(This column is dedicated to the wonderful memories of one-of-a-kind Jack Welsh, one of my predecessors at GamingToday, but unfortunately he didn’t leave me any winners.)
In his last published pick, the late Jack Welsh was asked for an opinion on aturday night’s lightweight title showdown between Jose Luis Castillo and Diego (Chico) Corrales. He was quoted by fight publicist Fred Sternburg thusly: "Benny Leonard KO15. Love the way he fights from right to left." It was signed, "World Famous Sports Writer."
This is a fight worthy of a copout. In that same survey by Sternburg, I said I’d probably change my mind a dozen times as the two 135-pound champions made their way into the Mandalay Bay ring. This fight has draw written all over it.
I was serious. But since betting on draws is stupid at the underlay odds given by Vegas casinos, and since they don’t pay me the big bucks to sit on the fence, I must declare myself here and now.
No, I do not have a real opinion on this fight. Castillo, a pro’s pro, has become one of my favorites. I love the way he methodically, with no flash, goes about his business, cutting off the ring and beating down opponents slowly and exactly. He doesn’t have great one-punch power, but he has a great chin.
Chico, on the other hand, is one of the game’s best bangers. And I mean the "other" hand. He can take you out with a left hook or right cross. He is tall, skinny and though he gets knocked down a lot, he bounces back up. Since he moved up from 130 pounds, he seems to be a lot more resilient. He was able to survive some well-delivered blows by Acelino Freitas without blinking before destroying the Brazilian bomber and making him quit.
This is the irresistible force vs. the immoveable object, a great fight on paper. It is one where comparative results seemingly give the edge to Castillo. For example, his two fights with Floyd Mayweather Jr. were extremely close with many ringsiders thinking he actually won the first one. Mayweather dropped Corrales five times in a career-best performance.
Joel Casamayor beat Corrales the first time and though Chico got the decision in the
rematch with his new trainer, Joe Goossen, getting him to use that wonderful jab, I’m still not convinced the Cuban Olympic champion didn’t get jobbed again the way he did against Freitas. By contrast, there was no question that Castillo beat Casamayor, fair and square, if nip and tuck.
But using comparison scores can lead to picking Yeshiva Valley State over Southern Cal. Styles make fights and it would seem that Castillo’s work is really cut out for him against the taller, elegant counterpuncher. This is not a case where he has to break down a speedy opponent. He has to walk through fire to get to Corrales — fire much warmer than that thrown by either Mayweather or Casamayor.
And let’s not forget the mental state of Corrales when he fought Mayweather — about to go to prison for spousal abuse — in addition to his difficulties making weight.
This is a twice-delayed matchup. Both guys have been aiming for the other for quite a while. Corrales said the main reason he wants to fight Castillo is the great respect he has for the two-time champion. Let’s not forget, Castillo beat the very capable Stevie
Johnston to win the title the first time around. Unquestionably, he has a lot more names on his resume than does Corrales.
Corrales told me that despite the firepower on both sides, this could easily be a 12-round contest. Which again leads me to think about draws. In essence, then, I make this as close a fight as I can imagine. But, and there’s a very big "but," it is one that CAN be bet because of the odds.
There is no way I could lay 8-5 on Corrales, but I can take 13-10 on Castillo in this Showtime dilly. Castillo as an underdog is always good value, unless and until he moves up in weight and faces Kostya Tszyu or Mayweather again. In fact, Corrales also is contemplating moving to the rich junior welterweight landscape. Even their future plans are alike.
UNDERCARD NO SLOUCH EITHER
It’s a fight you don’t have to bet, but you must see. And the TV show has been enhanced by another good matchup, Juan Manuel Marquez defending his featherweight belts against three-time challenger (and split decision loser) Victor Polo.
Marquez looked a bit shaky in his first fight after climbing off the canvas three times in the first round last year against Manny Pacquiao. He figures to be a big favorite, but though I believe he will win against the tall southpaw, he is not worth whatever price is named (my guess is 3-1).
Polo can fight and he is extremely difficult to solve. I was there when I thought he handily beat Derrick Gainer and, in his last title shot, even the Brits thought he beat Scott Harrison.
If you have to take a flyer, Polo is probably a losing overlay. Save your money for Castillo.