Floyd Mayweather lands a right to the face of Jose Luis Castillo in 2002.
Floyd Mayweather lands a right to the face of Jose Luis Castillo in 2002. ERIC JAMISON

The fight 'undefeated' Mayweather should have lost

"HARD work! Dedication!" It's a mantra that bellows out of the gym whenever Floyd Mayweather Jnr trains.

Maybe there should also be a line about luck thrown in there.

"Money" has had his share of it along the way, especially on the night he first fought Mexican Jose Luis Castillo.

It hasn't all been plain sailing in the illustrious career of "Mr 49-0".

When he fought Castillo in 2002 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, he nearly - and in many eyes should have - lost the "0" he values so much.

Then aged 25, and fighting for the first time in the lightweight division, Mayweather was far from the global megastar he is today.

His "Money" moniker was years away from becoming a reality and "Pretty Boy Floyd" was fighting for only his second world title.

Castillo was supposed to be tailor-made opponent. A slow of foot, hard-nosed brawler who was tipped to become another victim of Mayweather's sublime, ever-improving skills.

What Mayweather didn't bank on was his opponent's resilience and an underestimated skill-set.

A former sparring partner of the great Julio Cesar Chavez, Castillo began the bout like a fish out of water.

Styles make fights. It's a saying that's as old as the sport itself but one that was ringing true as Mayweather dominated his opponent.

Mayweather's slick footwork and lightning-fast hands bedazzled the champion in the early rounds but as the fight wore on, it was clear that the size and strength of Castillo was beginning to wear the American down.

Legendary HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley made an intriguing pre-fight observation.

"It's an interesting piece of business tonight because Castillo as the lightweight champion didn't have to fight 130-pound titlist Floyd Mayweather - there was no mandatory situation involved. It would appear that he took the fight, largely for the price.

"So is it fair to say that Castillo is, in effect, selling his championship here?"

However it soon became apparent Castillo wasn't there for a payday. He was there to win.

The momentum shifted in a big way and Castillo pressured Mayweather like few had before.

Through the middle and later rounds he used his superior size and strength - combined with a sustained body attack and a proclivity for cutting off the ring - to do what few had thought possible.

 

Jose Luis Castillo of Mexico (left) and Floyd Mayweather of the United States at their weigh-in in Las Vegas in 2002.
Jose Luis Castillo of Mexico (left) and Floyd Mayweather of the United States at their weigh-in in Las Vegas in 2002. LAURA RAUCH

He proved many a doubter wrong that night, among them HBO's Larry Merchant, who remarked in the final round the Mexican was "a champion fighting like the challenger".

Merchant wasn't the only one who thought Castillo had done enough to warrant victory.

HBO's Harold Lederman, an analyst and scoring expert, gave Castillo a comprehensive margin of victory: 115-111. Controversy followed when the judges saw otherwise.

Mayweather was awarded a unanimous decision. The official scores were 115-111 and 116-111, twice.

The reaction was swift and emphatic. "I thought Castillo done enough to retain his title," Merchant said.

Lampley added: "It looked to me like he done enough in the 10th, 11th and 12fth rounds. If the fight was hanging in the balance, Castillo remained an aggressor down the stretch."

Mayweather was deemed the victor as the crowd displayed its disdain for the verdict.

The punch stats were well and truly in favour of Castillo, with the Mexican outlanding Mayweather in total punches 203 to 157 and connecting with far more power punches, to the tune of 173 to 66.

Castillo was sure he'd done enough, too.

"In my heart I thought I won. Unfortunately the judges thought otherwise," he said.

Mayweather will forever be the victor on paper and - to his credit - defended his title in much more convincing fashion in a rematch with Castillo eight months later.

But for many fans of the fight game, April 20, 2002, will forever be the regarded as the night Floyd Mayweather lost.

The fight is available to watch in Australia via Foxtel's pay-per-view channel, Main Event. Customers can order the fight for a $59.95, with coverage starting at 11am on Sunday. ORDER HERE

News Corp Australia

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