In recent years Western boxing fans have started to take note of the lower weight classes, and a lot of that is thanks to Tom Loeffler and his fantastic series of shows under the "Super Fly" banner. Those shows really opened the door for US fans in particular to enjoy some of the smallest men in the sport and enjoy some of the most exciting fighters out there. Today we look at one of the key fighters from Tom Loeffler's attempts to bring the little men to the attention of American fans, and it just so happens to have been one of the very best fights of 2017.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 29) Vs Roman Gonzalez (46-0, 38) I
The bout in question was a WBC Super Flyweight title bout that took place at Madison Square Garden. It pitted one of the best fighters of the last 20 years against one of the most fearsome little men in recent memory. It was a bout that hardcore fans knew would be something special and the casual fans, who tuned into to Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs, got to enjoy with out massive amounts of expectations.
Heading in to the Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez was the WBC Super Flyweight champion and the man many regarded as the best pound for pound fighter on the planet. He had moved through the weights, moving from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight, and found success at every weight to become a 4-weight world champion. In fact he was only the second fighter in history to win world titles at the 4 lowest weights, following in the footsteps of Leo Gamez.
Fans who had followed the lower weights knew that Gonzalez was a special fighter. He was an aggressive pressure fighter who had already beaten a who's who of the lower weights. He had already over-come the likes of Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Juan Francisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria, McWilliams Arroyo and Carlos Cuadras. In many cases Gonzalez hadn't just beaten opponents, but had beaten them up with incessant pressure, combination punching and clean, heavy, accurate shots.
Many hardcore fans knew Gonzalez. Far, fare fewer knew Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, a Thai who had previously held the WBC title, but was almost unknown outside of the East. His record had a few marks on it, though following a 1-3-1 start to professional boxing he had gone 41-1, with his only loss being a technical decision to Carlos Cuadras, in Mexico. Many who followed the lower weights were expecting Srisaket to be the next victim of the sensational Gonzalez, though few were totally aware of who, or what, Srisaket brought to the ring.
Those who had followed Srisaket would have known what to expect. He was big, strong, powerful, aggressive fighter. His 2013 win over Yota Sato had seen him fighting like a terminator, breaking down the then Japanese world champion. After winning the title he was avoided, and would only make a single defense before facing Cuadras a year after winning the title. Despite losing to Cuadras we saw Srisaket earn another shot at the title with a beat down of Jose Salgado, though politics had seen him take a back seat in his attempt to reclaim the belt, and he had had to wait almost 2 years for this shot.
Those who were just being introduced to Srisaket quickly got introduced to him as he came out and after a few seconds of feeling out he began to take the fight to Gonzalez, landing short left hands up top and some sneaky body shots. He was getting Gonzalez's respect in the first 2 minutes of the fight before dropping the Nicaraguan with a right hook to the body. Gonzalez's experience showed, he got to his feet and saw out the rest of the round as Srisaket went out seeking a finish.
From there on everyone knew Srisaket was a dangerous fighter, including Gonzalez. Gonzalez however wasn't intimidated, despite Srisaket starting round 2 with bad intentions. This saw Srisaket coming forward, somewhat clumsily, whilst Gonzalez looked to box and move, using his silky skills. Against an energetic Srisaket early on it was the Thai who seemed to land the much heavier blows, forcing Gonzalez back, but Gonzalez certainly had moments himself, landing the cleaner blows. The lead to some sensational back and forth action as both men looked to force their well on the contest during a brilliant 3 minutes of action.
Round 1 and 2 had shown that Srisaket was able to land a shot, take a shot and was big, strong and aggressive. The questions however mounted up. Could he continue to do it over 12 rounds? Could Gonzalez take his pressure? And could Gonzalez hurt him as the rounds went on?
Round by round we found the answers to those questions, and we found that both men were solid, both men could take the power of the other and both men were willing to risk it all, with bout getting better and better through the middle rounds, then reamping up again as we began to head into the final stages, both men aware that the were little between.
By round 3 Gonzalez was starting to get his engine going, he was starting to outland Srisaket and the difference in skill levels was showing. Gonzalez was using smart footwork, good combinations and landing solid blows with regularity, whilst making Srisaket miss. Srisaket however wasn't going to go away. He was a big, strong lump and had waited 2 years for this fight. He wasn't there to roll over to Gonzalez and he began to fight back himself, using his size and power and try and neutralise the quickness and skills of Gonzalez.
As well as the amazing back and forth action there was also controversy in the bout, from the accidental headclashes that occurred regularly. Gonzalez was cut in round 3 from an accidental clash, and they became a regular issue within the bout. It wasn't anything deliberate, from either man, but a result of both men being aggressive fighters and the two men letting shots go whilst fighting out of opposite stances. The southpaw stance of Srisaket and the orthodox stance of Gonzalez lead to headclashes becoming a common thing, and a very painful thing for the naturally smaller Gonzalez.
With great tempo through out, fantastic 2-way action, a sense of controversy and heavy shots landed round after round, by both men, we really were treat to an instant classic here. The bought might only be 4 years old, but this is a definitive classic, and a must watch for every fight fan.
As usual in this series we won't ruin the result, for those who haven't seen the bout, but this is just a tremendous bout, and a brilliant war that really did help put the Super Flyweight division on the map in the US, and in Europe.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features