On May 7th 2007, Corrales took the same risk he had taken so many times in the ring to thrill the fans at ringside. But this time there was no celebration of ‘Chico’s’ heroics, just the mourning of his passing as boxing lost one of it’s most exciting fighters of his generation.
Over the alcohol limit, Corrales attempted to overtake a vehicle on his 2007 Suzuki GSXR 1000. Corrales’ motorbike clipped the rear of the car he was overtaking at high speeds, sending Corrales into an on coming vehicle. At 29 years old Diego Corrales was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
The son of Colombian and Mexican parents, Diego was raised with fighting coursing through his veins. He endured a tough upbringing as many hispanic youths would in Sacramento.
All that Corrales experienced as a child reverberated when he stepped inside the ring where he displayed both skill and strength in equal measure.
In his first two years as a professional boxer, Corrales fought a remarkable 19 times, remaining unbeaten with his growing reputation as a puncher, rising to be one of America’s top prospects in the game.
By 1999 and at 28-0 (23KO’s), Diego set foot inside the ring for his first crack at a world championship. At 32-0 the now well respected trainer Robert Garcia was his opponent.
(A short video tribute to the great man):
The contest was hard fought but the rising star of the Super Featherweight division ripped away the IBF belt with a 7th round stoppage.
Corrales’ momentum was not lost as he went on to defend his title 4 times before meeting a young superstar in the making, by the name of Floyd ‘Pretty Boy’ Mayweather Jr.
The pair were combined for 57 wins with 45 coming inside the scheduled distance. But it was the future pound-for-pound king who was masterful, dominating Corrales – dropping him 5 times – before halting the brave warrior in the 10th. Corrales will never be remembered as Floyd Mayweather’s toughest opponent.
But for many, he brought out the very best performance of Mayweather’s stellar career.
A big man for his weight, Corrales took the opportunity to move up into the Lightweight division. But that was followed by a hard to miss opportunity against the talented Cuban Joel Casamayor. A chance to win back his old IBA title, Corrales took the opportunity.
But the former WBA ruler who had recently stripped Nate Campbell of his unbeaten record, halted Corrales in 6 rounds on cuts.
The ending warranted a rematch and Corrales duly beat the top rated Super Featherweight via split decision, earning the WBO title in the process.
Now 40 fights into his career, Corrales was rolling once again and showed once more his ability to dig a result out of the bag in a back and forth contest.
The WBO Lightweight champion, Acelino Freitas was unbeaten in 35 contests, with 31 knockouts – he was also the only other man to beat Casamayor at the time. Corrales came on strong after a slow start, flooring the champion three times before forcing him to quit in the 10th.
A two year break in his career after losing his unbeaten record – where he spent 14 months in jail – was all the rest-bite Corrales had seemingly had. But before finishing his career on the back of three defeats, there was one final spectacular performance for ‘Chico’ to share with the world. And this would be his finest of all.
For most who grew up in this generation of boxing, Corrales vs Jose Luis Castillo 1 is the greatest fight they have ever witnessed. That is no overstatement as the pair engaged in a thrilling toe-to-toe affair.
But what topped an unbelievable match-up off was the breathtaking 10th round of this WBC/WBO unification fight. Castillo was a proud veteran of 59 fights, and found himself behind going into the championship rounds.
But two knockdowns scored by Castillo had not only turned the tables on the scorecards, it had also seemingly broken the resistance and heart of Corrales.
But nothing Castillo threw that night would have stopped the willpower of Diego. Roaring back from the brink Corrales hurt Castillo before a relentless assault left Tony Weeks with no choice but to halt the contest.
A rematch saw Castillo gain an unfair advantage as he weighed in over 3lbs above the weight limit. In a similar style contest, the size difference was evident as Castillo won in the 4th round.
A third contest was set, but Castillo once again came in overweight, this time Corrales and his camp did not take the risk, the fight was cancelled and Castillo was sued by Corrales’ team.
Sadly Corrales’ drive seemed to have left him –whether it was before or after his second contest with Castillo is hard to tell, but he earned himself no plaudits when coming in 5lbs over the Lightweight limit ahead of a third contest with Casamayor.
Corrales was stripped of his title and Casamayor went on to win a split decision.
Corrales’ final fight took place at Welterweight where he was far too small to challenge the future world champion Joshua Clottey, losing comfortably on points.
Corrales’ career and life will be remembered fondly by all that witnessed his hey-day. He engaged in one of boxing’s greatest fights and one of sports’ finest comebacks.
Let’s hope that when Saul Alvarez and Amir Khan collide tonight, the fans in Las Vegas can be at least half as entertained as they were on this night, 11 years ago.
Diego was the epitome of a fighter. Boxing did not turn him into a risk taker. No, taking risks is what turned him into a boxer.
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