Friday, February 9, 2007


If they ever make a movie about Jose Luis Castillo’s life they should call it "Pain & Punishment" because that is exactly what most of the WBC Lightweight Champion’s title challengers feel after a fight with him. The movie would have the hero in Castillo, the blood and guts that most of his opponents end up shedding, and daring rescues of opponents made by intervening referees over the years.

Last night at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas another page of the pain and punishment script was written as title challenger Julio Diaz was systematically dismantled in ten rounds of a fistic drama where he too ended up having to be rescued at the end. The manner in which Castillo breaks down nearly all of his opposition is like a man slowly taking down a big tent. One peg at a time, one pole pulled apart here, one over there and finally the whole thing comes down in a big rumpled mess. Castillo took down another tent last night when he uprooted enough pegs and pulled apart enough poles until Julio Diaz slowly crumpled to the floor.

There’s a lot of ways to describe headbutts, bodyshots, bloody faces and swollen eyes so use your own imagination. Lump all of it into twenty-nine minutes and twenty-three seconds and that’s what this fight was. Castillo plodded forward, took a step here a step there, and before you knew it he was exactly where he wanted to be. Castillo has an uncanny ability to walk opponents down, pound them with well-placed shots all over their bodies and before long things to begin to happen in his favor.

There’s an old saying in boxing, and probably in plumbing, that "pressure bursts pipes". Well, Jose Luis Castillo had Julio Diaz leaking from the blood faucet that was his face for much of the night. Mexico’s Castillo, 135, entered this fight with a record of 51-6-1(45)KO against Julio "The Kidd" Diaz, 134 ½, from Coachella, California who came in with a record of 30-2 (22)KO. Diaz comes from a fighting family of brothers and at age twenty-five he is the youngster of the bunch. The tempo of this fight was set from the very beginning as Diaz moved quickly and punched smartly while Castillo forged ahead behind hard, well-placed, meaningful punches.

The way this one was going to play out was easy to see as Castillo came ahead like he always does while looking to land left hooks to the body and get close to his opponent. The only question in the minds of the 4,765 who showed up was how long Diaz would be able to hang in there. A survey of the audience wouldn’t have found too many that were predicting a Julio Diaz win, but nevertheless, Diaz has to be given credit for making a fight out of it all.

Julio Diaz’ pipes finally stopped leaking at 2:23 of the tenth. Castillo had been poking holes in him all night and with blood trickling from cuts above both eyes and with his left eye swollen shut referee Richard Steele had seen enough. Diaz was decked for the second time in the round with an assortment of punches that had "hurt" written all over them. Diaz was aware of what was going on and he even pounded his glove on the canvas in one last sign of defiance and frustration. Steele got to eight out of ten, scrutinized Diaz the entire time, and then called it off at the perfect moment.

The Castillo win sets up a huge fight on May 7 in Las Vegas with WBO Lightweight Champion Diego Corrales. It’s a fight that was supposed to already have happened but has been called off twice due to factors which have primarily concerned the amount of money each man was to be paid. In the lightweight division of 2005 it’s the most competitive and attractive match that can be made. It’s a compelling fight that presents a variety of challenges for each man and the betting parlors will be hard pressed to come up with a favorite. Jose Luis Castillo doesn’t show up on any of these perplexing "pound-for-pound" rankings that this writer has seen lately. It’s a travesty because Castillo has accomplished as much over the course of the last five years as anyone while winning the WBC Lightweight title twice and chalking up five successful title defenses. Castillo has given Floyd Mayweather the toughest twenty-four rounds of his career and beaten 135-pound stalwarts like Joel Casamayor, Juan Lazcano, Cesar Bazan and Stevie Johnston.

The well-regarded and respected Al Bernstein called the fight last night for the Showtime network. Bernstein has seen the best fighters and the best fights of the last twenty-five years from ringside and perhaps Al put it best when he said about Castillo, "He’s a great fighter, make no mistake about it."

March 2005

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