- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Former two-division world champion Diego "Chico" Corrales, who lived as hard as he fought, died in a motorcycle crash Monday night in Las Vegas, two years to the day after his greatest triumph.
"He crashed on a motorcycle. It don't look like he made it through this," manager James Prince told ESPN.com as he was arriving on the scene. "He's dead. It's real sad."
Prince said Corrales' body, covered in a sheet, was still laying in the street hours after the accident while police conducted an investigation.
Corrales, 29, will be remembered as one of the fiercest fighters of his era, a never-say-die warrior who thrilled legions of fans with several action-packed fights.
Although Corrales claimed four world titles in his career, two at junior lightweight and two at lightweight, he will be remembered most for his stunning come-from-behind knockout of Jose Luis Castillo to unify lightweight titles in a May 7, 2005 fight hailed as one of the greatest in boxing history.
Corrales and Castillo waged an epic slugfest that was named fight of the year. Castillo knocked Corrales down twice in the 10th round before turning the tables to score a dramatic knockout to end the all-time classic.
"That fight with Jose Luis Castillo will be remembered by many forever," said Gary Shaw, Corrales' promoter.
It was Corrales' last great moment in the ring. He would go on to lose his final three bouts -- the rematch with Castillo via a fourth-round knockout five months later, a decision in a rubber match against rival Joel Casamayor in October and a bad beating from Joshua Clottey in his welterweight debut on April 7.
A spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department confirmed that there had been a fatal motorcycle accident in the southwest part of the city at approximately 7:20 p.m. PT, but he would not identify the person killed.
"All we know is that he was riding on his bike, and they say he was going 100 mph and hit the back of a car," said Jin Mosley, the wife of welterweight star Shane Mosley and a close friend of Michelle Corrales, Diego's wife.
"He always told me he had to please the fans, and I should never worry about him getting knocked out. He would say they would have to carry him out of the ring. That's the way he fought. That's what made him so exciting."
-- Corrales' promoter Gary Shaw
Jin Mosley said she heard the news from Michelle, who is six months pregnant with their child. Michelle and Diego had been separated for the past few months.
"She's a mess," Jin Mosley said. "She was crying and I couldn't even understand her at first. She was crying, 'Diego is dead.' He just bought the bike not even a week ago."
Corrales was wearing a helmet, Prince said.
The Mosleys had just returned home to California from Las Vegas, where they had spent the past several days at the Floyd Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya fight, but planned to turn around Monday night and head back to Las Vegas to comfort Michelle.
"He lived on the edge," Shaw said. "He told me he skied like a wild man, he rode fast, he fought hard, sometimes recklessly, but to me he epitomized what fighters were about in the ring. He always told me he had to please the fans, and I should never worry about him getting knocked out. He would say they would have to carry him out of the ring. That's the way he fought. That's what made him so exciting."
Corrales, who was 40-5 with 33 knockouts in an 11-year pro career, is survived by his wife, four children and a step-daughter.
Corrales' philosophy was simple when it came to boxing.
"I just want to fight the top guys," he had said. "It is not about the money. You just want to see where you place. Where is your standing in your current time with all the best? The only way you can do that is by fighting the best, and that is what I do. I want to know where I place. Where do I rate with these guys? Am I really one of the best fighters out there, or am I a flash in the pan? So far, I have proved that I am one of the best out there, and I am fortunate for that. I am not a flash in the pan."
Corrales, who was born in Columbia, S.C., and grew up in Sacramento, Calif., before moving to Las Vegas a few years ago, won the IBF junior lightweight title in October 1999 by knocking out Roberto Garcia in the seventh round. Corrales made three defenses before relinquishing the belt to challenge Mayweather for his version of the title. Mayweather handed him his first defeat, knocking him down five times and stopping him in the 10th round of their January 2001 match.
Four months after the loss, Corrales was sentenced to two years in California state prison for beating his pregnant wife, Maria Corrales, who later divorced him.
Corrales spent a year in prison and resumed his career when he was released for good behavior. He would go on to win the vacant WBO junior lightweight title in March 2004, avenging a previous loss to Casamayor.
Corrales moved up to lightweight and won the WBO belt in August 2004 by rallying to stop Acelino "Popo" Freitas in the 10th round. Nine months later came his legendary first fight with Castillo, when he added the WBC title to his collection with one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
The day before their October 2005 rematch, Castillo failed to make weight, coming in at 138½ pounds. But Corrales, ever the competitor, decided to go through with the much-anticipated fight anyway, even though he was at a disadvantage. It cost him. Castillo knocked him out in the fourth round.
However, Corrales remained lightweight champion because the bout had been a non-title fight because of the weight controversy.
A rubber match was scheduled for June 2006, but it was canceled the day before the fight when Castillo again came in overweight. This time, Corrales opted not to go through with the bout.
In an ironic twist, Corrales would be stripped of the title a year later when he failed to make weight for his rubber match with Casamayor. The next night, Casamayor outpointed him to win the vacant title.
Long troubled by making weight, Corrales jumped over the junior welterweight class and moved up to the 147-pound welterweight division, where he was roughed up in the lopsided loss to Clottey.
"He was only 29 and his career was winding down, but the last time I spoke to him, after the Clottey fight, he just told me, 'Please make some big fights for me,' " Shaw said.
Despite the string of exciting fights and regular appearances on Showtime, Corrales was financially troubled. Most of his last purse was eaten up by debts and tax problems with the IRS.
Corrales, who earned a chef's degree at a culinary trade school, was only 3 when he first began going to the boxing gym with his stepfather, Ray Woods.
"I was just a mean kid, always getting into fights," Corrales, 125-20 as an amateur, had said. "It was typical kid stuff. My dad just wanted me to find something to do to keep me out of trouble. Boxing was the great escape. I have two younger brothers. They both boxed, but I am the only one that stuck with it."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Former two-division world champion Diego "Chico" Corrales, who lived as hard as he fought, died in a mororcycle crash Monday night in Las Vegas.