A SUPER(-FLY) SHOW
Dominant Thai Sor Rungvisai ends the Chocolatito
We are ringside as Gonzalez is stunned, and Inoue continues his fearsome form
‘I KNEW I WOULD KNOCK HIM OUT. I FEAR NO ONE’
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]