Reyes will do as pinch-hit

Jan 31, 2006 6:42 AM

Oops. Another big fight bit the dust when Diego (Chico) Corrales injured some ribs in training, leaving his great rival, Jose Luis Castillo, with a substitute dance partner for Feb. 4 in El Paso.

What was to have been the rubber match of an incredible series — certainly the best since Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales — now turns into a "tuneup" for Castillo at the contractual weight of 137 pounds. The Showtime must go on, of course, so the replacement is another member of Gary Shaw’s team, Rolando Reyes.

No, he’s not much, although when given "the biggest opportunity of my life," responded well with one of the better lines of the year (yeah, it’s early) when he got the news: "I was ecstatic, I was the happiest man in Oxnard."

If you happen to come across a betting line for this, go for the OVER, whatever it might be. Castillo, of course, has to be in that letdown mode — looking forward to showing that his one-punch knockout of Corrales was no fluke, that it wasn’t just the result of his not even trying to make the 135-pound lightweight limit.

And Reyes isn’t that bad. He has two-inch height and three-inch reach advantages over Castillo and prefers to box behind his jab on the outside, which is what he will have to do. Castillo has said it might take him a few rounds to figure out the new opponent. He already had Corrales down to a tee shot.

And making 137 may not be all that easy for the man I rank No. 5 on my pound-for-pound list, behind only Floyd Mayweather Jr., Winky Wright, Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera.

But Castillo is a professional, which makes me believe his not making weight last October was no accident. He knows that Reyes stands between him and a shot at fighter of the year because of an ambitious schedule. The plan is for Castillo to somehow make 135 one last time, face Corrales in April and then go up to 140 against undefeated Miguel Cotto.

Of course, Pacquiao has taken the early lead on fighter of the year considerations with his brilliant destruction of Erik Morales. I never thought I’d see El Terrible get booed for retreating and running, the way he did at the end of the ninth round, a completely beaten and demoralized fighter.

I must confess, it was ignorance that caused me to miss really touting Pacquiao in the rematch with Morales. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the stunning tenth-round dismissal that I got to see how the Pac Man destroyed Barrera in their 2003 clash. I had never seen that fight for some reason. But watching the HBO replay, I saw Pacquiao doing all the things he was supposed to do against Morales the first time — use his right hand, go to the body, and give lateral movement.

In my latest pound-for-pound rankings. I will not punish Morales too harshly though he has now lost two in a row (remember Zahir Raheem last September) and three out of four (the rubber match with Barrera).

I will punish Zab Judah, who not only blows most of his big payday against Mayweather on April 8 (can’t blame Pretty Boy for accepting a $2 million hit though it wasn’t his fault Judah didn’t train for Carlos Baldomir) but falls completely off the page.

Okay, for all you inquiring minds, Mayweather is still No. 1. He is not the one ducking everybody else. Winky Wright, who I make to be the big chalk over Jermain Taylor even if they fought in Little Rock, is No. 2 with Pac Man, Barrera and Castillo rounding out the top five. The Marquez brothers - Rafael still on top, Juan Manuel next followed by Corrales at No. 8.

I’ve moved Ricky Hatton all the way to No. 9, followed by Morales, because I don’t want to put Antonio Tarver in the top 10 — not after the way he looked against the aged Roy Jones Jr. and for calling out Mike Tyson. Glencoffe Johnson is next, followed by Taylor and Bernard Hopkins. At No. 14, I have Martin Castillo, though on my scorecard he lost by a point to Alexander Munoz on the Pacquiao-Morales II undercard.

Castillo showed a lot by rebounding from a first-round knockdown and cuts around both eyes from accidental head butts in defeating the tough Venezuelan who is 0-2 against Castillo, but 28-0 with 26 knockouts against the rest of the world.

Castillo is followed by Jeff Lacy, Joel Casamayor, Miguel Cotto, Cory Spinks, Antonio Margarito, O’Neil Bell, Zahir Raheem, Kassim Ouma and two more superflyweights like Castillo — Fernando Montiel and Munoz.