Back in March fans in the west got their first real chance to see Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1, 39), and he immediately made an impression dropping Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez (46-1, 38) inside the opening round, en route to a unanimous decision win. The victory saw Srisaket becoming a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion, though saw many dispute the decision, claiming it to have been scored wrong and that Srisaket had gotten away with dirty tactics, due to his use of the head. In the days that followed the bout the WBC ordered a rematch between the two men, and that rematch will take place this coming Saturday.
The win for Srisaket was a huge upset, with the Thai being priced at 13/1 just hours before the fight, and Gonzalez being 1/100 with some bookies. Despite being a former world champion Srisaket was, to many a total unknown. The bout however proved that he was a big, tough, powerful, strong and aggressive fighter who was always going to be a handful for anyone in the division. He was flawed, but a bit of a divisional man monster, and that showed as he seemed to dwarf Gonzalez, who was looking to make his first defense of the title.
For those who missed the first bout Srisaket really is a brutish fighter. He fights at a good pace, though did slow down in the later stages of the bout with Gonzalez, he starts fast, is one of the biggest punchers pound-for-pound and brings intense pressure every time he's in the ring. Despite having a bit of a padded record, as most Thai's do, he does hold notable wins over Yota Sato, Hirofumi Mukai and Jose Salgado, all of whom were stopped by Sriaket and he is a genuine talent.
The Thai's record is marked up, though it should be noted that he actually began his career 1-3-1, losing 3 early career bouts in Japan. Following that start he's gone 42-1 (38) with his only loss being a technical decision in Mexico to Carlos Cuadras, with Cuadras beginning to flag before the bout was stopped. With only that one loss in his last 43 bouts he's a confident fighter and one who will be entering this bout on the biggest win of his career.
When it comes to Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez we really are talking about one of the best little men the sport has seen. He's an offensive monster who has shown his skills around the globe and notched up notable wins from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight, whilst becoming the first ever 4-weight champion from Nicaragua. Fans who understand the lower weight divisions will understand how impressive Gonzalez's record is with wins against the likes of Yutka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Juan Francisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Akira Yaegashi, Brian Viloria and Carlos Cuadras.
Gonzalez is a highly skilled offensive fighter, who uses his offense as his best form of defense. He's throws silky smooth combinations of heavy shots, switches between head and body with easy and looks incredibly smooth in the ring. His movement is fantastic, his power is destructive and he really is a very special fighter. Sadly though as he's moved up to 115lbs we've seen his effectiveness decrease, his shots don't have the same destructive power they used to have and his relatively limited defense has caused the heavier shots of opponents at Super Flyweight to really mark him up and damage his face.
Prior to his first bout with Srisaket Gonzalez had had a poor camp with issues away from the ring, including the death of long term mentor Arnulfo Obando. He, and his team, will have learned from that but given the miles on the clock that Gonzalez has, and the miles added with every round he now fights at 115lbs, it's hard to know just how long he can keep going, despite “only” being 30.
Given the way the first bout went we're expecting something really exciting again here, we're actually expecting a repeat, rather than a revenge, with Srisaket again bullying Gonzalez en route to another win. That will kill any hopes of a show down between Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue, who makes his US debut on the same card, but that's perhaps best for Gonzalez's health if we're being honest.
The Super Flyweight division is arguably the strongest in the sport right now. It features a great selection of talents and is an incredibly deep division with probably the best top 5 and top 10 in the sport today. This coming Saturday we see a number of those top fighters in action with the most notable of those bouts being a potential FOTY contender for the WBC title, as Roman Gonzalez (46-0, 38) takes on former champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (41-4-1, 38) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น].
Whilst fans who have heard HBO fawning over Roman Gonzalez may not have heard of Srisaket the Thai should prove to be the type of fighter that will make for an insane war with Gonzalez, being similar, albeit cruder, to the Nicaraguan great.
As we all know Gonzalez became the first Nicaraguan to become a 4-weight world champion last year when he took a narrow win over Carlos Cuadras, who had actually usurped Srisaket with a technical decision in May 2014. The win over Cuadras saw Gonzalez adding the WBC Super Flyweight title to a resume that had included WBA titles at Minimumweight and Light Flyweight as well as the WBC Flyweight title. It also saw him adding Cuadras' name to a long list of great wins, which include victories over Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Juan Francisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Akira Yaegashi and Brian Viloria.
