Dom­i­nant Thai Sor Rungvi­sai ends the Cho­co­latito

Boxing News - - Contents - Kieran Mul­vaney

We are ring­side as Gon­za­lez is stunned, and Inoue con­tin­ues his fear­some form


BOX­ING is the cru­elest of sports. It does not re­spect rep­u­ta­tions. It is en­tirely un­for­giv­ing of age and de­cline. It el­e­vates the young and vic­to­ri­ous and then sends them crash­ing down to Earth in the most bru­tally bruis­ing of fash­ions. To a long list that in­cludes Bernard Hop­kins be­ing knocked out of the ring by Joe Smith Jnr and Roy Jones be­ing poleaxed by Glen John­son, add Ro­man ‘Cho­co­latito’ Gon­za­lez – six months ago sit­ting atop mul­ti­ple pound-for-pound lists, but on Satur­day at the Stub­hub Cen­ter, flat­tened by the pow­er­ful fists of Srisaket Sor Rungvi­sai, bat­tered and beaten, his fu­ture sud­denly in real doubt.

In March, Rungvi­sai knocked down Gon­za­lez in the first round, and although the Nicaraguan bat­tled back de­spite pour­ing blood from gashes caused by head butts, se­cured a points vic­tory – and the WBC su­per-fly­weight ti­tle – that was close and some­what con­tro­ver­sial. The ring­side con­sen­sus was that “Cho­co­latito” had de­served the vic­tory, but that the close­ness of the con­test un­der­lined a grow­ing sense that, with a ca­reer of hard-fought bouts, and fight­ing 10 pounds above his orig­i­nal pro­fes­sional weight, Gon­za­lez was show­ing signs of be­ing on a down­ward slope. The re­match was nei­ther con­tro­ver­sial nor close, and the knock­out loss leaves Gon­za­lez plum­met­ing to­ward the base of the moun­tain while Rungvi­sai raises his arms aloft at the peak.

Per­haps Gon­za­lez has in­deed sim­ply wrung as much as he can out of his body. Per­haps he is sim­ply too small to com­pete ef­fec­tively against the best 115 pounders, the way he could

swat aside those at fly­weight or be­low. Per­haps Rungvi­sai sim­ply has his num­ber, is his Ken Nor­ton or Ju­nior Jones.

Or per­haps all – or none – of the above are true, yet the real rea­son the Thai fighter, from Si Sa Ket, emerged vic­to­ri­ous is that he is gen­uinely that good. Af­ter all, since start­ing his pro­fes­sional ca­reer 0-2 and 1-3-1, he is on a 43-1 tear, the only loss a tech­ni­cal de­ci­sion de­feat to Car­los Cuadras af­ter their con­test was halted early due to head butts. He is strong and fe­ro­cious, and at­tacked Gon­za­lez with venom from the mo­ment the first bell rang: Of the 80 punches he landed in ap­prox­i­mately three-and-a-third rounds, pre­cisely none were jabs. Managua, Nicaragua’s Gon­za­lez, heav­ily out­worked in the open­ing stanza, re­turned fire with equal pace and vol­ume in the sec­ond and third; how­ever, his punches seemed to bounce off Rungvi­sai, while the Thai’s blows fre­quently phys­i­cally moved Gon­za­lez sev­eral feet. In the third round, in par­tic­u­lar, Rungvi­sai tar­geted Cho­co­latito’s body with venom, and early in the fourth, soft­ened him up with al­ter­nate pow­er­ful south­paw right hooks and body punches be­fore de­liv­er­ing the blow that proved the be­gin­ning of the end.

Gon­za­lez wound up to launch a right cross, but Rungvi­sai beat him to it with a short right hook that sent Cho­co­latito tum­bling back­ward and crash­ing down on his side, his stiff legs akimbo. He hauled him­self to his feet, nod­ded to ref­eree Tom Tay­lor that he was OK, and threw him­self back into bat­tle, but Rungvi­sai would not let him off the hook. A bar­rage of punches was punc­tu­ated with an­other pow­er­ful right hand, and the Nicaraguan crashed to his back, Tay­lor wav­ing off the con­test with­out even both­er­ing to count. The time was 1-18.

The former cham­pion lay there, re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion, for sev­eral min­utes while Rungvi­sai and his team cel­e­brated wildly. When fi­nally he sat up, he looked not so much stunned or hurt as tremen­dously sad, as if fully aware that he had suf­fered more than a de­feat. But if Cho­co­latito’s fu­ture seems sud­denly murky, his con­queror’s is bright.

