Casamayor closes trilogy with split win over Corrales
Ringside by Mike Sloan and Victor Perea
Photos by Rick Guzman
In an odd and unexpected twist of fate, twice weigh-in jilted Diego Corrales was stripped of his world lightweight title because he, like his nemesis Jose Luis Castillo twice, failed miserably to make the 135-pound limit.
Because he couldn't make the weight each time he stepped onto the scale, his world title belt was up for grabs only for challenger Joel Casamayor. Had Chico prevailed in his rubber match against Casamayor, the lightweight world title would have been deemed vacant. Nevertheless, it was Casamayor who had his hand raised after twelve rather uneventful rounds and it was the Cuban who walked away with a new, shiny belt around his waist as he exited the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
It was a fight that was one of the most anticipated showdowns of 2006, as fight fans who witnessed Corrales and Casamayor's first two epic battles expected nothing less than sheer fireworks and breathtaking drama. However, after the conclusion of just the opening round of the contest, the scattered and sparse crowd of several thousand (half the arena’s capacity) booed lustily, irritated at the action inside the ring (or lack thereof).
For the first few rounds the two combatants patiently stalked each other and were a bit coy about engaging. Casamayor was able to build upon an early lead as it was he, not Corrales, who landed the harder, cleaner shots even though for the first few rounds those punches seemed a bit few and far between.
The fight itself became interesting in the fifth when Corrales scored the only knockdown of the evening, although it was far from one of the many highlight reel knockdowns he's scored throughout his remarkable career. Casamayor leaned in to punch Corrales with a right cross, but he inadvertently stepped on Corrales' left foot, causing him to slip. Corrales was able to land a glancing left hook while Casamayor stumbled and the force of the blow planted Casamayor onto his gloves and knees. Once Casamayor sprung back up onto his feet, he angrily protested referee Kenny Bayless' call and the pro-Casamayor booed as well. Because of the ruling from Bayless, all three ringside officials ruled the fifth round a 10-8 round in favor of "Chico."
"I slipped," Casamayor expressed after the fight. "It definitely was not a knockdown; I got pushed."
Casamayor was able to resume his slight dominance and was able to peck and chip away at Corrales' seemingly too passive demeanor. Little by little Casamayor added to his lead, but the 1992 Olympic gold medallist was hardly dazzling the crowd and was never putting Corrales in danger of being dropped or stopped.
Corrales did land his fair share of punches down the stretch, but it seemed as though whenever Corrales landed a solid shot or two, Casamayor was there to counter the attacks beautifully. Corrales didn't look like the crushing bruiser with murderous knockout power and he didn't try to impose his will upon Casamayor like he has done in virtually every fight of his career. And because Corrales didn't press the action like Casamayor had wanted, the Cuban wasn't given as many opportunities to counter with his trademark attacks.
In the end, and on the official scorecards, the fight wound up being much closer than most figured. The vast majority of the writers in the media section as well as the surrounding fans felt Casamayor had won the fight clearly, but the official verdict conflicted that notion. While judges Nobuaki Uratani and Adalaide Byrd favored Casamayor 115-112 and 116-111, respectively, judge Jerry Roth saw it 114-113 for Corrales. Roth's score elicited even more boos from the crowd, but once Casamayor was announced as the winner via split decision, those boos morphed into cheers of relief. For the record, FightNews had it 115-113 for Casamayor, who improved to 34-3-1 with 21 KOs.
"I won the fight clearly and thankfully the judges did the right thing," Casamayor stated. "I was concerned about the decision when the fight was over, but I knew they (judges) wouldn't take it away from me."
As for Corrales, the Sacramento native who dipped to 40-4 with 33 KOs, his immediate future is uncertain. Corrales stated his agitation about being declared the loser in the battle, a fight he thought he had won. He didn't seem as into the fight as most would expect him to be and maybe his weight issues that almost nixed the fight played a role in the outcome of the contest. Corrales couldn't be reached for comment immediately following the fight and before the post-fight press conference.
"Corrales is a good guy," Casamayor said. "I know some things were said before the fight but I'll do anything and say anything before a fight when I get prepared. I have no bad feelings about him; we are good now. He is amigo. I was disappointed about the weight issue, but I am happy we were still able to fight."
As for Casamayor's future, he knows that time is of the essence. He is now in his mid thirties and knows that he has little time left to secure the huge fights he so desperately covets.
"I want Marco Antonio Barrera next," he shouted. "That is the only fight I want right now; Barrera!" —Mike Sloan
Barerra vs. Casamayor anyone?