By Fiona Manning
Forget the recall. Forget Arnold. Forget Cruz and Gray and the host of politicians and wanna-be law makers dropping in and out of Tuesday’s race for Governorship on October 7.
The ‘other’ war takes place on October 4 between former IBF 130-pound champion Diego “Chico” Corrales and former WBA 130-pound titleholder Joel Casamayor.
These two men are competing in a genuine grudge match that can definitely be defined as “winner take all.”
Casamayor and Corrales, two of boxing’s most respected and appealing fighters face off in a sensational 12-round bout dubbed “October War” on the Evander Holyfield-James Toney undercard on Showtime Pay Per View Saturday (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Okay the fight is in Nevada, but both men went to the trenches in California and both call the pacific state home (Casamayor maintains a residence in Miami, Fl as well). Corrales still visits his Sacramento-base mom regularly and spent most of his life here.
This is the toughest fight either man has faced. It’s unusual that it would be categorized as such since a world title is not at risk but this fight will leave one career in the dust and send another for another shot at infinity.
For the first time in his illustrious career, 1996 Olympic gold medallist Casamayor is considered an underdog because Corrales towers above him and is considered to be a little fresher by the “experts.”
Casamayor is not a fighter to be underestimated however: there is his extensive amateur career, not to mention extensive pro career. He also, unlike Corrales is not on a comeback climb after a devastating loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Corrales, released from prison last year after serving 18 months for spousal corporal abuse has had a series of soft opponents during his climb back up the ropes again.
Casamayor has battled Yoni Vargas and tough, tenacious Nate Campbell in his quest to get back in the saddle with Brazilian superstar and WBA/WBO champion Acelino Freitas to whom he dropped a controversial decision in January last year.
On Monday, Casamayor and Corrales met face to face for a press conference at Sisley Restaurant in Sherman Oaks. The tension seethed between the two men who appear to actually dislike each other.
Both fighters departed for Las Vegas that day. On Wednesday, they met again at a public workout at Mandalay Bay Hotel and fight fans new the “October War” promo was no joke.
“He keeps saying he wants Freitas, like I don’t exist,” said Casamayor. “I just read an interview he did where all he talked about was Freitas. My name was never mentioned once. He has a fight with me first and let me tell you, he’s never fought anyone like me.
“Derrick Gainer might be a southpaw like me, but he is not as strong or as experienced as me. I am not a piece of cake.
“To get to Freitas, he’s got to get through me and let me tell you, after I finish with Corrales, guess who is going to be waiting at the head of the line for Freitas? It won’t be him. It will be me. We have unfinished business.”
Casamayor dearly wants to avenge his only career loss with Freitas but is also excited about the prospect of facing Erik “El Terrible” Morales, who has openly stated he wants Casamayor.
The Cuban exile is smarter than people think. “I would like to see this fight happen but I wonder if his promoter Bob Arum will let him fight me. I think he wants Erik to fight Carlos Hernandez [who also fights a PPV event on October 4] because he handles them both.”
It is fair to say both fighters have utterly dedicated themselves to their training for this fight. Both fighters acknowledged the ‘special ness’ of their opponent. Both men want to be champion again. You don’t have to push hard to learn they want it all back.
Casamayor has as usual left his family at home in Miami to focus on the fight at hand. Bob Santos who is working with him daily said Casamayor has been so dedicated this time, he has eschewed going out in the evenings at all.
“Joel is a bit of a night owl,” said Santos. “But not anymore. During this whole camp, he was in bed by 10. He was watching Corrales tapes and he was entirely focused on the gym work.”
In his last week of training at the 10 Goose Gym in Van Nuys, Casamayor sparred hard rounds daily with Yoni Vargas and a fighter who will only be identified as “The Fox” by Team Casamayor.
Casamayor is the first to admit that the grueling schedule he and trainer Joe Goossen worked out has put him in the best shape of his life.
For his part, Corrales traveled to Big Bear Lake, CA, the very popular mountain resort and trained there for the first time in his professional career.
The fighter, who left his longtime home in Sacramento to move to Las Vegas, said on Wednesday that the hard sparring has him very well toned and deeply conditioned. “I’m sorry I never went to the mountains before,” he said. “Everything they say about it is true.”
Corrales and trainer Danny Smith sparred a round robin of fighters. “Six rounds of work in the mountains is equivalent to 12 at sea level,” said Corrales. “Now if Casamayor doesn’t run, it’s on.”
Casamayor rolled his eyes. “I’ll knock him out in eight rounds,” he said. “That’s a promise.”