Few fighters carve out the type of niche string-bean former Lightweight and Super-Featherweight champion Diego Corrales did in a little over a decade in the ring. Perhaps Arturo Gatti or Johnny Tapia command comparable affection from the fans who revelled in, and embraced the gutsy puncher’s career. Corrales was a competition hungry professional, game to the last and willing to fight the opponents ticket buying fans wanted to see. He was real. Not a throwback to some romanticised bygone age, but a genuine fighter and the type of elixir the sport needed in these troubled times.
It is a reflection of that courageous ethos and the youth from which he is stolen that his loss has reverberated around the boxing world. A motorbike crash in Las Vegas, where the Sacramento born fighter lived, proved one battle Corrales couldn’t out-last or out punch and he died yesterday still months from his 30th birthday. A tragic loss to the family he leaves behind, for whom he was more than simply a great fighter, and to the sport of boxing to which he was a fine ambassador in the ring.
In these times of pampered champions and contenders Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales was a welcome beacon. A fighter willing to risk his reputation by facing the best opponents available. You get a sense of Corrales, the fighter, simply by reflecting on his last seven opponents; Castillo three times, Casamayor three times, Acelino Freitas and on his Welterweight debut, his last fight, he opted to tackle Joshua Clottey – the most feared non-titlist in the division. No warm-ups, confidence builders or tune up fights. No walk-throughs, ‘knock over jobs’ or ripe journeymen, just premier fighters in their respective primes.
Corrales was a fan’s fighter.