LAS VEGAS — It is nervous time for Jose Luis Castillo. Saturday, he will be at the Thomas & Mack Center to complete his trilogy of lightweight battles against Diego Corrales.
But it's not tomorrow he's concerned about. It's today. He's not worried about stepping into the ring so much as stepping onto the scale at Caesars Palace, in front of reporters, television cameras and fight fans, at today's weigh-in.
"I am more nervous about the scale than I am about the fight," Castillo said through an interpreter Thursday. "Right now, I know I have to weigh 135 pounds. That is all I care about."
Castillo customarily gains about 30 pounds between fights, and losing them has been a slow, agonizing process this time around. He was down to 146 two weeks ago, 142 last week.
"He got in the ring on Monday at 140 and came out at 138," said Todd duBoef, who promotes with Bob Arum's Top Rank.
Eight months ago, when these two last fought, Castillo couldn't coax the needle on the scale lower than 138 1/2 .
Although he still relishes the memory of the crushing left hook he landed in October to knock out Corrales in the fourth round and avenge his 10th-round TKO loss, he also has another memory from that second fight, a memory of failure and humiliation.
After weighing in 3 1/2 pounds over the lightweight limit, Castillo was given a two-hour grace period to shed the extra pounds. It turned out to be a hopeless task.
Twice he returned to the scale, but there was no change.
The scene turned farcical when one of Castillo's handlers, Dr. Armando Barak, was accused of placing his foot under the scale in an attempt to raise it a bit off the ground, thus affecting the reading.
Barak's license was subsequently revoked by the commission.
Castillo was fined $120,000, half of which went to Corrales. And the World Boxing Council title, that Corrales had won by twice getting off the canvas to stop Castillo in their first fight, was taken off the table, the bout becoming a nontitle fight.
Still, there was lingering suspicion that Castillo, despite the punishment and the derision, had gotten what he wanted and would go into the fight stronger. Not so, says duBoef.
"When I came into his room after the weigh-in, it was like somebody had died," the promoter said. "There was a morbid aura in there. He was devastated. He was so embarrassed. He felt like he had let down his profession, let down every other fighter who has to make weight."
Although he didn't reveal it at the time, Castillo has subsequently said his failure to reach 135 was caused, at least in part, by a rib injury suffered about 10 days before the fight.
"He left training camp and came back home," Arum said. "And once he does that, he has no ability to stop himself from pigging out. He's an undisciplined guy."
So what has changed?
For one thing, the WBC has taken a hands-on approach this time, sending a supervisor to Castillo's training site periodically to monitor his weight loss.
Castillo says it has been uncomfortable having someone looking over his shoulder when he gets on the scale.
"It has been very difficult every week, having people coming in to check my weight, making sure that I am where I am supposed to be," he said.
"Anyone that came to my camp, all they wanted to know about was the weight.... It has been difficult to keep my focus on the fight."
But, Castillo insists, he has focused on his diet, eating the kind of food he knows will pay off in the ring, fruit and oatmeal in the morning, fish or chicken breast in the afternoon.
Castillo knows the penalties he will face if he fails to reach 135. He will be fined one-quarter of his purse. And Corrales could refuse to fight, although, Gary Shaw, Corrales' promoter, said his fighter wouldn't take that approach.
"Diego said he will give Castillo four or five hours to make weight, if that's what it takes," Shaw said.
In any event, Arum will be holding his breath this afternoon when Castillo steps on the scale. He knows his fighter all too well.
"The guy was always late to press conferences," Arum said. "So we used to send a private plane down to Mexicali to get him. And he would still be an average of two hours late.
"And he always had excuses. One time, he said there was the threat of a terrorist attack and the government had shut down the airport. Another time, he claimed the pilot had gotten sick and went to a hospital.
"And then there was the time Castillo was late to a press conference in Las Vegas because he got stuck in traffic on the Vegas Strip. The car wasn't moving at all, so he got out and ran through traffic to get there."
Maybe Castillo ought to try that today. It might be a good way to sweat off those last few pounds.