Weighty matters at hand with lightweight title at stake
Less than two weeks before he is to face lightweight champion Diego Corrales for the third time, Jose Luis Castillo is fighting to make 135 pounds, Dan Rafael writes.
He is boxing's version of Oprah Winfrey as questions about his weight hit him like a stinging combination at every turn.
Welcome to Jose Luis Castillo's world.
Less than two weeks before he is to face lightweight champion Diego Corrales in a third and, presumably, final chapter of their brutal rivalry, Castillo is fighting an opponent even tougher than Corrales.
Castillo, who regularly expands 30-plus pounds between bouts, is fighting the scale in a desperate effort to make 135 pounds.
"I'm more afraid of the scale than I am of Corrales," Castillo said, perhaps only half joking.
Although Castillo will need to weigh 135 pounds for only a few seconds when he steps on a scale inside the Agustus Ballroom at Caesars Palace for the official weigh-in at 5:30 p.m. ET June 2 -- the day before facing Corrales at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) -- the effort to make weight has been his all-consuming goal for the past few months.
The WBC, which is sanctioning the fight, has been sending a representative to Castillo's training camp in the mountains north of Mexico City to check his weight regularly in order to make sure he is coming down slowly and safely.
It's a process Castillo knows is necessary but one he doesn't like.
"It has been very difficult every week having people coming in to check my weight, making sure that I am where I am supposed to be," Castillo said this week on a conference call with reporters, where his weight was topic No. 1. "The day of the weigh-in is one day before the fight and I know I am going to make the weight, but it has been difficult. It has been hard for me."
After Corrales stopped Castillo in the 10th round to unify lightweight belts in their first fight in May 2005 -- one of the great fights of all time -- they signed for an Oct. 8 rematch.
Castillo, however, couldn't make weight, scaling 138½ pounds and causing all kinds of controversy and putting a damper on the event.
Corrales, ever the competitor, elected to go through with what became a non-title fight and Castillo was fined 10 percent of his $1.2 million purse, and forced to weigh in again on the day of the fight with the stipulation that he not exceed 147 pounds.
When they finally made it to the ring, Castillo dominated before knocking Corrales out with a clean left hook in the fourth round.
But with many believing that Castillo (54-7-1, 47 KOs) had an unfair advantage because he didn't have to squeeze all the way down to 135 pounds the way Corrales (40-3, 33 KOs) did, a third fight was inevitable.
It originally was scheduled for February but Corrales suffered a rib injury, which delayed the fight until June 3. Regardless of the postponement, Castillo assured the media he will make weight in what he said will be his last lightweight bout before moving up for a potential November showdown with junior welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto.
"Not making the weight does not normally happen to me," Castillo said. "It happened, it is over with, and now we are moving on to the third fight. I am sure that I am going to make the weight and there will be no controversy for this third fight."
Corrales, who also struggles to make 135, downplayed the weight issue. "I just hope Castillo is working with a real trainer this time and not Duncan Hines," he joked.
Castillo attributed his weight problems to a rib injury suffered late in his training camp, which hampered his ability to work out.
In addition, he had a dispute during camp with trainer Tiburcio Garcia, who was fired and no longer able to oversee Castillo's diet. But they have patched up their problems and Garcia has returned to the team.
"Last time, I got hurt about 10-12 days out of the fight," Castillo said. "I was not able to do what I wanted to do. I think everyone knows I was not 100 percent. But this time around I am perfect. We have taken care of making sure we do not get into too much trouble with the sparring. They have been coming here every week to check my weight, so I have been taking care of it and making sure I am on the right diet and making the weight that I need to make."
In addition to the regular weight checks in his training camp, Castillo will be under further duress at the official weigh-in. Normally, if a fighter doesn't make weight on his first attempt in Nevada, he is given two hours to make the weight.
However, this time Castillo has agreed to make it on the first try or he will be fined a minimum of 25 percent of his purse.
"There are extreme penalties that are imposed by Showtime and the Nevada commission that make it virtually impossible that the fight would not take place on weight," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. "They want him to make it the first time he is on the scale."
Arum, who has promoted Castillo throughout his two title reigns, said Castillo's failure to make weight last fall was an "aberration."
"Jose Luis has a history of not having problems making the weight, but he had problems this time because of that injury to his ribs," Arum said. "In retrospect, he probably could have pulled out of the fight. He decided not to, but because of the injury, he couldn't really condition himself and therefore did not make weight. But there has not been any time that he has had any problem at all making the weight. The problem here, as I said, was because of a situation where he was too brave, where he went through with a fight where he had injured his ribs 10 days or two weeks before the fight, and therefore, the time where you really get down to weight, he was not able to do that. That is the situation. It is a complete aberration in his career.
"I have had him in so many lightweight fights -- both [Floyd] Mayweather fights, the Stevie Johnston fights -- there never was a problem with him making the weight."
Now Castillo has to make the weight just one more time. Can he do it?
All we do now is wait.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
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