Diego Corrales: Champion

What a shock. Diego "Chico" Corrales, a sensational boxer involved in one of the greatest fights in the history of mankind, is dead at 29 after a motorcycle accident in Las Vegas. It was in that city that I watched him knock out Jose Luis Castillo in what was named the fight of the year and what boxing aficianados say is one of the best in history.

I was in Vegas at Mandalay Bay at a buddy's bachelor party on May 7, 2005. In the midst of some pretty serious debauchery, we decided to try to score seats at the Corrales-Castillo fight. It was sold out but a hotel worker snuck us in a back

door of the arena for I think $50 a head. The fight was unreal. Castillo was the aggressor, getting inside on the lankier Corrales and banging him up. Corrales stung Castillo with flurries, keeping the fight neck-and-neck. Every round was dramatic and packed with punches. By the sixth round, Corrales had a huge welt over his eye. Then came the tenth round, what many believe is the most exciting round in boxing history. Castillo burrowed in and started knocking around Corrales, whose face was so swollen by that time that his eyes were slits. You wondered if he could see the canvas when he hit it -- twice. I thought the fight was over when the reeling Corrales went down the second time. The arena was going crazy; it looked like Castillo had pulled off the upset. But Corrales, after getting some extra time after he purposefully took out his mouthpiece, somehow got up. Then the unthinkable happened, the thing you only see in movies. While everybody waited for Castillo to finish him off, Corrales landed a bomb. Then another. And another. The crowd went apoplectic; nobody could believe what they were seeing. Castillo went limp on the ropes; his eyes rolled back in his head. The referee jumped in to save him at the 2:06 mark (see the photo above). The stop was still controversial, but it was the right call. Castillo was blotto; defenseless.

It was named the fight of the year and will almost surely be named fight of the decade. Probably the fight of the century. I bumbed into sports commentator Jim Gray in the hotel afterward and he told me it was the best fight he'd ever seen. But Corrales hit on hard times after that; he fell into debt with five children, separated from his wife, struggled in the ring when he managed to make weight. The Castillo fight was his moment, his masterpiece. When you witness something like that, you never forget it. And nobody in that crowd of about 5,000 will ever forget Diego "Chico" Corrales.

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