But the action was purely mainstream that May 7 night, when the two men fought out of desperation for 10 rounds, cutting through language and culture. And nobody who saw the 10th round can comfortably count boxing out. Just the memory of Castillo, breaking through after nearly 30 minutes of nonstop action, flooring Corrales twice, is enough to give the sport a lifetime exemption. But how about Corrales, his face now a smeared paste of flesh, regaining his strength--nobody knows how--and knocking Castillo out? Top that?
On the off chance that two fighters might, fistic fans will endure the usual cynical promotions, which promise little but a wink. They'll watch the heavyweights plod through their paces and reluctantly sit tight as the old-timers earn that one last payday. Because in between--and nobody knows when--there's going to be another heroic round that will forgive the sport all its sins.
NASCAR Trackside Transformation
They were all together. The son, father, mother and stepfather, kneeling side by side on the most hallowed real estate in American motor sports. As 250,000 fans stood and cheered on Aug. 7, Tony Stewart and his family kissed the bricks at the finish line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the touchstone moment of NASCAR's 2005 season, Stewart had just won the Allstate 400 to seize the points lead from Jimmie Johnson--and to clinch the approval of NASCAR Nation. "It's funny how you can go from the bad guy to the good guy so quickly," Stewart said last month. "I've grown up a little, and fans are finally seeing the side of me that my friends and family see."
The transformation of Stewart was remarkable in both its speed and certainty. During the introductions in Daytona last February, Temperamental Tony--as he was often called for his feuds with other drivers and the media--was met with a thunderclap of boos. But then when Stewart returned to Daytona in July and won the Pepsi 400, he parked his number 20 Home Depot Chevy at the finish line, hopped out and scaled the 15-foot catch-fence to grab the checkered flag from the flagman.
The crowd was so taken with Stewart's impromptu vault that it let out one of the loudest roars in Daytona history. By the time Stewart was puckering up at the Brickyard--a native of Columbus, Ind., he became the first Hoosier to win at the Speedway since 1940--it was clear that all of his past sins had been absolved. "Tony is obviously gaining more fans by the day," said Dale Earnhardt Jr., "and I think that's good for our sport."
Stewart's surging popularity came at the perfect time for NASCAR. Before the green flag dropped on the Chase for the Championship, racing executives worried that television ratings would drop from the record levels of 2004; two of the circuit's more magnetic personalities, Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, had failed to qualify for the 10-race playoff. But as Stewart cruised to the title over the last quarter of the season, the ratings were up slightly from '04. He had earned the affection of those who once relished telling him just where he and his mother could go.
"It's a lot more fun hearing cheers," says Stewart. "I've never had a better year in my life."