At nearly six feet, Corrales is an uncommonly tall lightweight, with polished skills and a taste for combat. He quickly ascended the ranks, winning his first 33 pro fights, all but six by knockout. He then returned to Sacramento and was eyeing a big money fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. Life was good. Then Corrales's pride--this time horribly, indefensibly misguided--wreaked havoc. In July 2000 he received a phone call from his pregnant wife, Maria, that he interpreted as insulting. Corrales, who by way of explanation says that "alcohol was involved," returned home to assault the 98-pound Maria, leaving her with a broken collarbone and ribs and a bruised spine. Corrales was charged with felony domestic violence. Though the baby survived, the deputy district attorney called the beating "absolutely brutal."
As Corrales awaited trial, the fight went on as planned in January 2001. Mayweather, not surprisingly, trumpeted Corrales's arrest and vowed to "beat Corrales like a dog on behalf of all the battered women in the world." He also invited Maria, who had divorced Corrales, to sit in the front row and watch him pummel her ex-husband. She declined. Mayweather did give Corrales a beating, and against Corrales's protestations--foolish pride, again--his corner threw in the towel in the 10th round.
Worse punishment was to follow. In February '01, Corrales pleaded guilty to felony domestic violence and spent 14 months in a California state prison. "It's a different world in there," he says. "Guys getting sliced open, a guy trying to escape getting shot. I saw things there you wouldn't believe."
Corrales says he left prison not only deterred but also reformed, and his conduct since suggests as much. He met his current wife, Michelle, before he went to prison; they live with their four children on a Las Vegas cul-de-sac. A wild night entails swimming in the backyard pool or watching tapes of old fights in their home theater. "My wife met Diego and was like, He was the one who went to jail?" says his promoter, Gary Shaw. "For the life of me I can't square it [either]."
Since Corrales's release from prison in 2002, he's gone 7--1 with six KOs. In his lone defeat, to Joel Casamayor, Corrales suffered severe cuts inside his mouth, and the ring doctor called the fight after six rounds, over Corrales's protests. "I've never seen a fighter so willing to pay the price," says Goossen. "Diego has unbelievable reserves."
If all goes according to plan, Corrales won't need to tap those reserves on Saturday night. Corrales plans to use his reach and athleticism to keep the action on the outside. "Everyone wants another great battle, and I think they'll get it," Corrales says. "It just might not have the same look."
Then again, if the conservative strategy doesn't work and Corrales finds himself locked in another slasher flick of a fight, he'll deal with it. "Whatever I have to do, I'll do," he says, the smile disappearing for the first time in hours. "A lot of fighters say it, but I mean it: I will die in that ring."