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Floyd Mayweather has a 50-0 record but his win against Jose Luis Castillo was controversial

Floyd Mayweather has a 50-0 record but his win against Jose Luis Castillo was controversial

Floyd Mayweather’s flawless 50-0 record hides the fact that there is one fight many observers strongly believe he lost, a contest held 20 years ago that HBO’s live crew all scored for his opponent: Jose Luis Castillo.

The Mexican landed 203 punches to Mayweather’s 157 according to Compubox – the only time Floyd was out-landed in his pro career – while TV judge Harold Lederman had Castillo winning the bout 115-111.

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Mayweather had his most challenging fight in 2002

The official judges disagreed, awarding Mayweather a hotly-disputed decision. But the question still stands: should Mayweather really be 49-1 rather than 50-0?

By April 2002 ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd was not the megastar he would become, but he was one of boxing’s pound-for-pound elite. A year earlier he’d demolished previously unbeaten Diego Corrales in a career-best display. Mayweather was stepping up from 130lb to take on tough lightweight champion Castillo – a gutsy move for a fighter who’d later be criticised for his safety-first matchmaking.

The 25-year-old was actually a box-office flop at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas against Castillo.

“There are only a few thousand people here to see a fighter regarded as one of the best in the world, moving up in weight to fight the biggest, strongest fighter he’s ever fought,” observed HBO analyst Larry Merchant.

Fans were possibly just expecting a Mayweather coronation. What they got was an incredibly close, intense battle. A slick-boxing Mayweather won the early rounds but Castillo gradually cranked up the aggression, bulling his opponent to the ropes, digging in body blows and the odd vicious uppercut.

It’s shocking now to see Mayweather, usually so serene in the ring, struggle with his accuracy and be caught with occasional flush shots.

As the fight reached the middle rounds, Mayweather was being bothered by Castillo’s 9lb weight advantage and continual aggression. His uncle and trainer, Roger Mayweather, cut an increasingly agitated figure while Mayweather asked for his cornermen to massage his shoulder.

Many felt he should have lost with his trainer and uncle clearly worried too

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Many felt he should have lost with his trainer and uncle clearly worried too

At least Mayweather got to show some of his most underrated qualities as this fight progressed: a solid chin and an ability to bite down and fight back under pressure.

Both men were harshly docked a point for low blows, but while it increasingly resembled a Castillo brawl rather than a Mayweather boxing clinic, the challenger produced a crucial penultimate round.

Standing his ground and sitting down on his punches, Mayweather turned the tide in winning the 11th round before a scrappy 12th.

The crowd were behind the underdog and Mayweather looked nervous as the decision was announced: flattering totals of 115-111 (twice) and 116-111 all in the American’s favour.

“I thought Castillo had done enough to retain his title,” Merchant said, while Castillo naturally disputed the decision, saying he knew “in his heart” that he had won.

Plenty in the media agreed and the uproar led to an immediate rerun, the first rematch of Mayweather’s career. But did Mayweather really lose the fight as clearly as many believe?

The Compubox stats tell one story, but lots of Castillo’s blows were ragged, smothered shots while Mayweather did the cleaner work.

Mayweather prevailed and went on to finish his career unbeaten

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Mayweather prevailed and went on to finish his career unbeaten

Re-scoring the fight 20 years on, talkSPORT has Mayweather narrowly edging the fight 114-112 (seven rounds to five, but with the points deductions). It could easily have been a draw with Castillo retaining his world title belt, but this was not an outrageous robbery.

Perhaps the pre-fight expectations – that the fleet-footed Mayweather would box rings around the plodding Castillo – meant people gave the champion even more credit for the success he had. That by bloodying Mayweather and making the fight remarkably close, Castillo earned greater acclaim than Mayweather did for the rounds he quietly banked.

What Castillo undoubtedly did achieve is creating an all-new blueprint on how beating Mayweather could be achieved. Floyd had hardly been troubled as he dazzled his way to 27-0 before this bout. But any fighter has a style that gives them fits and Castillo showed that, in Mayweather’s case, a strong, hard-punching, roughhouse fighter with a good chin and a refusal to take a backwards step was the kryptonite to his Superman.

The more unorthodox Marcos Maidana, who also ticks those boxes, would later illustrate this by causing Mayweather several problems himself. But ultimately neither man – nor indeed any boxer – could progress it far enough to hand Mayweather an official defeat.

He lifted the WBC super-featherweight title

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He lifted the WBC super-featherweight title

Since then Mayweather has cemented his class in boxing to be considered the best ever and is the only man who has beaten Canelo Alvarez, which he did in 2013

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Since then Mayweather has cemented his class in boxing to be considered the best ever and is the only man who has beaten Canelo Alvarez, which he did in 2013

In the immediate aftermath of the Castillo fight, Mayweather blamed a shoulder injury for his uneven display.

“My last training day, I hurt my rotator in my left shoulder so I wasn’t able to use my jab like I wanted to,” he said. “My left wasn’t as strong as I wanted it to be. But I didn’t want to have no excuses like other champions, when they get hurt they don’t even show up to the fight.”

Mayweather and Castillo had a rematch before 2002 was out to settle the outcome once and for all. This time, the judges were actually kinder to Castillo as Mayweather won by scores of 115-113 (twice) and 116-113. But in the ring, Mayweather did a better job of frustrating Castillo and was a clear winner on the night, bringing an end to their two-bout rivalry.

Castillo would go on to become a world champion again – and have one of the most sensational slugfests of this century when he fought Corrales in 2005. For Mayweather it was onwards and upwards as he kept picking up wins and title belts, until the 2007 showdown with Oscar De La Hoya and his brash ‘Money’ persona turned him into a crossover superstar.

De La Hoya complained bitterly about the judges’ scoring that night, while Mayweather had to settle for majority decision wins against Maidana (in their first contest) and a young Canelo Alvarez (in a ludicrous piece of judging). But the truth is that no boxer, before or since, came as close to handing Floyd an “L” than the relentless Castillo did 20 years ago.



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