Friend and fighter Corrales remembered one year later
A fearless warrior, Diego Corrales pushed himself to the limit -- both inside the ring and out. Kieran Mulvaney remembers friend and fighter, Diego "chico" Corrales.
Originally Published: April 20, 2008By Kieran Mulvaney | Special to ESPN.com
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesDiego Corrales, left, shared an intense three-fight rivalry with Joel Casamayor.I won't be so presumptuous as to call Diego Corrales a friend of mine. Ours was both a casual relationship and a professional one. I was the writer; he was the fighter. I was the interviewer; he was the subject. But the Las Vegas boxing community is a small fraternity. When I lived in the desert city, I would bump into him on numerous occasions, more often than was the case with most other boxers: ringside for fights large and small, at boxing gyms, in social settings. Even if we weren't exactly inviting each other out to the movies, we knew each other. In our limited interactions, we got along well. Corrales was always amenable, always approachable, always generous with his time. Leave a message for him, and he would call right back (not a guarantee with professional athletes, believe me) and willingly talk.
It is an interesting contradiction that, in their dealings with people other than those they are being paid to hurt severely, many professional boxers are extremely polite and usually quite reserved. It is a reality that jars with the violence that they must be prepared to mete out and absorb when the bell rings, and it was all the more acute in the case of Corrales. His popularity among fans was greater than most, not just because he was especially approachable and devoid of airs and graces outside the ring, but also because he went about his business with particular ferocity inside it. Freakishly tall for the weight divisions in which he fought most of his bouts, he nonetheless refused to use his height to his advantage by boxing outside, choosing instead to stand and fight. And whenever he was knocked down, he almost always clambered back to his feet again, never giving up. He once told trainer Joe Goossen that he would "f---ing kill him" if he ever tried to throw in the towel. Conversely, because Corrales was so affable and open, because he spoke so honestly and with such a quiet voice, it was hard to comprehend that he was the same man who fought so many inner demons. Those were the demons that led to his imprisonment on assault charges, the demons with which he was seemingly struggling again in the weeks before he met his end. Personally, I choose to remember him as the willing interviewee, the friendly acquaintance, the troubled but well-meaning young man whom friends of mine knew and loved dearly.
I shall remember him also, as will millions, as a fearless in-ring warrior. Particularly, I will always remember May 7, 2005, when I was privileged to sit ringside as he somehow peeled himself off the canvas in the 10th round against Jose Luis Castillo to come roaring back and win what was the greatest fight I have ever seen and likely ever will. I wrote that night: "Many fighters boast that their opponents have to kill them to beat them. Corrales means it. Had Castillo beheaded him and thrust a stake through his heart, he still might not have denied him." But I also wrote, "As fantastic a fight as this was, it was 30 minutes of mayhem that made both men's careers, and at the same time, surely shortened them dramatically. Neither man is likely to ever be the same again " Indeed, Castillo earned just one more significant victory, and that was a tainted one: A knockout defeat of Corrales in the rematch after he had weighed in over the lightweight limit. Corrales would not even have that much. His historic win over Castillo would be the last time his hand was raised in triumph in a boxing ring. Then came three defeats inside the ring, an unraveling outside it, and the sudden, shocking end, when he was finally felled by a blow from which even he could not recover. That end came two years to the day of his greatest triumph, in the shadow of the arena where that triumph had taken place. In the near distance that night, the lights of the Mandalay Bay burned brightly, so near and yet so far away. Kieran Mulvaney covers boxing for ESPN.com and Reuters.
AP Photo/Eric JamisonIt's hard to imagine a more dramatic ending than that of Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I.