“I trained for four months for this fight. I knew I would knock him out,” he de­clared post-fight. Asked who he would like to face next, he re­sponded sim­ply that “I fear no one.” That next op­po­nent may well be Juan

Fran­cisco Estrada, who be­came the manda­tory for Rungvi­sai’s world ti­tle belt fol­low­ing a ra­zor-thin but unan­i­mous de­ci­sion win over Car­los Cuadras in the open­ing bout of HBO’S tele­cast of three su­per-fly­weight con­tests. Per­haps best known for be­ing the op­po­nents who, un­til Rungvi­sai came along, had come clos­est to de­feat­ing Cho­co­latito, the two Mex­i­cans put on a tremen­dously skill­ful and cap­ti­vat­ing per­for­mance over 12 frames that saw the bout swing first one way and then the other and also wit­nessed mo­men­tum changes within many of the rounds them­selves. It was Cuadras who be­gan the stronger, shoot­ing out of the blocks with en­ergy and pur­pose, bounc­ing around on his toes and mov­ing around the ring, and fir­ing punches in com­bi­na­tions from mul­ti­ple an­gles.

Puerto Pe­nasco’s Estrada, in con­trast, was fo­cused on re­main­ing com­pact and ef­fi­cient in his of­fense, wait­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to spear his op­po­nent

➤ from Mex­ico City with straight coun­ters in be­tween Cuadras’ wider punches. When he landed, he ap­peared to do so with greater ef­fect than did Cuadras, and in a bat­tle of left hooks to the head, his were the shorter, sharper and stronger. None­the­less, even as Estrada inched ever closer, pro­gres­sively reel­ing in Cuadras inch by inch, the Cuadras workrate seemed to be car­ry­ing the day through the first five rounds, and there ap­peared ev­ery like­li­hood that Estrada would fall short be­cause of his rel­a­tive in­ac­tiv­ity.

That all changed dra­mat­i­cally in the sixth. A tir­ing Cuadras was now within Estrada’s de­sired strik­ing range, and Estrada be­gan to pound his head with hard right hands. That con­tin­ued into the sev­enth, by the end of which Cuadras was start­ing to look ragged. Whereas over the first few rounds, Estrada had threat­ened to take con­trol of rounds, only for Cuadras’ out­put to seize back the mo­men­tum, now the re­verse was true: Cuadras at­tempt­ing to re­gain the ini­tia­tive with his com­bi­na­tion, but thwarted by Estrada’s pre­ci­sion power punch­ing.

In the 10th, Estrada sent Cuadras to the can­vas with a right hand; but although Cuadras beat the count of ref­eree Jack Reiss, the mo­ment proved de­ci­sive. Although the scores of 114-113 from judges Max Deluca, Ed­die Her­nadez, and Tim Cheatham were ini­tially an­nounced in favour of Cuadras, they were then cor­rectly de­clared to be in favour of Estrada, the thin mar­gin tes­ta­ment to the close­ness of the bout.

In the co-main event, Tokyo’s Naoya Inoue made his US de­but by pound­ing over­matched Antonio Nieves over six in­creas­ingly one-sided rounds un­til the Cleve­land, Ohio man’s cor­ner pulled him from the con­test af­ter six rounds. Inoue dom­i­nated the con­test, thump­ing Nieves with a thud­ding jab and fol­low­ing up with over­hand rights, and drop­ping him in the fifth with a left hand to the body. There­after, Inoue tar­geted the Nieves body with vi­o­lence, as­sault­ing it with power punches un­til the cor­ner in­ter­ceded. The ref­eree was Lou Moret.

Vet­eran former champ Brian Vilo­ria, in his sec­ond out­ing since los­ing to Gon­za­lez in 2015, scored a stop­page win over Miguel Carta­gena, ref­eree Raul Caiz Snr step­ping in to halt the con­test 44 sec­onds into round five.bn

THE VER­DICT Looks like the end for Gon­zlaez, but Srisaket Sor Rungvi­sai is the real deal.


BET­TER MAN: Sor Rungvi­sai [left] is a rev­e­la­tion as he pum­mels Gon­za­lez

OVER AND OUT: Gon­za­lez lies mo­tion­less on the can­vas as Sor Rungvi­sai cel­e­brates his en­try into the big time


COME­BACK CON­TIN­UES: Former champ Vilo­ria clocks Carta­gena with his right hand to score sec­ond vic­tory since 2015

DUR­ING THE WAR: Cuadras [far left] throws and eats leather be­fore Estrada [in­set] cel­e­brates a mem­o­rable vic­tory

MUCH TOO GOOD: Inoue [left] tears into the over­matched Nievas and will soon be de­clared the win­ner [far right]

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