Corrales bids to make up for lost time
Squabbles inside his camp helped cost Diego Corrales two previous dates with Jose Luis Castillo. This time, he'll meet Castillo and hopes to leave wearing a second belt.
Last Aug. 7, Diego Corrales who faces Jose Luis Castillo in an eagerly anticipated lightweight unification tilt on Saturday night from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (Showtime 9 p.m. ET/PT) scored a career-defining victory.
He made previously unmarked Brazilian icon Acelino Freitas call it a day with a hat trick of late knockdowns.
With the victory, "Chico" had come full circle since his devastating loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2001, which was then followed by a stint in prison for domestic abuse.
Corrales, professionally and personally, was on top of the world, with even more mountains to climb in 2004.
But instead, he would wait and sit on the sidelines as opportunities to face Castillo in December and then this past March, fell by the wayside. The missed dates were somewhat the result of an often bizarre behind-the-scenes struggle among promoters Gary Shaw, Artie Pellulo (who picked up options on Corrales after the Freitas loss), his manager James Prince, attorney Jeff Fried and even his wife, Michelle.
Of course, this dispute centered around money and just who would get how much of Corrales' take.
Nine months later, with two Showtime dates down the drain, he finally will enter the ring to face Castillo.
"At the end of the day, I gotta pack up and move on and just be happy that it's done now," said Corrales of the situation. "There's no sense in wasting my time being angry; that's just a silly thing. You're just going to harp on it and ruin it. There's no reason for that."
So while Castillo took advantage of Corrales' absences by defeating Joel Casamayor and then Julio Diaz, what did "Chico" do?
"Me, I do home loans. I love real estate," said Corrales, who also mentioned that he did a fair share of snow boarding, golfing and dirt bike riding during his hiatus.
During this time, there were many accusations being thrown around within the Corrales camp at each other. It was clear that different factions had conflicting agendas during this whole snafu. And it was the fighter who ultimately suffered the most.
But at the end of the day, the same team remains in place. Shaw, who has promoted Corrales since his incarceration ended in 2003, said that he's willing to move on with his boxer.
"I can only tell you how I feel," he said. "I let it go and it's in the past and I respect him as a fighter, I respect him as a champion and I'm working hard on this promotion for him and protecting him as if it had never happened."
The shame of Corrales' layoff is that at the time of his knockout over Freitas, he was gaining as much momentum as any fighter in the game. The chance was there to strike while the iron was hot. Instead, it was cooled off by the internal bickering that took place.
"I believe that he could've been 'Fighter of the Year' and next Friday would have been going up to the podium and accepting the award," said Shaw, who felt so strongly that his fighter should have been fighting that he was willing to forego his share of the license fee and give it to Corrales at that time. "So as far as that's concerned, yes. And I think it's out of sight, out of mind, had he fought in December and March and come back in May, who knows who we'd be fighting right now, possibly at 135 or 140.
"So in that respect those were lost opportunities, but you can't rewrite history, you can only make history. So we need to go forward from this point on."
But Shaw sees an alarming trend creeping up in the business of boxing that he thinks afflicted Corrales. I guess one could call it "the Brenda Warner disease." At one time Kurt Warner was perhaps the elite quarterback in the NFL but more and more as his wife started getting notoriety, camera time and input into his career, things went downhill. Soon, Warner's wife would be getting in public spats with St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz and Warner would seemingly have to answer just as many questions about his wife as about his play on the field. Now, Warner finds his career in a downward spiral and is on his third team in as many years.
If you look across the landscape of boxing, you see that the fighters whose wives are intimately involved in their career decisions aren't exactly thriving.
"Maybe there's a lesson to be learned," said Shaw, who is no stranger to irrational spouses of fighters, having promoted Shane Mosley. "All these wives are getting involved in the business, businesses they're not trained in and they don't know and they deal in emotion; it doesn't help the fighter."
For Jay Larkin, the boxing czar of Showtime, the Corrales situation wasn't that out of the ordinary or unusual. But to him, it pointed out bigger, more pressing issues that affect the game.
"Don't forget I've been doing Tyson fights for 15 years. So I've seen it all, done it all, when it comes to bizarre scenarios," he said with a laugh. "But this one wasn't really so bizarre and strange it was frustrating. There was every reason in the world for these fights to come together sooner and the fact that they weren't coming together is more of a statement about some of the things that are wrong about the business of boxing.
"It has to do with options and promoters, warring factions and people getting to the fighter and filling their heads with stuff. It's not that unusual, it's just that it's a frustrating experience."
