Image Credit: HBO Championship Boxing
Mayweather vs Corrales: January 20 2001
On this day 17 years ago two of boxing’s up and coming superstars meet in Las Vegas, Nevada at the MGM Grand. Diego Corrales challenged Ring No. 2 ranked Super Featherweight and #7 Pound-For-Pound Floyd Mayweather Jr. for the WBC super featherweight title.
Odds makers had Mayweather, 23, a 6-5 betting favorite as the fighters began their ring walks. Corrales, also 23, had initially weighed in two pounds over. He returned to the scales 90 minutes and one sauna session later to make the 130 pound limit.
Corrales possessed tremendous punching power and would look to force Mayweather to stand and trade. The champion’s game plan was to use his superior hand and foot speed to outbox and outhustle his challenger.
HBO’s Larry Merchant described the matchup as “This is quicker and slicker against bigger and stronger.”
Corrales was facing legal trouble outside the ring while Mayweather was making headlines with a very public spat with his father. Merchant noted that the great fighters could put aside distraction and take care of their business in the ring.
The first round established the vast superiority of Floyd Mayweather’s handspeed. Launching quick jabs and leaping in with lead rights, Mayweather was able to pop Corrales seemingly at will. Although Mayweather moved from side to side in between his single-punch bursts, Corrales had no problem cutting off the ring. Time and again, Mayweather found himself trapped in a corner, with a much larger Corrales moving in for some offense. But every time Corrales would let his hands go, Mayweather would simply duck and weave, tie Corrales up, or spin out to center ring. Corrales was lucky to catch a few scant body shots in these corner exchanges, his only landed blows of the round.
After the first round ended, Floyd Mayweather, Sr., exiled to the front row, shouted to his estranged son “Keep this up and we’ll have him out of here in 8 or 9 rounds.” He was one round off. Mayweather, Jr. could be seen leaning through the ropes to catch his father’s unsolicited advice… and he followed it. Mayweather simply continued along at the exact same pace for the entire fight, and sure enough Corrales slowly broke down.
Official PunchStat numbers tallied only 60 landed blows for Corrales after 10 rounds of action… and in my opinion that number was a bit high. Corrales was unable to find Mayweather all night. In every round, Corrales followed Mayweather’s movement closely, keeping the pressure on. But his pressure was almost never accompanied by thrown punches. Corrales may not have thrown a single punch at center ring all evening, opting to save his limited offense for those times that he trapped Mayweather in a corner, or on the ropes. But he just couldn’t land. Meanwhile, Mayweather was tattooing him.
“Pretty Boy” only occasionally unleashed the four and five punch combinations that brought him to the spotlight several years ago, but he didn’t need to. Over and over, he simply launched his crisp, quick punches at Corrales. More than half the time, he landed clean. Corrales was mostly unfazed by Mayweather’s power, but the constant abuse swelled his face and wore him out. Mayweather was conscious to work the body, and by the mid rounds was fluidly mixing in liver shots with his hooks and crosses.
By the sixth round, Corrales’ frustration had grown while his knees had weakened. Although Corrales landed his best punch of the night in the sixth – a counter left hook that drew a grin from Mayweather – his fatigue was getting the better of him. Mayweather’s shots bounced off Corrales’ head prior to the sixth, but now his laser-guided bombs began swiveling Corrales’ head.
The seventh was a nightmare for Corrales. Moments after the bell to begin the round, Mayweather would give his best Roy Jones impersonation as he leaped at Corrales with a lead left hook. Corrales ate the punch and dropped immediately to his hands and knees. He got up and beat the count, but looked weak. Mayweather attacked when the fight resumed, and Corrales got in a good shot while Mayweather flurried on him. But a minute later, Mayweather caught Corrales with yet another flush lead hook, and this one made Corrales sit down. Corrales again rose, his legs looking even more frail. Mayweather flurried again, finally trapping Corrales in a corner for a change. Referee Richard Steele looked to be on the verge of stopping the bout when Corrales went down for a third time. It was unclear if Corrales wilted under Mayweather’s barrage, or if he consciously tried to take a knee to halt the flurry… but he was down again. When he got up, he appeared clear-headed, and Steele let the fight continue… but the bell sounded to save Corrales from further abuse. Judges are reluctant to score a round lower than 10-7 in a three knockdown round… but a 10-6 could have been justified given the completely one-sided action.
Believe it or not, Corrales had his best round in the eighth, although he lost that round, too. Fighting with more desperation, Corrales threw sustained punches for the first half of the round, but only a single left hook landed. The rest caught nothing but air. Mayweather easily tucked his chin behind his shoulder and slipped the incoming. These misses amounted to the final Corrales effort, as the missing seemed to only tire him out more, and he rarely threw another punch all night.
After a ninth round that saw Corrales follow Floyd around without throwing, Mayweather put an end to the contest in the tenth. Halfway through that round, he again popped Corrales with a short left hook. Corrales’ knees buckled, although he looked coherent. As Steele counted, Corrales consciously stayed down on one knee until 8, after which he popped up and was allowed to continue. Mayweather calmly continued his speedy assault, and a moment later, a straight right hand landed on Corrales’ chin. Corrales’ legs were gone, and the punch made him genuflect in place, his knees touching the canvas before he popped back up to a standing position. Corrales cursed himself, frustrated that his body could not do what he wanted. He was awake, unhurt, and extremely frustrated. But his corner had seen enough.
As Steele reached the count of five, Corrales began shouting “No! No! No! No!” His father/trainer was on the ring apron holding a towel. He was calling the fight. Steele didn’t see the forfeit, and might have accidentally let the bout continue had Corrales not protested and ran to the corner. But as soon as Steele saw the situation, he waved the bout over. Official result: Mayweather KO10.
Corrales was absolutely livid immediately after the repeatedly asking his corner “What the fuck are you doing?”. He felt he could continue and during the post fight interview when asked where he would go from here and he simply said “I don’t know”.
Mayweather on the other hand was in tears. Minutes after the bout, he could be seen bawling on the shoulder of his father, as the two tightly embraced.
Since January 20th in 2001, Mayweather has boxed 25 more times and he has claimed titles up at lightweight, light-welterweight, welterweight and light-middleweight compiling an overall ledger of 50-0 27KO. However, some say he has never looked better than when he was chopping down Chico.
As for Corrales, he went on to engage in some fantastic wars; his 2005 epic with Jose Luis Castillo being a fight that will never be forgotten. Sadly, he left us far too young, when a motorbike accident took his life in 2007. Then aged just 29, Corrales’ final ring record reads 40-5 33KO.
By: Chris Henderson