Just when Mayweather seemed content to give Diego Corrales a boxing lesson for 12 rounds Saturday night, Mayweather unleashed a flurry of savage left hooks before finally stopping Corrales in the 10th round of their 130-pound showdown.
Corrales towered over Mayweather and was supposed to be the fearsome puncher, but it was Mayweather who knocked Corrales down five times to successfully defend his WBC super featherweight title against the former IBF champion.
"I just wanted to show who was the best in the world," Mayweather said.
He not only showed it against a fighter considered one of the best, but he did it with remarkable ease.
Mayweather danced and boxed and played with Corrales for six rounds, then suddenly knocked him down with the first punch of the seventh round. He wasn't done, using the same left hook to put Corrales down twice more in the round and two more times in the 10th round.
Corrales' corner finally asked referee Richard Steele to stop the fight after the fifth knockdown and, though the challenger complained fiercely, he was never in the fight.
"A champion should finish a fight as long as he keeps getting up. I kept getting up," Corrales said. "A fighter likes to go out on his back."
Corrales had just gotten up from the fifth knockdown when his corner waved a white towel and asked that the fight be stopped. Corrales protested, but referee Richard Steele waved the fight to a close at 2:19 of the 10th round.
The bad blood between the two fighters subsided in the aftermath, with Mayweather apologizing to Corrales for raising the issue of his arrest for allegedly beating his wife last year.
"I respect you as a fighter," Mayweather told Corrales. "What I said was only hype to sell some tickets."
Many in the crowd at the MGM Grand hotel-casino were booing in the first half of the fight as Mayweather danced and moved and used punches from all angles to build up a big lead through six rounds.
The boos turned to cheers, though, when Mayweather came out and floored Corrales with a left hook in the first punch of the seventh round. Corrales got up but Mayweather dropped him again with another left hook with 37 seconds left in the round and put him down a third time in the final seconds of the round.
"We knew all along the left hook would be the damaging punch," said Mayweather's trainer, Roger Mayweather.
Corrales came back to land a few effective punches in the next few rounds, but Mayweather was simply too much. He knocked Corrales down with another left hook midway through the final round, and put him down with a right hand after Corrales got up again.
Corrales got to his feet, but his corner had had enough.
"Chico was a lost man out there," said Mayweather's manager, James Prince. "But he gave it everythin he had."
Mayweather's dominance and the inability of Corrales to land any effective punches was shown in the statistics compiled by Compubox. Corrales landed only 60 of 205 punches, and never landed more than nine punches in a single round. Mayweather landed 220 of 414 punches.
"Mayweather fought a smart fight," Corrales said. "I kept on trucking. I kept on coming forward."
Mayweather improved to 25-0 with 18 knockouts, and more importantly won the right to a six-fight deal with HBO that could pay him $15 million with the win. Corrales, a former IBF 130-pound champion, fell to 33-1.
Both boxers weighed the 130-pound class limit.
In a second title fight, WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo retained his title by stopping former champion Cesar Bazan at 2:54 of the sixth round.
Castillo showed no effects of having to lose 2 pounds the day earlier to make the 135-pound weight limit in dropping Bazan with a left hook in the fifth round and putting him down again with a left midway through the sixth round.
Bazan, 134 1/2, got up both times, but referee Vic Drakulich finally stopped the fight with the challenger taking punishment on the ropes.
It was the first successful title defense for Castillo, who won the title from Steve Johnston last June and kept it in a rematch with Johnston Sept. 15.
"He's very strong," Bazan said. "He'll be champion a long time."
Castillo, 135, of Mexico, improved to 42-4-1 with 38 knockouts. Bazan, also of Mexico, dropped to 38-4-1.
©2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed