As a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I am naturally (and fervently) hoping for a World Series rematch between my beloved Red Birds and those once-every-86-years upstarts from Boston. I just know it will turn out different this time.
And maybe it will, but let's examine for a moment that term "rematch." In baseball (and in any other team sport) it really just means that the current collection of players contracted to one franchise will play another game, or series of games, against whatever bunch of guys happens to be representing a second franchise this time around.
Dramatic for the fans, sure, but pretty much business as usual for the players. After all, if the Cardinals do get another crack at the Red Sox, they'll be facing a shortstop, Edgar Renteria, who was a stalwart for St. Louis last fall. Sounds more like a remix than a rematch. What was it Jerry Seinfeld said? We're all just rooting for laundry.
When it comes to boxing, though, we're dealing with flesh and blood. The rematch has long been a staple of the fight game, a way for a promoter to squeeze a little more juice out of a marketable pairing, or for a fighter and his people to latch onto another payday, even as they bluster about revenge, redemption and revalidation.
"Let's do it again!" is the call. Well, OK, sure, let's. Now consider the fighters' perspective: You've got to get back into the ring with the same guy you faced the first time. No new shortstops, no beefed-up bullpen, just 12 more rounds. That doesn't mean that there aren't dramatic reversals of fortune in rematches. It just means that, in boxing, rematches are concrete -- and personal.
Which brings us to Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. The fact that on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, these two men will climb back into a ring together and resume the combat they initiated on May 8 is awe-inspiring. Sure, these guys are professional prize fighters and they're doing it for the money -- Corrales, the WBC, WBO and Ring Magazine 135-pound champion (40-2, with 33 KOs), will earn more than $2 million, Castillo (52-7-1, 46) about $1.25 million.
But did you see that first fight? From the opening bell, the two boxers stood toe-to-toe and traded shots, and they never let up. For sustained action -- for round after round of punishment mutually dealt and mutually absorbed by two professionals of the very highest caliber -- Corrales and Castillo may well be unmatched in the history of boxing. They did Hagler-Hearns for 10 rounds.
And then there was that finish: Corrales, his face already battered and swollen, was dropped not just once, but twice in the 10th. Then he got up to unleash a furious barrage of punches that rendered Castillo helpless and on the ropes, where he was saved by referee Tony Weeks' calling the fight. It was a stunning resolution and, afterward, as the crowd of 5,000 showered them with an ovation, the two fighters spoke of their respect for each other. Corrales called it "an honor" to have faced Castillo.