At the lowest weights Gonzalez was a freakish monster who steam-rolled opponents. He came forward with an ultra-aggressive style and was too strong, too powerful and too aggressive for fighters at 105lbs and 108lbs. As he's moved up through the weights however he has found people who haven't buckled under his aggression, with Juan Francisco Estrada, McWilliams Arroyo and Cuadras all taking Gonzalez the distance in the last 5 years, and they are 3 of just 6 men to last 12 rounds with Gonzalez.
Coming forward with a tight guard, a lot of upper body movement, great combinations and frightening power Gonzalez is a genuine monster, and highly regarded through out the boxing world as one of, if not the, best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. That talent can only take a fighter so far and now, at Super Flyweight, some question whether or not the naturally bigger and stronger fighters will be too much for the Nicargauan.
In Srisaket we sort of have a poor man's Gonzalez, but a poor mans' Gonzalez who is a genuine Super Flyweight and looks massive at the weight. Not only that but he has took on regional Super Bantamweights, and stopped them, showing that like Gonzalez he can push around and bully naturally bigger men. Like Gonzalez he doesn't go the distance often and has stopped 38 of 41 opponents through his 8 year career. Those stoppages haven't come against the top guys in the sport, but do include wins over Yota Sato, Hirofumi Mukai and Jose Salgado.
On paper Srisaket will likely be written off by some fans who look at his record, and not the fighter. Srisaket has got a number of blotches on his record but began his career 1-3-1, being thrown in Akira Yaegashi on debut and suffering 3 set backs in Japan during an 11 month run. Since that faltering start Srisaket has gone 40-1 (37) and has proven to be a beastly lower weight fight, from a stable that also includes Suriyan Sor Rungvisai.
In the ring Srisaket is a slow stalker but one who never seems to back up, and will pursue his man until they end up being stopped. He's not a man who tends to hear the judges scorecards, and since losing to Cuadras we've seen Srisaket go 14-0 (13), his only non-stoppage being a technical decision win over Zoren Pama, in what was a flat performance from Srisaket after his loss to Cuadras. Notably he has been inactive since the end of August last year and whilst that could be a good thing, it may be a problem with Srisaket typically being a very busy fighter and a 6 month lay off might not be the best of things for him.
We know Gonzalez will start as the favourite here, that's obvious, but if we're being honest we see this as a really competitive bout. Gonzalez' lack of size will be an issue against a man like Srisaket, who is a huge puncher himself, and we'll go out on a limb and call the upset here with Srisaket eventually breaking down the smaller, but more talented, Nicaraguan in the later rounds.
Since the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr we have seen the world of boxing crown a new pound-for-pound #1 fighter, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (43-0, 37). The little Nicaraguan sensation has finally received the recognition that hardcore fans, lower weight fans and Japanese fans have been giving him for years. On October 16th we see Gonzalez attempt to move to 44-0 and make the next defense of his WBC Flyweight title as he takes on Filipino-American Brian Viloria (36-4-0-2, 22) in what looks to be a mouth watering test for for the new pound-for-pound king.
Gonzalez's rise from obscurity to 3-weight world champion and pound-for-pound status has been a relatively slow climb though that many fans expected of him from relatively early in his career. In fact you need to go back to 2008 for his first “break out” performance, a 4th round TKO win over the then WBA Minimumweight champion Yutaka Niida. It was in that bout that Gonzalez showed impressive power, skills maturity for a 21 year old fighting away from home. The following year he would return to Japan and take a clear win over Katsunari Takayama, in what was a clear decision with Takayama doing all he could to see out the final few rounds.
Since announcing himself in Japan Gonzalez has managed to make a name for himself in Mexico, with wins over the likes of Manuel Vargas, Omar Salado and Juan Francisco Estrada, all whom were beat whilst Gonzalez was the WBA Light Flyweight champion. For many fans in the west it was the Estrada bout, aired in the US, that brought Gonzalez some new fans, it was a 2012 FOTY contender and one of the best bouts in recent years between two men who essentially beat each other up for 12 highly entertaining rounds. An impressive win over Akira Yaegashi last year saw Gonzalez become the WBC Flyweight champion and further strengthen his claim of being one of the world truly elite level fighters.
