TO this day, the critics of Floyd Mayweather Jnr point to his first fight with Mexico’s Jose Luis Castillo when they wish to prove that Mayweather is neither invincible nor, as he himself claims to be, “T. B.E,” The Best Ever.
Back On This Day in 2002, Mayweather, in the eyes of his fiercest critics, actually lost a fight. Even those who feel Mayweather deserved the unanimous decision that went his way after 12 rough and tough rounds agree how “Money,” or “Pretty Boy,” as Floyd was known at the time, looked anything but great.
Going up against Castillo, at The MGM Grand in his home of Las Vegas, 25-year-old Mayweather challenged the 28-year-old known as “El Terrible” for the Mexican’s WBC lightweight crown. What happened in the ring that night has certainly become the subject of great debate; becoming even more so as the years have passed and Mayweather’s greatness has grown. Was Castillo robbed that night, or, at the very least, is the Mexican the only man to have come close to putting down a blueprint (something Floyd claims does not exist) on how to defeat the exceptionally gifted multi-weight king?
Mayweather won the early rounds that night, but Castillo, an underrated boxer who was also uncommonly tough, came on after a slow start and began putting rounds in the bank. How did Castillo achieve the mid-rounds success he enjoyed – by forgetting about Mayweather’s head and instead targeting, with efficiency, his midsection. Castillo, cutting off the ring, boxed a patient fight, he did not get flustered by Floyd’s superb defensive moves and head movement, and he also used his physical strength by leaning on Mayweather, looking to both slow him down and tire him out. These tactics proved effective, enough for many respected judges to feel that Mayweather should not be sporting the perfect record he is today.
Officially, Mayweather improved to 29-0 and captured his second world title by margins of 116-111 and 115-111 twice. But Castillo, who fell to 45-5-1, was convinced he’d done enough to have won. Those who agreed/agree with him include Harold Lederman of HBO, who had it a wide 115-111 for Castillo. Dan Rafael of ESPN had it all even at 114-114.
After the far tougher than expected rumble, Mayweather underwent surgery on his left shoulder. Floyd had partially blamed his damaged rotator cuff for the tough win and craved a rematch. The two met again in December of 2002, with Mayweather winning in a more convincing manner this time; in a showing even his critics were forced to applaud. Interestingly, however, the judges’ scores were far closer in the rematch, with Floyd prevailing by just two points on two cards.
The Castillo fights took place a long, long time ago, and it’s almost certainly testament to Mayweather’s brilliance that his critics continue to clutch at straws in pointing a finger towards the first meeting as “proof” that he is not the sublime talent everyone else agrees he is.