I can remember sitting in my house that night, on the weekend of Cinco de Mayo (May 7th 2005), wondering what craziness would take place that night. As a senior in college, my life and times were at an all-time high. College days had swiftly passed, parties were in full force on America’s hijacked unofficial holiday, and I was to graduate with my degree in 10 days. Business was picking up.
Of course, on this fateful day, I would be swayed by my best friend Tyrell to delay the festivities that awaited a graduating senior for about an hour. Tyrell was a young man who loved to cook and watch boxing on Saturday nights, and he roped me into sitting in front of my television to watch two fighters I’d barely heard of. Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo.
Tyrell was ahead of the curve in this regard, as the man had procured catfish by the pound from the market and spent hours frying it up in our tiny little kitchen. While I did my part by making a gallon of sweet tea and cooking some fries in the same grease as the fish, he kept going on and on about how much he loved Corrales. (Oh how I miss those college days.) Corrales, from Sacramento, had given some young hotshot named Floyd Mayweather Jr. a run for his money in 2001. He was a big fan, and that this fight versus another guy who took Mayweather to the brink, twice, named Jose Luis Castillo, could make for a fight of the year candidate.
I remember sitting on our hideous blue coach with a heaping plate of fries and fish and a huge cup of tea. I remember getting a text message asking if I was going to pre-game (the party before the party) at a young lady’s house that night. I declined. I remember a few of my fraternity brothers swung by to see if I was coming out. I said maybe. Two of the homies called and asked if I wanted to play Madden later. I said no thanks. I kept thinking that Tyrell was blowing smoke up my butt that this could be a fight of the year candidate, but Tyrell was the conduit to me falling in love with boxing. His steadfast belief made me believe.
On that Saturday night, Tyrell made me respect Cinco de Mayo weekend for what it is, the best date on the boxing calendar year after year. 10 years later, we pay the proper respect to arguably the greatest fight I’ve ever seen in my life. All hail Jose “El Temible” Luis Castillo, and all hail Diego “Chico” Corrales. (RIP)
Addendum: In re-watching this fight, I came across this interview from ESPN and HBO Boxing analyst Max Kellerman, as he recounts his view of the contest. Per Fight Monger:
On what is the best fight he’s ever seen: This is an easy answer. Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I, is the best action fight in recorded boxing history. Maybe there’s better action fights that they didn’t have video for, but I’ve never seen one as good as that. I flew out to watch that fight, just to watch it as an observer, and it’s the greatest sporting event I’ve ever seen.
Max expounding as to what made it exciting: It was for the real lightweight title. Not just a belt, but the lineal lightweight championship of the world. These two guys went into a phone booth, and they had technique for guys in a phone booth, they weren’t going to box like Floyd Mayweather. They were in close in the trenches, and they went on a high level from round one up until the finish, and it kept building and getting better. After the first round you said, ‘oh my God, how much better can this get?’ and it kept getting better and it kept getting better. And just when it looked like Castillo was going to finish him, Corrales comes back. I thought Arguello-Pryor was going to be the best, but Castillo-Corrales might’ve did it.
Also, I must give thanks to my brother Paul (you might know him as Fight Like Sugar around these parts) who has transitioned into my “Tyrell” here in the Bay Area. Even me, the people’s champ of sports fans, can’t be an ultimate sports fan of everything. Tyrell and Paul have been that channeled force for me, and I’m appreciative of the relationship.
Sidenote: Paul’s favorite thing about this fight is Corrales’ trainer Joe Goosen losing his mind during the fight.
“I think of Goosen yelling at Corrales in the corner cussing him out, pissed as hell and saying, ‘well, you better go out there and knock him the fuck out.'”
Boxing will never die, especially when a fight like this one comes around every once in awhile. God bless the unofficial international boxing holiday that is Cinco de Mayo weekend.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”