This year we've seen Gonzalez finally break through to the mainstream with his HBO debut, a very impressive and destructive win over Edgar Sosa. That win saw HBO and American fight fans make it clear that they wanted more of him and just 5 months after his HBO debut he's back again in what looks to be a genuinely tough match up against Viloria.
Before we get on to Viloria we'll just talk about Gonzalez's style. He is able to box and move but at his best he's a marauding pressure fighter, he cuts off the ring, brings the fight to you and beats you with vicious and sharp combinations. If Floyd Mayweather was a defense genius then Gonzalez was his offensive contemporary with the best offensives footwork and combinations in the sport. He's fast, strong, powerful and staggeringly destructive. If has a flaw it's possibly his defense which can slip at times, though usually he's on point with that as well using a tight guard and good head movement.
Now Viloria, the American Olympian has long been a favourite of the hardcore fans and Filipino fans and for much of the last decade or so has been the one Flyweight who looked like he could become a US TV staple. Unfortunately he has often found himself have momentum stopping set backs just as he's looked ready to kick on with his career.
Saying that however Viloria is a 2-weight world champion himself and holds a really respectable number of world level wins. They include wins over the likes of Gilberto Keb Baas, Eric Ortiz, who be heat for the WBC Light Flyweight title, Jose Antonio Aguirre, Ulises Solis, Julio Cesar Mirando, Giovani Segura, Omaro Nino Romero and Hernan Marquez. Sadly losses to Romero, Edgar Sosa, Carlos Tamara and most recently Juan Francisco Estrada have stopped him from becoming the star that many hoped he would become.
At 34 years old Viloria is old for a Flyweight and has been through the hard, career draining, battles yet he is still a more than capable boxer-puncher who can really, genuinely, do every thing in the ring. He's been blessed with spiteful power, as seen in his win over Ortiz, and has developed fantastic boxing ability. The problem sometimes however is that he's not sure on whether he's a boxer or a puncher and can get stuck between the two, he's also shown questionable stamina, notable in his bouts with Tamada and Estrada. At 34 that stamina is unlikely to have improved.
Although a very good boxer Viloria is likely to be needing to rely on his power here as Gonzalez will almost certainly bring the intense pressure that has became a staple of his recent bouts. If Viloria can hurt Gonzalez then things could be interesting however we suspect Viloria will struggle to land clean and instead he will be forced to eat the combinations of Gonzalez until the challenger is eventually worn down.
Hopefully the winner of this will move towards another divisional super fight, with perhaps Amnat Ruenroeng, Juan Francisco Estrada or Kazuto Ioka. If that happens then it's going to be very hard for American boxing media and the casual fight fans to continue to ignore the Flyweight division, arguable the most exciting division in the sport today.
Fuentes gets his second world title shot of the year, unfortunately for him it comes against Chocolatito
Boxing has always had unfortunate fighters who, in a different era, could have been a champion. The fighters that always seem to be frozen out or only get a chance on foreign soil or against a completely sensational talent. It appears that popular Filipino Rocky Fuentes (35-7-2, 20) maybe one such fighter. In a different era or with a big promoter behind him we have no doubts that Fuentes would have held a world title. Sadly however he is fighting now and the Flyweight division is the toughest division in the sport right today with his upcoming opponent, WBC Flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez (40-0, 34) being possibly the best fighter on the planet today.
The 28 year old Fuentes began his career aged just 16 and in just his 4th bout he had a man's life on his hands after the death of John Eman Juarez. For many young fighters that would have been it and lesser fighters would have walked away from the sport, for Fuentes however it was one of many disappointments as he began one of the sports true hard luck careers.
Fuentes would begin his career 8-0 before quickly dropping to 9-3-2 as he had to travel for fighters losing 3 of 4 bouts on the road. Sadly for Fuentes it was on the road that he had to spend much of his career with bouts taking place in Thailand, Indonesia and Japan. The travels saw him gain the well earned moniker of the "Road Warrior" though he began fighting better on the road than at home and scored notable wins over Yuki Nasu, Masafumi Okubo, Shigetaka Ikehara, Yasuto Aritomi and Hirofumi Mukai as he won and defended the OPBF Flyweight title. In total Fuentes would make 6 OPBF title defences in less than 3 years whilst also fighting other non-title bouts. It was a case of fighting and waiting, waiting for his well earned world title fight. Unfortunately the wait was a frustrating one as he scored 15 straight wins and 22 wins from 23 contests and saw a man he beat, Mukai, get a WBC title fight just 4 months after Fuentes had beaten him.
