A broken jaw, but not a broken spirit

By Benn Schulberg


A broken jaw, but not a broken spirit

It was supposed to be a coming out party for former junior lightweight and lightweight champion Diego Corrales (40-4), but instead his welterweight debut against Joshua Clottey (30-2-1) was a rude awakening that ended with Corrales suffering his third straight defeat, along with a broken jaw and nose.  The official scorecards read 100-87, 97-90, and 98-89.  There was no magical comeback on this night, as Clottey didn’t break his hands as he did in his last fight against Antonio Margarito and Corrales didn’t have the firepower to thrill us with a knockout from the brink of defeat as he did against Jose Luis Castillo in their classic first fight. 

The Shrine Mosque in Springfield, Missouri was packed to its capacity as 2,300 fans anticipated a boxing showdown that doesn’t often come to town, in fact, never comes to town unless you consider the Toughman competition a “boxing” showdown.  That lovely showcase of talent graced the stage at the Shrine until it was outlawed after the commission found out a participant died in a nearby state.  A good decision indeed for the state of Missouri and finally Springfield was rewarded with the only big fight that may ever come to town.  The fans inside the Mosque favored Corrales and cheered loudly as he entered the ring in Tyson-style black trunks with a cutout towel serving as his robe.  This was a last-minute wardrobe change as UPS somehow failed to deliver Corrales’ trunks and robe in time for the fight.

Clottey had to lose two pounds after Friday’s official weigh-in to match Corrales’ weight of 149 pounds but by the time he entered the ring he had gained twenty-pounds compared to Corrales’ ten and it showed.  The fight started off fast with both combatants going toe-to-toe, but by the end of Round one it was clear that Corrales was in trouble.  His legs wobbly courtesy of Clottey’s accurate combinations and uppercuts, Corrales fell to the canvas but Referee Mike England ruled it a slip.  Corrales was more aggressive in the second and third rounds, pushing Clottey back and landing more punches, but the Ghanaian native seemed undeterred by the attack and coolly waited for his time to strike.  And strike he did, closing the second strong with powerful left hooks and straight rights that sent Corrales back into the ropes as the bell sounded.  The third round told the story and the outcome of this fight as Diego fought hard and landed one of his trademark left hooks to the chin of Clottey, but after a moments hesitation, he returned fire and finished the round strong with uppercuts that he seemed to land at will which snapped Corrales’ head back with brutal force.

Ironically, Round four was the only one I gave to Corrales because he turned up the pressure and was more effective (my scorecard read 99-88), but it turned out to be his most damaging round because of a Clottey left hook that broke his jaw.  He fought on of course as only a warrior of his stature could do, but the excruciating pain was evident every time another left hook landed on the jaw.  “It hurt so bad I didn’t want to get hit anymore,” said Corrales.  “I’ve had broken ribs and other injuries but this was the most painful of all.”

Corrales was a survivor on this night, a role he’s not used to playing, but give him credit for battling right to the bitter end amidst an onslaught from a very capable welterweight contender in Clottey.  He took a terrible beating and by the end of the eighth round the referee looked ready to stop the fight as Corrales was backed into the ropes and pounded with four and five punch combinations.  Clottey turned up the heat in the ninth and Corrales could barely defend himself as blood was flowing from a cut over his right eye and his nose and jaw were broken.  Down hard compliments of another big combo, Corrales’ mouthpiece came out and he was given a brief respite before Clottey resumed his attack.  A straight right sent Corrales down once more in the tenth and to add insult to injury he was deducted a point because his mouthpiece came out again.  He explained later that he didn’t take it out deliberately but that he was unable to keep the mouthpiece in because of the broken jaw.  Hopelessly behind on the scorecards, he did manage to finish the fight standing, broken jaw and all, and vowed later that he would be back.  “If it wasn’t for the broken jaw in the fourth round this would’ve been a different fight but that’s how it goes,” said Corrales.  “I’m proud of myself.  I fought my ass off against one of the best welterweights in the world.”
Corrales’ broken jaw will take at least three-months to heal, according to the Fight Doctor himself, Ferdie Pacheco, who was there when Ali broke his jaw against Ken Norton.  If Corrales does decide to return as a welterweight he realizes that he needs to get physically stronger and work on his weight training in order to contend with the best in the division.  Despite his one-sided defeat and severe beating at the hands of Clottey, Corrales is confident that he has the ability to rise once more.  “I know I can beat Clottey and he knows that if it wasn’t for the broken jaw it would’ve been a different fight,” said Corrales.
Heart and courage are two attributes Diego Corrales clearly does not lack, but all that got him on this night was the worst beating of his career unless you count the Castillo fight in which he won with one eye.  As he himself said while he lay wounded in his dressing room, his eye still bleeding, his face swollen, his jaw throbbing in agony, “Maybe being fearless isn’t always such a good characteristic to have.”