But what's unfortunate is that Corrales has lost out on two opportunities to make sizable paydays in an occupation that has a finite amount of time to make real money. Those dates in December and March are gone forever, along with the paydays they represented.
"I would hope that they [fighters] understand that and that's why as promoters we fight so hard for our fighters to get those dates and get them on TV," Shaw said of the importance of fighters to take every advantage of being on a premium cable network. When they miss those opportunities, I mean they're giving up important parts of their career. I would hope they realize how important the date is.
"Some of the fighters I represent, for sure know how important that date is," he said. "And the fighters that are really good fighters that are not getting the opportunity, they also know how important the date is."
The networks themselves or at least Showtime has changed their philosophy on doling out dates and giving out license fees.
"There's been a tremendous education process or actually a reeducation process the promoters have started to come around to realize that this isn't the 80's or 90's anymore," explained Larkin, "when promoters would come into a network and just dictate terms and the network would jump through hoops to make it happen.
"Those days are gone, and the fighters have been the last ones to actually understand this new concept. There are so many fighters who just believe they're worth endless amounts of money. Our position, speaking for Showtime, is that a fighter can get all the money that they generate. The ideal situation is to have everything on pay-per-view and if the fighter's truly worth the money he thinks he's worth, then he's certainly entitled to it."
And while Corrales is certainly among the sport's best fighters, he is far from a pay-per-view draw. If Corrales would have forsaken this current date with Castillo, Larkin said that the earliest he could have gotten him on his network was September or October which are no longer available now.
"Nowhere along the line in this long saga did it ever come down to real hard questions of how much money the network was paying," said Larkin. "It was really more about what's going on in Diego's life behind the scenes, his private life, his business life."
It's been nine months since we saw Corrales chase down a hyperactive Freitas, one that bounced around the ring so frenetically that he seemed to expend 12 rounds worth of energy in the first half of their bout.
After some early struggles with Freitas' movement, "Chico" began to get a bead on the Brazilian.
"We knew it was going to happen around the fourth, fifth round when I popped the mouthpiece out of his mouth," Corrales recalled. "That's when I knew I had finally caught up with him and it was going to be a hard night for him after that."
As "Popo" would get hammered to the canvas for a third time in the 10th frame, he would wave off the fight himself. In shocking fashion, he quit, surprising Corrales.
"I was shocked," he said. "This is a guy who's undefeated; I know what it's like being undefeated and I wouldn't want to give that up. You have to kill me before I give that up."
Corrales isn't lying when he says this. Despite being sent to the canvas five times against Mayweather, he still wanted to fight on and protested vehemently when his corner halted the proceedings.
"So I assumed the same thing for him. It was a bit of a shock."
Oftentimes, when a fighter spits the bit (as they say), unfortunately the attention shifts to the fighter who quit and not the guy who forced his hand. A classic case being Roberto Duran's 'no mas' against Ray Leonard in their notable rematch.
But Corrales doesn't think that he was shorted in any way by Freitas' actions.
"I don't think so. I mean the 'W's' a 'W' and that's what I came there to get. So I'll take it the way I can get it. I would've preferred the knockout, but all in all, it's still the same thing. I mean, he's the only person on the other end of the shots feeling those shots and he knows what's going on and what's going on with his body. I don't."
In Castillo, he'll face an opponent with an easier style to decipher, but one that will be much more physical to contend with.
"I don't think there's any doubt about it," said his trainer Joe Goossen. "Castillo's the much more physical guy. Freitas was very fleet of foot, quick of hand and pretty intelligent; he was never defeated, 35-0. In that respect he was very difficult. On the other hand, you look at a guy like Castillo and you look at his strengths and his weaknesses. He's got so many wins, so he's got a lot of strengths. He's got a few losses, so he's got a few weaknesses. But there are things we are looking to exploit."
The fighter agrees with his trainer's assessment, but thinks that Castillo is a bit craftier than many think.
"You don't really get through clean with him. So you have to find ways to get around his good guard and beat the protection down and figure ways around that. Then on top of that, he's physical. So in his own way, he presents the same kind of challenge."
So after months and months of frustration and anxiety, Corrales finally gets to do what he does best. And in Castillo, he faces one of his greatest challenges.
"In my mind, I see a good strategic first half, me fighting him very, very smartly, not moving away, keeping the fight in the middle of the ring, fighting him in the middle of the ring," envisioned the current WBO lightweight champion. "And then later on down the stretch, me just pounding him and pounding him and pounding him.
"We both have late-round energy, late-round power and late-round surges. So it's going to be a hot second half of the fight."
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