Fuentes got his first world title bout earlier this year in his 44th professional bout and unsurprisingly he had to go on the road again. Sadly that took him to Thailand, a country renowned for being difficult to win in, and unfortunately he came up short against unbeaten Thai Amnat Ruenroeng in a very competitive bout. The loss wasn't a bad one for Fuentes but it was certainly a hard one to swallow considering what he had done to earn a shot in comparison to Ruenroeng who was fighting for just the 12th time as a professional.
For those who haven't seen Fuentes in action you've been missing out. At his best he's an intelligent pressure fighter with heavy hands and an exciting in the ring. He's not the most polished fighter out there but he is a fighter who always seems to be be in entertaining scraps, such as his contest with Juan Kantun that saw 4 knockdowns and when he needs to box he can though we get the feeling he prefers to force the action in an attempt to make a point and keep the judges from trying to take the fight away from him. Sadly for a fighter with his style he perhaps lacks a tiny bit in terms of power, though he is certainly not feather fisted by any stretch of the imagination.
As mentioned above Fuentes will be up against Roman Gonzalez, a man who needs no introduction at all and a man every fight fan should be full aware of. The Nicaraguan fighter a born fighter with a mentality that has shown he wants to prove he's the best no matter where that sees him fighting. As a result he has fought many of his most significant bouts in Japan where where he claimed his first world title, with a 4th round TKO against Yutaka Niida in 2008, made the second defense of his WBA Minimumweight title against Katsunari Takayama in 2009, claimed the WBA interim Light Flyweight title with a 2nd round KO against Francisco Rosas, and most recently claimed the WBC Flyweight title with a victory over Akira Yaegashi. Despite beating many of Japan's finest he hasn't become public enemy #1 but instead has been accepted by the Japanese fight fans who have warmed quickly to the Nicaraguan terror.
For those who haven't seen Gonzalez they've been missing out on the sports best offensive fighter, most frightening pressure fighter and possibly the best combination puncher in the sport. Built like a mini-tank Gonzalez employs exceptional footwork, insane strength, frightening speed, spiteful power and a mind blowing array of punches thrown in crisp and sharp combinations. There has been no proven way to make him look bad and only a handful of fighters have even made it to the final bell against him with the most recent of these being Juan Francisco Estrada back in November 2012, Estrada has since gone on to become the other leading fighters at Flyweight. Amazingly Estrada is the only man in the last 12 fights to see out the distance with Gonzalez who has been on a real tear through the lower weights in recent years.
Watching Gonzalez is a genuine pleasure as he stalks his pray with intense pressure, breaking them mentally by never backing up and breaking them physically with his arsenal of heavy shots. In some ways he's the antithesis of Guillermo Rigondeaux and whilst he has a similarly high skill level to Rigondeaux and Floyd Mayweather Jr he has the mentality of fighting offensively and given fans a show that ends with a knockout. Sometimes it sees him leaving himself a little bit open to counters but by then an opponent is usually to beat up to take advantage as Gonzalez goes for the finish.
With both fighters enjoying a fight, both sharing a mentality of fighting on the front foot and both wanting to impress we suspect we could be in for a high octane affair here with both likely to end up trading on the inside in some highlight reel exchanges. Unfortunately for Fuentes that could be the worst idea with Gonzalez being defensively tighter and offensively more explosive, faster, more effective and all-round better. For fans however we suspect this could be a short lived but thrilling war before Fuentes is ground down, like in the middle rounds of a very memorable contest.
It's a real shame that Fuentes gets his second world title fight against a monster like Gonzalez though at the moment the Flyweight division is genuinely the toughest in the sport and a loss to Gonzalez is nothing but expected for everyone currently competing in the division.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
It's not every week that we get a genuine super fight but on September 5th we get one of the best match ups that the sport could possibly throw us. A bout that it genuinely amazing and a bout that not only looks good as a match up but is also significant in terms of both the Flyweight division and the legacy of both men.
