Corrales never wanted to take it easy, and he paid a heavy price for his warrior’s mentality. Photo by Tom Casino-SHOWTIME
A long an illustrious career. A life-or-death fight to be remembered by. A tragic and untimely death.
The life of Diego Corrales, born on a day like today in 1977, has all the elements of a Hollywood drama.
Diego “Chico” Corrales Jr. was born in Columbia, South Carolina to a Colombian father and a Mexican mother. Moving to California at an early age, he became involved in violent street gangs in the Sacramento area until the death of a close friend led him to seek a safer environment. He found that environment in the Sacramento Police Athletic League’s Boxing Gym, and proceeded to compile an amateur boxing record of 105-12 mostly in the featherweight division, where he represented the US in the Pan American Games and the World Championship in 1995.
He made the jump to the world of professional boxing the following year, taking the featherweight division by storm and running a 28-0 streak before facing Robert Garcia for the IBF junior lightweight title.
Corrales stopped Garcia in seven rounds and defended his trinket against the likes of John Brown, Justin Juuko, Derrick Gainer and Angel Manfredy before he ran into a prime Floyd Mayweather in 2001.
Corrales saw his unbeaten streak come to an end in that fight, losing by TKO in 10 rounds after visiting the canvas in five separate occasions. Corrales moved on with a 4-0 streak before going 1-1 against Cuba’s Joel Casamayor, winning the WBO junior lightweight belt in the rematch after being stopped in the first clash and picking up the WBO lightweight belt against Brazilian power puncher Acelino Freitas in his next outing.
Corrales’ next fight, however, would be the one that etched his name in stone in the history books.
On May 7, 2005, Corrales met Jose Luis Castillo in a WBC/WBO unification bout that also featured The Ring lightweight title at stake.
In what is unanimously considered as the best fight of that year and one of the most extraordinary bouts in history, Corrales grabbed all three belts with a demolishing technical knockout win in the tenth round after a slugfest that lasted the entire fight, with both men trading vicious and murderous punches in a breathtaking spectacle. Castillo dropped Corrales twice in the dramatic tenth round, but Corrales recovered and rallied instantly to pin his foe to the ropes and batter him mercilessly until referee Tony Weeks halted the massacre.
The fight was declared Fight of the Year honors by both The Ring and the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Tragedy, however, would follow Corrales for the rest of his days after that glorious night.
He would never win a fight again, losing a rematch to an overweight Castillo five months later, and being denied the possibility of a rubber match when his nemesis showed up at the weigh-in with an unacceptable excess that caused the fight to be cancelled. Instead, he took a rubber match against Casamayor a few months later, losing by split decision to lose all his belts, and then dropping another decision against Joshua Clottey in 2007.
One month to the day after that fight, and two years to the date after his memorable war against Castillo, Corrales was killed in a three-vehicle accident near his Las Vegas while riding a Suzuki GSXR 1000 motorcycle.