Back in February we sent our Patrons an email requesting suggestions for what bouts they'd like to see included in this series, and one of the responses was the 2008 WBA Minimumweight title bout between Yutaka Niida and Roman Gonzalez. So here's that bout now being covered.
Yutaka Niida (23-1-3, 9) vs Roman Gonzalez (20-0, 18)
Although somewhat forgotten by fans now a days Yutaka Niida was incredibly highly regarded back in the mid 00's. He was in the Ring Magazine top 10 from 2003, ending the year #5, to this bout. He had been ranked #1 by Ring in 2004, 2005 and 2007, and was #2 to Ivan Calderon in 2006. He was also a 2-time WBA champion, having first won the title in 2001, ending the second reign of veteran Chana Porpaoin, before reclaiming the title in in 2004, and avenging his sole loss to Noel Arambulet in the process.
Whilst Niida's first reign had been a short one, with Niida retiring as the champion, he had returned to the ring and come into this bout with 7 defenses of the WBA belt, including wins over Juan Jose Landaete, a then unbeaten Eriberto Gejon, OPBF champion Jae Won Kim and future multi-time world champion Katsunari Takayama. Those defenses put Niida 4th, at the time, for most defenses for a Japanese world champion.
At this point the then 21 year old Roman Gonzalez was a relative unknown outside of Nicaragua. This was only his third bout away from his homeland, with the two other two also taking place in Japan. On paper it was a massive step up for the youngster, who was highly regarded by those around him, but rather untested. Of course looking back with hindsight we now know that Gonzalez was one of the best fighters in recent memory, but at the time he really hadn't done anything to suggest he was going to be the star he has since become.
Up to this point Gonzalez's best win up to this point likely being a 10 round decision over 2-time Japanese title challenger Hiroshi Matsumoto, and that was one of two times he had been taken the distance. The step up from Matsumoto to Niida was seen as massive, and this was set, on paper, to be a massive test for Gonzalez.
Despite the bout being the first major bout of Gonzalez's career the future Nicaraguan great took control early, boxing aggressively from the early going. He was aggressive, boxing behind his jab, and backing up Niida, who was taking time to scout and see what Gonzalez was about. Fighting with a high guard Niida had moments in the opening round, but for the most part he was under pressure from the footwork of Gonzalez who burst into life a couple of times during the round.
The second round was much like the first, though things did seem to move up a gear with a few more exchanges as both became more willing to let shots go. Niida was still the more cautious, likely trying to take the steam out of Gonalez's pressure, and find angles to counter from. Whilst Gonalez was starting to get inside more, and force a response from the champion.
In round 3 things really began to move through the gears, with both men letting their leather fly on the inside, giving us some exhilarating exchanges. It was here we began to see the touches of genius that we would become accustomed to over the following decade from the little Nicaraguan master. It was also here where Niida began to try fighting back, showing the spirit of a champion, despite lacking the fire power needed to get Gonzalez's respect.
We won't ruin what happens after the third, but those that know anything about Gonzalez's career will know the rest. Regardless, enjoy the bout that helped establish the legend of "Chocolatito".
If you'd also like to suggest a bout for us to cover, or help support the work we do, please consider becoming a Patron here www.patreon.com/Asianboxing
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