The fight, a WBC Flyweight title fight, will see Japanese champion Akira Yaegashi attempt to record his 4th defence of the title whilst his opponent, Roman Gonzalez, will be attempting to become the second ever 3-weight world champion from Nicaragua and further enhance his reputation as one of the most truly elite fighters on the planet.
The defending champion Yaegashi (20-3, 10) is one of Japanese boxing's best kept secrets though like many of the lower weight fights, such as Katsunari Takayama. He possesses a number of the stereo typical Japanese qualities, the most notable of those qualities is his extreme toughness which has seen him through a number of tough battles, notably his contest with Eagle Den Junlaphan and his bout with Kazuto Ioka. Sadly for Yaegashi he has had to rely on that toughness numerous times over the course of his career due to his defensive limitation and, again like Takayama, he has had to eat more than his share of shots in a tough career.
Aged 31 Yaegashi is getting on for a lower weight fighter and despite having only fought in 23 bouts he has fought in a lot of hard bouts. Those bouts with Junlaphan and Ioka as well as his bouts with Pornsawan Porpramook and Toshiyuki Igarashi would all have “added years” to Yaegashi the boxer and that is a problem, especially considering that the damage he has received has seen his eyes and face swell in numerous bouts, sometimes to the extent that a fight could have been stopped.
As well as the wear and tear Yaegashi has found that his power really isn't effective at the world level. He may have 10 stoppages form his 23 career fights but that includes just 5 from his last 18 bouts and he has actually only scored 2 stoppages in his 7 world title bouts and just 3 in his last 11 bouts!
When we talk about Gonzalez (39-0, 33) we again find ourselves talking about a fighter who is incredibly over-looked by many in the boxing world. Out side of the ring Gonzalez is a charming young man though in between the ropes he is a pure pressure fighter who stalks behind a tight guard, unloads with vicious and quick combinations and is extremely smart in the way he applies pressure, it's constant but intelligent. Worryingly for opponents Gonzalez combines sensational speed, frightening power, smart movement, sturdy defence and a very tough chin, even when tagged cleanly he shows no sign of discomfort.
If he was fighting above 130lbs Gonzalez would be widely regarded as one of the best fighters on the planet. Instead the diminutive Nicaraguan is a man known only to those hardcore fans who make the effort to follow the lower weights. As is often the case those fans are rewarded and in this case they get the to see a destructive, vicious and spiteful fighter who goes to the ring with the intention of beating up foes and not just getting the win.
For a 27 year old Gonzalez seems to have been around for what feels like a lifetime. That's probably because he made his debut all the way back in 2005 as a very baby faced 18 year old and also because he was just 21 when he won his first world title, the WBA Minimumweight title, with a classy performance against Yutaka Niida. He is possibly “older” in terms of boxing age than a 27 year old but it's fair to suggest that he's not yet peaked and is in fact just getting better and better, still.
Although Gonzalez is similar, in a lot of ways, to Yaegashi's stablemate Naoya Inoue there are a lot of differences. Sparring with Inoue will have helped Yaegashi cope with the pressure though Gonzalez is naturally bigger than Inoue and more experienced, two things that will help neutralise the effectiveness of the sparring sessions between Yaegashi and “Monster” Inoue. At the end of the day however that sparring can't prevent Yaegashi from swelling when he takes numerous head shots and sadly we feel that will be his issue here.
Going into the fight we have a boxer with a warriors mentality and a pressure fighter who always brings the action. Unfortunately for Yaegashi the odds don't favour him, especially when we look at the way Gonzalez defeated Katsunari Takayama with intense pressure and heavy artillery that really took it's toll on “The Lightning Kid”. Yaegashi has never shown serious stamina issues but he's never been in the ring with someone as heavy handed or as capable as Gonzalez who always finds a way to cut the ring down and get to work with his thunderous shots on the inside.
Whilst we do favour Gonzalez to get the win here we do need to make fans aware of several things. Firstly Yaegashi has been talking to several former Gonzalez opponents. Amongst them are Takayama and Niida, who have both offered advice to Yaegashi on how Gonzalez goes about his work in the ring. It's obvious that advice will obviously be taken on board by Yaegashi it's hard to know just how much that advice will help him deal with the the man known as "El Chocolatito".
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.