It strikes me as strangely poetic that three of the most significant fighters of their generation should all be pursuing relevance and redemption this weekend. Erik Morales, Jose Luis Castillo and Zab Judah all hope to eek one last hurrah from their respective careers. Most notable is Morales’ attempt to defend the WBC’s Light-Welterweight belt, followed by Judah’s eliminator bout with Vernon Paris and lastly Castillo, who looked jaded 5 years ago against Ricky Hatton, mixing it up with Jose Miguel Cotto. The oldest among them, Castillo, will be furthest from the top of the bill.
Invariably, and regardless of protestations to the contrary, fighters are always fighting for money. The glory and adulation are important and will summon even the richest residents of boxing’s retirement village, but usually, whatever wealth has been acquired, the motivation is money. Often because fighters are too easily parted from the purses they earn while in their pomp.
How else would Jose Luis Castillo, aged 38, and a professional fighter for 22 years, find the motivation to place his tired frame in harms way? As far back as 2007, there was plenty of evidence of Castillo’s ebbing effectiveness at world-level. His narrow victory over Herman Ngoudjo clearly illustrated the hard-miles he had covered in a punishing career were beginning to take their toll. Rumoured contractual and financial issues swirled around his next performance; a four-round stoppage loss to Ricky Hatton. Some sources proposed Castillo would net just a tiny fraction of his purse as fines incurred in failing to make weight for clashes with the now late Diego Corrales, alongside standard deductions cut deep into his £250,000 purse.
Now those who have stepped between the ropes competitively will regale interested parties with tales of the ugly reality that befalls those struck with an expertly delivered body shot. They will insist those who have never been hit in the way Hatton sank his left hand into Castillo’s right flank could never comprehend the devastation and pain it causes. Despite twice being dropped with shots to the body in my own minute fistic experience and witnessing fighters crumble to the floor in agony at ringside; I still always felt Jose a fraction too willing to exit at that point. I don’t pose the suggestion lightly as Castillo has been a fearless and proud fighter.
I digress, the point is, Jose Luis Castillo demonstrated ebbing effectiveness then and yet here we are 5 years later in the punishing welterweight division against capable gatekeeper Jose Miguel Cotto. Lets hope the intervening 5 year has not cut too deep into his talent and drive to unduly harm his hard-earned reputation. The absence of a significant victory in the intervening period suggests it may well have done.
As a writer who resists the temptation to send cease and desist letters to veterans seeking to earn a crust I will not join the throng of voices who would prefer to see the Mexican retired, but I do hope it isn’t too far away.
As the picture to the right shows, he has much beyond the ropes to occupy him.