeks' notice and is salivating at the chance to face one of the top fighters in the world.
"This is the biggest opportunity that I have had in my life. It is the biggest fight," said Reyes, an Oxnard, Calif., resident. "I have been training hard and will do the best that I can do with the fight."
His reaction to learning he was going to get the fight?
"I was the happiest man in Oxnard," Reyes said. "Since then I have been training hard."
"This is his Super Bowl," promoter Gary Shaw said.
Also on the card: lightweights Jose Armando Santa Cruz and Edner Cherry hook up in a 12-rounder with explosive potential.
Castillo took the news of a new opponent in stride. He was disappointed but realistic.
"Regarding Corrales getting injured, I think it is very unfortunate, but those things happen in boxing. He got injured. I could have gotten injured," said Castillo, a two-time lightweight champ. "Those things just happen. Hopefully, we will get to fight with him pretty soon."
Reyes (26-3-2, 16 KOs) is the clear underdog against Castillo, but so was lightweight Zahir Raheem when he faced Erik Morales in September and pulled off a major upset. Reyes, 27, and Raheem are both managed by Cameron Dunkin, so perhaps lightning will strike twice.
"This is everything to me. It is like a world title fight to me," said Reyes, whose most notable victories are a first-round knockout of John Brown and an eighth-round knockout of Courtney Burton. "It is very, very important. Winning this fight will put me where I want to be -- on the top."
Reyes was preparing for another bout when the offer to face Castillo, 32, came, so his conditioning should not be a factor.
"I was supposed to have a fight at the end of this month," Reyes said. "I am always in the gym, always training, so this opportunity came up and I started training even harder."
Shaw, who also promotes Corrales, signed Reyes about a year ago after his deal with Castillo promoter Top Rank expired. This is just the kind of fight Shaw has been trying to get for him.
"This is a huge opportunity and I am glad I could bring it to him," Shaw said. "To me this is what the sport is about in a lot of ways. If you train and stay in shape, sometimes good things happen even if they are not planned."
Shaw said he couldn't imagine that Castillo would not have at least somewhat of a letdown given the change of opponent, so he gives Reyes a good shot at the upset.
"I would not have bet a toothpick that Carlos Baldomir would beat Zab Judah or that Buster Douglas would have beaten Mike Tyson," Shaw said. "But I am from the school that anything can happen. As a promoter, I don't like it when one of my guys has to go in and face a late sub. I think it's a huge letdown for Castillo."
Castillo (53-7-1, 47 KOs), of course, will have to try to avoid a letdown now that he is not facing Corrales for the third consecutive fight. But it could be difficult for him, judging from his comments.
"I think it will be a hard and difficult fight because of Reyes' boxing style, but I really do not expect a tough fight like I had before," Castillo said. "I do not think that I am overconfident that I will win this fight, but I am very confident that I can win."
Of course, few fights could be as rough as Castillo's bouts with Corrales. They waged the 2005 fight of the year in May, an all-out slugfest in which Corrales made a miracle comeback in the 10th round to score a TKO in a fight many hailed as one of the best of all time.
Then in October, Castillo turned the tables by scoring a fourth-round knockout in another brawl. Corrales, however, retained the lightweight title because Castillo failed to make the 135-pound limit.
He won't have to make 135 for this fight. It is a non-title fight with a contract weight of 137 pounds. Castillo said getting down that low will be helpful when it comes time to make 135 for the eventual third fight with Corrales.
"This fight I am going to be at 137 against Reyes, so that will keep me pretty close to the weight," Castillo said. "I should not have any problem making the weight [a few] months later.
"It has always been difficult -- 135 is always going to be hard for me. I still have some things to finish with Corrales at 135 and until I do, I am not thinking of 140."
In Reyes, Castillo will have to adjust to a boxer with a much different style from Corrales, who is a straight-ahead brawler who likes to mix it up on the inside. Reyes is more of a classic boxer who uses his jab effectively.
"It will probably take me a few rounds to get to know him," Castillo said. "I think he will probably be a good boxer and someone who will be very quick. So I will have to make some adjustments once we are up in the ring."
Said Shaw: "He won't be right there for Castillo. He will move and box a lot more than 'Chico.' I think that will give Castillo a little trouble."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Rolando Reyes, who took a bout with Jose Luis Castillo on Saturday on three weeks' notice, is salivating at the chance to face one of the top fighters in the world.