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Castillo fights with legacy

Story & photos by Felipe Leon

Despite 70 professional fights, titles won and lost, controversies inside and outside the ring and on the scales, Jose Luis "El Temible" Castillo (60-9-1, 52KO), who faces Alfonso Gomez (21-4-2, 10KO) Saturday night on the undercard of "The Event" at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, TX, will be best remembered for the epic battle he waged against the late Diego "Chico" Corrales on May 7th, 2005 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.

"I am very grateful for that fight. It is considered one of the best fights in the history of the sport," Castillo says regarding the 2005 fight of the year which he lost by 10th round TKO. "It is an honor for me that Corrales' style lent itself for us to have that type of fight.

"I do think that I have been involved in that type of fight more than once, just off the top of my head, I can think of my fight against Julio Alvarez which was a very similar fight and with Javier Juaregui in Guadalajara. There have been many but fortunately with Corrales, it was for a world title and the audience was larger."

Coincidently, in the aforementioned bouts, Castillo of Mexicali, MX, by way of Empalme, Sonora,was defeated in both in the same manner as with Corrales: by TKO in the tenth round.

The 20-year veteran has not fought north of the border since coming up short against Argentinean Sebastian Lujan at the Sycuan Resort and Casino in San Diego, CA, by unanimous decision in July of 2008 and has not had a match up of note since stepping up to the jr. welterweight division for the first time in a losing effort against "Hitman" Ricky Hatton.

Castillo was stopped in the fourth round by a devastating body shot.

"I would say that the fight against Ricky Hatton was my last big fight that I was involved in," he says of his challenge for the vacant WBC title. "With Sebastian Lujan, I really didn't train. After that bout, I kind of retired but now I am motivated because I want an opportunity for a world title. I know that I am getting up there in years, you can say that I am old, but I hope that I can get the opportunity soon."

Although the 36-year-old Castillo says he retired after the Lujan bout, he was right back in the ring with less than elite competition only six months later. Fighting four times in 2009, Castillo defeated journey men James Wayka, Roberto Valenzuela, Christian Solano and Carlos Urias, all by KO, on his road back to the limelight.

Now, Castillo is given the opportunity to show his wares on the Pay-Per-View undercard of the first mega-fight of the year when pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao defends his WBA title against Ghanna tough guy Joshua Clottey on Saturday, March 13th.

"I appreciate the opportunity. Like I said before, I haven't fought in the United States since the Ricky Hatton or the Sebastian Lujan fights and that was almost three years ago," Castillo shares after a heavy sparring session at the Sports World Gym in Tijuana, MX. "I haven't fought in a major fight because of some professional problems but those have been worked out little by little. I am expecting in giving a great fight and to fight now more often and hopefully soon dispute a world title."

Castillo is no stranger to controversy, more notably his problems with the scales in his Corrales fights and more recently in a title eliminator against Timothy Bradley in early '08, recognizes that he needed to find his way back to his chosen profession.

"It was many factors. Three months before my Ricky Hatton fight, a brother of mine died, Julio Cesar, he was only 28-years-old," he explains. "In early May, I went through divorce proceedings with my ex-wife and other smaller personal issues that led to me to lose focus and motivation. I was treated with therapy and I found my love for boxing again and here we are."

Where he is, is on the threshold of jumping back on the boxing radar but first he must get past Alfonso Gomez, alumni of the first season of "The Contender."

"He has skill, a bit difficult because he knows how to move and what can I say? He is a good Mexican fighter," Castillo states regarding his next opponent.

Gomez, a virtual unknown before his inclusion on the then NBC broadcast boxing reality TV series, is now a man on the rise in his division where he has faced and defeated well known names as the late Arturo Gatti and Ben Tackie. More recently, Gomez got past the highly touted Jesus Soto Karass on the Pacquiao-Cotto undercard late last year.

"It is a very tough fight. Castillo is coming back from a hiatus of some years but he is working very well," Romulo Quirarte, the renown Mexican trainer based in Tijuana, states regarding Castillo's opponent. "We expect a difficult fight but we hope that the result is in our favor. He is a tough and difficult opponent. He has proved himself more than once. He has beaten some good fighters and he is a dangerous opponent."

Castillo and Quirarte have a long history which dates back when the battle ready trainer helmed the regimen of Julio Cesar Chavez and who Castillo served as chief sparring partner in the 90's.

"I have practically trained my whole life with Don Romulo and often in Tijuana," "El Temible" says with a smile. "Like I have said before, recently I wasn't myself and hadn't trained in Tijuana but now I am happy to be here with the old man because he has always supported me with my professional as well as my private life."

The former two-time WBC lightweight champion is confident that he and Gomez are capable of giving perhaps the fight of the night.

"I think our styles can give a great fight. I think my style matches up pretty well with any style out there," he explains. "Hopefully on the 13th, we match up well and I am able to give a great fight, the kind the fans are used to seeing from me."

With both fighters using the come-forward style of Mexican warriors, Quirarte feels that the experience advantage of his charge compared to Gomez might be enough to lead them to victory.

"Work, discipline and intelligence outside of the ring and experience inside the ring, those are the tools that Castillo needs," Quirarte states matter of factly.

Castillo thinks that along his vast experience, there are other factors that will help him get his hand raised on Saturday night.

"First of all, motivation since I wasn't motivated in my most recent fights and second, to put on the pressure, not to give him the opportunity to think and finally my conditioning," Castillo says.

With his problems outside the ring which have led to less than stellar performances and hiccups at the scales, Castillo knows he has much to prove in the ten round welterweight bout.

"I want to prove that there is enough Jose Luis Castillo for a world title run at 140 lbs.," Castillo says ragarding his future plans. "I want to be able to shut the mouths that have been critizicing me for a while now. I am expecting to do just that on the 13th."

"I would like to rematch Ricky Hatton and fight Timothy Bradley who I have some unfinished business with from Cancun," Castillo says referencing his failed title elimination bout versus the current WBO champion. "It was said that I wasn't going to make weight but there were other factors there that led for that fight to collapse."

A loss to Gomez would more than likely mean the end of the road for the aged veteran. If that would be the case, Castillo would like to be remembered for more than that fateful night in 2005 in which Corrales came back from two knockdowns to stop Castillo in the tenth round.

"I don't know. I would be happier if the fans remembered me as a warrior that gave great fights, independently if the fights were considered the fight of the year or not," he says pensively. "I do feel honored because many people consider me a warrior inside the ring."


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