Excuses in boxing often fall on deaf ears, usually deservedly so. With so much time to prepare, what happens in the ring is typically the result of that preparation, or lack thereof.
So when Floyd Mayweather Jr. complained of a sore shoulder after escaping with a unanimous decision in what is widely viewed as the closest thing to a loss on his 47-0 record, there was skepticism.
There wasn’t after Mayweather returned from his questioned April 20, 2002, victory over Mexico’s Jose Luis Castillo with a far more convincing triumph in a Dec. 7, 2002, rematch.
The second bout ranks as the fourth greatest fight of Mayweather’s career.
The first Mayweather-Castillo meeting was preceded by Mayweather's cries over his $2.2 million purse, complaints that would ultimately lead him to split with promoter Bob Arum by 2006.
"I'm a star, but I want to be a megastar," Mayweather said in a Los Angeles Times story, moving to the 135-pound lightweight division to challenge Castillo, the World Boxing Council champion, at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. "I want my face out there more. I want to become a household name. I was promised I was going to be as big as life. I need to be promoted a lot more.”
Mayweather had greater concerns as the first Castillo fight wore on.
In his fourth title defense, Castillo struggled to find Mayweather through five rounds, with Mayweather “on his toes, landing punches at will and shifting smoothly from his right-handed style to southpaw and back. He stayed out of harm's way when Castillo got aggressive and generally confused the fighter from Sonora, Mexico,” according to The Times’ Steve Springer, at ringside that night.
But Castillo figured out Mayweather and landed punches in the middle rounds, especially to the body, and closed the fight so impressively, the outcome was anyone’s guess.
Punch stats showed Castillo landed 203 punches, connecting at a 40% success rate, while Mayweather connected on only 157 punches, a 35% success rate.
Arum, discussing the first fight earlier this month while promoting his fighter Manny Pacquiao’s May 2 bout against Mayweather at MGM Grand, said when he walked into the ring afterward he told Mayweather, “I’m sorry you lost.”
Yet, judges Jerry Roth and John Keane both had it 115-111 for Mayweather and judge Anek Hongtongkam scored it 116-111 for Mayweather. Springer had it 114-112 in Mayweather’s favor on his unofficial card.
Mayweather complained afterward that he injured his rotator cuff days earlier in training, saying it weakened his performance.
“This is ludicrous,” Arum said right after the fight. “How could two judges give Mayweather the 12th round? How could that happen?”
The promoter was angling for an immediate rematch, wanting Mayweather to agree to fight at Staples Center.
The fighter rejected the idea for an Aug. 10 date at Staples, however, with Arum contending Mayweather didn’t trust the judges and didn’t want to fight in front of a strongly Latino crowd supporting Castillo.
“He doesn't know what he is doing,” Arum told The Times then. “He's got morons around him that have convinced him that fighting in L.A. is like fighting in Mexico. I don't know if he'll change his mind. Nobody can figure him out.
“I asked Floyd if he trusted the judges in L.A. and he said, 'No.’ I asked him if he trusted the judges in San Francisco and he said, 'Yeah.' He doesn't even know L.A. and San Francisco are in the same state.”
The rematch was fought at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, with Mayweather producing what The Times reported as a “masterful” performance.
Although the scores were more narrow than Springer’s 117-111 card -- 115-113, 115-113, 116-113 -- Mayweather put on a calculated boxing show that left nothing in doubt.
Wrote Springer: “As the fight wore on, Castillo, his nose bloodied from the fourth round on, labored to merely lay a glove on Mayweather. A punch seemed out of the question -- though he did hold his opponent repeatedly, even after referee Joe Cortez warned him.”
"I told you it would be easier this time," Mayweather said.
"I never figured him out," conceded Castillo. "I couldn't find him enough."
Last year, Mayweather engaged in his only other rematch. After Argentina’s Marcos Maidana gave him early pressure in their first fight, Mayweather returned to dominate him in September and then mentioned Pacquiao afterward.