Weeks remembers Corrales-Castillo I
Ten years ago today, Tony Weeks had the privilege of being the third man in arguably the greatest 135lbs prizefight of the modern era - the insanely brutal first encounter between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. “That fight still sticks with me,” Weeks told Boxing Monthly. “It was an incredible battle. I have never ever been in such a contest with two fighters dishing out an equal amount of punishment and still hanging in there.”
After nine pulsating rounds, the late Corrales was floored heavily twice in the 10th and on the brink of defeat when suddenly, from the depths of his soul, he managed to repeatedly stun Castillo and after a ferocious onslaught forced Weeks’ intervention with the dazed Mexican lolling on the ropes.
“It wasn’t like I was looking in Corrales’ or Castillo’s corner with (extra) concern,” recalled Weeks. ”Both fighters were fighting back hard and effectively defending themselves. And it was pretty much an even contest leading into that 10th round. Everything was just clicking that night. I was in that zone. That fight will always stand out for me as the greatest fight of my career."
The fight was also notable for Corrales’ jettisoning his mouthpiece after suffering each knockdown – a point of significant controversy. Did Weeks suspect willful intent to delay the contest on the part of the late fighter? [Corrales died exactly two years later in a motorcycle accident in Las Vegas].
“Only the fighter knows that,” said Weeks, who grew up on the inner-city streets of Brooklyn and spent some 27 years working in the federal penitentiary system in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Victorville, California. “We do know that fighters use fitted mouthpieces. It can come out. It is not really locked in there. Whether it happened in that case we will never know, but I took the proper procedure in deducting a point [second knockdown]. I pretty much did what I had to do at that time. It wasn’t a situation where I might disqualify Corrales. I only saw the mouthpiece out when I began my count. I am sure there are fighters out there who use different tactics to weather the storm.”
Weeks exudes a trademark cool that emanates from his former employment in the US prison system. Yet working in the midst of dangerous cons could not prepare him for…. officiating a Bernard Hopkins fight.
“The fight I had with Bernard Hopkins and Antwun Echols [their rematch] stood out in a different way! That was on the Friday night before Felix Trinidad- Fernando Vargas so everyone was in town. I had never refereed a Hopkins fight before but then things began to…unfold,” laughed Weeks, remembering a bout described as the most foul-filled encounter of recent times. “Things that I had never experienced before! It took me to another level. When I came to Vegas, I was a professional but after that I became a pro. It showed people I can handle a difficult fight when it happens.”
Outside of boxing, Weeks is also widely known for his appearance in that Audi car advert alongside former IBF cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham and long-time contender B.J. Flores.
“It was an honour to be called to participate in that commercial. It was on location in Romania. The fans were wonderful, they made me feel like a rock star!” recalled Weeks. “I had a small part in Rocky Balboa and that was a lot of filming. The Audi commercial was two days of filming. It was 8-12 hours a day and the arena itself had no air-conditioning. The place was packed and I was literally drenched with sweat. If you see that scene in the commercial where I am walking out to the darkness and the car - that was the last scene that we shot and, if you look at me, I was totally exhausted and drenched with sweat. Everything was realistic in there. The only thing I had to do was be an official.
“When I go home to Brooklyn, I like to walk around the streets and, when I went back, I literally had people stopping their cars and recognizing me. That was crazy. The whole referee thing is still surreal to me, but when people acknowledge me in the street or arenas, it is a compliment - that they appreciate the work that I do.”