Castillo-Hatton: Lurching Toward Semi-Greatness?
By John Hively from Boxing Scene
It would be a terrible disappointment to boxing fans if the June battle between Jose Luis Castillo and Ricky “the Hitman” Hatton was postponed to a later date. For boxing fans this fight should occur sooner than later if only because it has the potential to be an exciting slam bang match-up between two proven warriors, both of whom are capable of crafty boxing and hard punching.
Both fighters are currently on most top ten pound-for-pound lists, and their upcoming clash should also give us a better idea of where they may stand among the all-time great pugilists of the past.
Castillo turned pro in 1990 and has a record a fifty-five wins, seven losses and a draw. His peak years (2000-06) were fought as a lightweight, and it is his achievements there that historians and fans should judge him. Jose Luis has been stopped five times, four of them during his formative years and these shouldn’t be held against him. Many notable fighters started out as bad or even worse; the great middleweight Tony Zale is a prime example of a fighter who lost several encounters during his formative years.
During the last nine years Castillo has lost only three fights: a dramatic stoppage at the hands of Diego Corrales, and two decisions to all-time great Floyd Mayweather. A fair number of observers, certainly not all, were of the opinion that Castillo triumphed over Floyd in their first engagement, but he still didn’t receive the judges' nod, and so it went into the record books as a loss. Mayweather won the second fight by a hefty margin.
Castillo’s biggest wins during his lightweight stint have been against Corrales KO4, Joel Casamayor W12, and Stevie Johnston W12. All three were outstanding boxers when Castillo pinned the losses on them, and they would have been outstanding contenders during any period in history. In several past eras, they may even have become champions rather than just alphabet titlists. On the other hand, Castillo was not a lightweight when he scored the KO over Corrales. He was several pounds heavier than his opponent. Diego was still a lightweight, and perhaps when rating Jose Luis in that weight class we shouldn’t count that success.
Outside of Mayweather, and perhaps Corrales, Jose Luis has arguably been the best lightweight in the world during the last six years. As such, some experts could make the case that he was one of the better lightweights of all times. A person could also argue that his best pugilistic feats pale in comparison to other great fighters of the past.
A few years ago the Ring magazine came up with a list of the top twenty lightweights all time. Sammy Angott, a two time champion during the 1940s, was given an honorable mention, which meant he was rated somewhere between the twenty-first and thirtieth of all time.
Sammy fought anybody near his weight, including three competitive losses to welterweight Sugar Ray Robinson. He also defeated some of the great fighters on the Ring’s lists. Bob Montgomery was rated among the top ten lightweights by the Ring. He was at his peak when Angott schooled him in all three of their fights. Sammy lost two controversial decisions to Ike Williams, the guy listed as number five by the Ring’s staff, but in their third fight, Angott swarmed all over a prime Williams, beat him from pillar to post, won every round, and stopped him in six heats. Sammy also pinned the only loss on a prime Willie Pep, the man the expert’s of the Ring rate as the top featherweight of all time, and a boxer often listed as one of the ten greatest fighters pound-for-pound of all time. Angott also whipped Freddie Miller, one of the top five featherweights of all-time, according to the Ring.
Obviously, Castillo’s pugilistic achievements fall considerably short of Angott’s. Perhaps a person could argue that the Ring underrates the great Italian-American fighter, and maybe he should be placed in the top twenty, perhaps the top ten. But if he isn’t in the top twenty of all time, and he barely squeezes into the top thirty, it’s difficult to make the case that Castillo belongs any where near the top thirty, forty, fifty, or maybe even the top one hundred lightweights of all time; even if he was the second or third best lightweight for the last five years.
It is possible that much of Castillo’s place in history may very well be riding on his coming war with Ricky Hatton.
The Hitman is undefeated and untied in forty-two straight fights, thirty by knockout. That’s quite an accomplishment, even if he was carefully managed for three quarters or more of his career. During the last three years, Hatton has vanquished some really good fighters, including an all-time great in Kostya Tszyu, in which he won the junior welterweight championship. Then he stepped up in weight and claimed a welterweight alphabet title with a close victory in a see-saw struggle against Luis Collazo. Hatton will take a big step in establishing his credentials as a great fistic warrior if he decisively beats Castillo, but the Hitman still has several other steps to take before he achieves such status.
Hatton’s path toward greatness is somewhat shorter than the road Castillo has traveled if only because the junior welterweight division is younger than the lightweight class, and the number of great boxers that have fought there are miniscule in comparison to the lightweights. Hatton, in other words, may not need to be as successful as Castillo to achieve the label of being a great junior welterweight.
A victory over the best junior welterweight in the world would provide fuel for the argument that Castillo is worthy of being placed among the great lightweights of all time. Although the fight will take place outside of the lightweight class, a triumph may give us a better idea of how he rates. I suspect that a win over Hatton will still be insufficient to propel him into the top thirty or even fifty lightweights of all time. Assuming he is successful against the Hitman, Castillo’s fistic accomplishments will still lag far behind those of Angott, as well as others who are not rated among the Rings top thirty of all time.
Regardless of how history judges the feats of Jose Luis, Castillo vs. Hatton could very well wind up being a fight of the year candidate. So let’s get it on sooner than later. Why wait until a date later than June? Bring it on!