Corrales-Castillo II has loads to live up to

Lightweights head into tonight's rematch with sport still buzzing over first bout, which may go down in history as one for the ages



Sometimes, something is so good that word can't help but get around. Take the events of May 7.

Only 5,000 were in the hall in Las Vegas that night. Another 400,000 or so watched on pay cable. The whole thing could have died with them.

But they knew they had to pass the word. Because you just don't see two men reach such a high level of craft and seem so willing to die showing it.

The amazing thing? Lightweight boxers Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo are doing it again five months later. The two will stage a reprise of the fight of the decade - won by Corrales when the bout was stopped in the 10th round - tonight in Las Vegas.

"I say put the tape of the entire fight in a film vault, right next to Citizen Kane," wrote boxing historian Michael Katz of Corrales-Castillo I.

Bob Arum, who has promoted fights for more than 30 years, said the fight ranks in his top three, along with the third heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975 and the 1985 middleweight showdown between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns.

"People understand this is something special," he said. "Books will be written about this one."

"I knew that just the matchup of styles and wills mandated it would be a great fight," said Doug Fischer, editor of "But it exceeded my expectations. It was the most brutal fight I've ever seen."

Fischer said writers leapt to their feet in unison and shouted "Unbelievable!" as the fight ended. Word spread quickly. columnist Bill Simmons wrote a piece describing how tapes were passing from friend to friend.

Simmons has watched the fight seven times. "It's still on my TiVo," he said.

When one of the casinos promoting the rematch sent invitations to high rollers, it included DVD copies of the first bout.

"And you better believe those DVDs were making the rounds," Arum said.

Few seem to doubt the rematch will be great in its own right.

"I do think the rematch will be tougher," Corrales said in an interview on Showtime last weekend. "I cannot see it happening any other way."

Castillo agreed, adding, "I hope these will be like those Rocky movies. We can do six of them, both of us winning a lot of money."

Corrales (40-2) and Castillo (52-7-1) were required to have magnetic resonance imaging tests "because of the unusual amount of head blows, and the short amount of time between the fights," said Nevada State Athletic Commission director Marc Ratner. "The test results were perfect with no problems. It's unusual, but I wanted to be proactive."

The Corrales-Castillo fight was only the boldest stroke in a trend that has changed boxing over the past 15 years. For generations, sports fans were weaned on remarkable heavyweights: Joe Louis in the 1940s, Ali in the 1960s, Mike Tyson in the 1980s.

But the current heavyweights produce shabby spectacles of clutching, stumbling and inactivity. Hardcore fans turn to the lower weight classes for entertainment. Fighters like Corrales, Castillo, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao have ripped off dozens of great fights this decade.

General sports fans, however, have barely noticed. Only in the Hispanic community are the diminutive buzzsaws treated as superstar athletes.

"I look at this fight, and I know everybody who follows boxing will watch it," Arum said. "Unfortunately, that's not as big an audience as I'm looking for."

But Arum believes the first fight was so good that it changed the normal equations.

Crowds watching Corrales train this week have exceeded the audiences at many of his live fights. Fight fans from England and Australia are making pilgrimages to Vegas. Sports Illustrated is running a feature on the bout.

Arum expects to sell Corrales-Castillo to 500,000 pay-per-view customers, well beyond the 350,000 he would need to make such a fight profitable. He expects a live gate to be almost $5 million compared with about $400,000 for the first.

The men at the center of the acclaim are, by all accounts, loving it.

"They're world-class fighters, but they realize they're not stars," Fischer said. "They're both really enjoying the notoriety they've gotten from the first fight."

With his broad shoulders and stout lower body, Castillo looks more like a middleweight than a 135-pounder. His natural size may prove to be a problem. Tonight's bout likely won't be for Corrales' WBC title because Castillo didn't make the 135-pound weight limit last night. There likely will be a special weigh-in today.

Castillo, 31, came up sparring with the most beloved of Mexican fighters, Julio Cesar Chavez. He shares his mentor's gift for turning fights into battles of attrition that he usually wins.

At nearly 6 feet, Corrales looks like an ungainly stalk of corn walking to the ring. You might think he'd use his height to keep opponents at a distance. But the cornstalk is among the most feared punchers in boxing, with a perfectly compact left hook.

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