It was a rollercoaster night of emotions at the StubHub Center as the 115 lb division took centre stage with 3 bouts of significance featuring on a card that was broadcast on both HBO and Sky Sports.
First up was an all Mexican dustup between Juan Francisco Estrada and Carlos Cuadras. The first 6 rounds saw much activity from Cuadras whilst the accuracy was coming from Estrada and depending on which commentary you were viewing you could have been swayed either way that one man was dominating.
Having had it level myself after 6 I thought Estrada pulled away in the second half of the contest and a knockdown in the 10th stanza sealed the deal in what was a thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable 12 rounder. To most people’s surprise Cuadras was initially announced to have prevailed with scores of 114-113 from all 3 judges before announcer Michael Buffer corrected his mistake to much amusement from many. Estrada is now mandatory for WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and after taking on weak opposition in recent times let’s hope that the talented Mexican competes on the world class level on a regular basis. As for Cuadras there are still plenty of good fights for him in a loaded weight class.
Next up was the anticipated US debut of WBO boss Naoya Inoue who took on Antonio Nieves. Not much was expected from the challenger and he was broken down by a piston like jab and a crippling body attack and his corner wisely pulled him out after round 6. Let’s be honest Inoue did what he was supposed to but the plan was to leave a good impression on those who haven’t witnessed him before and in that sense it was mission accomplished.
Whilst bouts with Srisaket and Estrada are an intriguing prospect unfortunately the 2 potential super fights with Roman Gonzalez and Shinsuke Yamanaka are now down the drain and with bantamweight being a shallow pool of talent it may be a while before the 24-year-old faces another elite fighter. A move up to 118 lb seems to be the next move for Inoue with an end of year fight in Japannext up. With the WBC strap in flux and Ryan Burnett taking on Zhanat Zhakiyanov in October WBO titlist Zolani Tete looks the most feasible option and the South African would provide an interesting stylistic match up for the man known as ‘Monster’.
Finally it was on to the main event as Roman Gonzalez aimed to avenge his defeat to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Srisaket won a close points decision in March but there was no doubt this time as Gonzalez was knocked out in 4 rounds with 2 crunching right hooks ending proceedings to the shock of many in attendance and watching at home. Having begun his world title run at strawweight campaigning at 115 lb was always a stretch and there were signs in his hard-fought win over Carlos Cuadras that the numerous fights were taking their toll and the second go around with the ferocious hard hitting Srisaket proved to be a mountain too far.
As someone who honestly doesn’t give a shit about pound 4 pound lists or the Hall of Fame I’ll let others debate that until the cows come home but there is no doubt that the Nicaraguan is an all-time great and has been one of the best boxers that there has ever been in the lower weight classes. Putting aside his last 6 contests which appeared on HBO or HBO PPV Gonzalez reigned supreme as a world champion for just under 7 years, defeating the likes of Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Juan Fransisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Akira Yaegashi and Rocky Fuentes. When you add in the victories against Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria, McWilliams Arroyo and Carlos Cuadras it makes you realise what an incredible career the 30-year-old has had.
A genuine 4 weight world champion unlike the manufactured career of Adrian Broner Gonzalez never ran from a challenge, faced the best available competition and dared to be great in stretching his body to the limit and will be remembered as such by all true boxing fans
Gonzalez was also a pioneer having headlined his own card on HBO which was unheard of for someone of his size and nationality. For some unknown reason there were these ridiculous barriers that prevented American TV channels from showcasing fighters below bantamweight but hopefully those days are over and going forward every boxer who is given a chance on a major platform around the flyweight and super flyweight division should be eternally appreciative of the man known as ‘Chocolatito’.
If Gonzalez does bow out it also signals the end of an era for the Teiken Gym with the retirement of Takashi Miura and Shinsuke Yamanaka expected to finish his career in the very near future. All 3 have been at the forefront of the Gym and replacements will have to be found which should come in time given the amount of talent in Japan and the vast amount of knowledge and experience within the Teiken team.
Finally after being subjected to one of the most condescending, unprofessional and fucking disgraceful post-fight interviews by HBO’s Max Kellerman after his first win over Gonzalez, Srisaket is due a huge amount of respect and credit after repeating the dose in such emphatic fashion.
A real heart-warming story of rising from poverty to world champion the 30-year-old can hopefully be a springboard and inspiration for boxers in his homeland. Thailand has seen many contenders fall well short of world level in the last few years and although Wanheng Menayothin and Knockout CP Freshmart are solid champions in their own right Srisaket succeeding on such a big stage elevates him on to a different stratosphere altogether. Despite the number of fights Srisaket came to boxing late and has had many knock over jobs in Thailand so there should still be plenty left in the tank of the marauding southpaw who is a threat to any super flyweight on the planet.
(Photo by Sumio Yamada)