If ever a fighter earned himself the right to be called a warrior in the ring, that man was Diego “Chico” Corrales. During his eleven-year professional career, Corrales was one of the most exciting, fan-friendly, fighters of his era.
Corrales was a tall, rangy, box-fighter, who possessed underrated boxing skills, but often preferred to brawl rather than box with his opponents, relying on his big punch, more than his boxing ability, to gain him victory. Most of Corrales’s early opponents fell quickly underneath his blazing fists. Corrales’s gung-ho brand of fighting, along with his personable and emotional out-of-the-ring demeanor, soon made Corrales a favourite amongst the fans.
After turning pro in early 1996, at the age of 19-years-old, Corrales ran up a record of 28-0 with 24 knockouts, before being granted a shot at Roberto Garcia, an IBF world Super-featherweight championship. Corrales showed he belonged upon the big stage when he ripped the world title away from Garcia, with a 7th round stoppage on October 23, 1999. After making four defences of his world title, Corrales took on Floyd Mayweather Jr. for the WBC World Super-featherweight championship, on January 20, 2001, and was stopped in the 10th round after being floored five times. It was Corrales’s first defeat as a professional and he took his loss, and the destructive nature of it, badly. Behind his amiable persona, Corrales was a complex individual, with a dark side that went all the way back to a rough and dysfunctional youth in Sacramento.
Corrales’s private life imploded after his loss to Mayweather Jr. and he ended up spending time in jail due to a domestic altercation with his ex-partner.
From having the boxing world at his feet at one moment, Corrales found his reputation and his boxing career shattered. Yet, he bounced back, emerging from prison focused upon redemption, both professionally and personally. Corrales returned to the ring in 2003 after two years out, and compiled a string of four comeback wins, before taking on the talented Cuban Joel Casamayor, on October 4, 2003, for the vacant International Boxing Association Super-Featherweight title. The two put on a spectacular and exciting fight, until Corrales was stopped in the 6th round, due to a severely cut mouth. Despite the defeat, Corrales had re-established himself in the big time. Five months later, Corrales won a rematch with Casamayor, beating him on points, to win the vacant WBO world super-featherweight title.
“Chico” had entered the peak of his career, which would last two years, and be filled with the most savage of pugilistic drama. Corrales moved up to lightweight and won the WBO World Lightweight championship from Acelino Freitas, winning by a 10- round stoppage after a savage fight. In his next fight, on May 7, 2005, Corrales took on WBC World Lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo, in a unification battle.The ensuing contest turned out to be one of the fights of the decade, and one of the most savage brawls seen for years, with ’Chico’ snatching victory from seemingly certain defeat.
Corrales paid a big price for victory; he never seemed to be the same fighter again. In a rematch with Castillo, five months after their first bout, he gave away weight because Castillo failed to make the weight limit. Corrales was knocked out in the 4th round, his former recuperative powers conspicuous in their absence.
Corrales had two more fights and lost both, being out-pointed by Joel Casamayor and Joshua Clottey. In his last fight against Clottey on April 7, 2007, Corrales fighting at welterweight, looked a pale shadow of the fighter he had been just a short time before; the brutal wars had taken their toll.
Just a month after his final fight, on May 7, 2007, Diego Corrales was killed in a motorcycle accident near his home in Las Vegas. His death came exactly two years to the day after his greatest victory in the ring, his 10th round stoppage of Jose Luis Castillo.
Some people are born to live quiet and die unknown, while others are born to explode loud and fierce, for all to see, and once seen are never forgotten.