Can Chocolatito get back on top?
By Hector Franco
Published: March 25, 2017
Last weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York City Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez faced off against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 38 KOs) for the WBC 115-pound championship. In what will be considered one of the biggest upsets of 2017, Rungvisai won a controversial majority decision over Gonzalez. The bout featured a rare knockdown of Gonzalez in the first round off of a body shot that landed at the same time as a head butt. This was only the second time Gonzalez had been knocked down in his entire professional career.
Rungvisai would go on to have a point deducted from him in the sixth round from referee Steve Willis due to a cut on Gonzalez made by an accidental headbutt. Without question, the fight itself was a nip and tuck affair that saw changes in momentum and both men land big punches. To the majority of fans after twelve action-packed rounds, it looked like Gonzalez had done more than enough to earn a clear decision victory. The judges surprisingly saw the bout another way and also changed the boxing landscape.
For many Gonzalez shouldn’t be penalized for losing a controversial decision but it’s clear that at 115-pounds that his level of dominance has diminished in comparison to his performances at 112 and 108 pounds. Respected publications such as ESPN and Ring Magazine have removed Gonzalez from the top of their pound for pound lists. He has been replaced him with the likes of Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) and Gennady Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs). Both Ward and Golovkin were recently in controversial fights where the decision was ruled in their favor.
From here on out the road for Gonzalez will not be an easy one. If Gonzalez were to retire today at 29 years of age, he would be voted into the Hall-of-Fame as soon as he was eligible for his work at 105, 108, 112, and 115 pounds. Last year he became Nicaragua’s first four-division world champion.
It’s possible for Gonzalez to get back to the top of the mythical pound for pound list but even when he was clearly the most deserving of that distinction many fans doubted his inclusion at the top of the throne. It turns out that hardcore boxing fans aren’t that hardcore. Fans dismissed Gonzalez because he fought at the lower weight classes.
A rematch with Rungvisai is a priority for Gonzalez and would be the appropriate first step for Gonzalez to reclaim the top spot in the 115-pound division. For Gonzalez, a win over Rungvisai means more than the top spot on top of the pound-for-pound list.
If a rematch with Rungvisai doesn’t occur next, there are plenty of tough fights for Gonzalez. The first match available for Gonzalez is a rematch with Carlos Cuadras (36-1-1, 27 KOs). Up until last Saturday night, Cuadras may have given Gonzalez the toughest fight of his career. Although their first fight was a fight of the year candidate for 2016, Cuadras put on a subpar performance against David Carmona (20-4-5, 8 KOs) last Saturday pushing the demand for a Gonzalez-Cuadras rematch to the side.
Before Cuadras and Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada (35-2, 25 KOs) fought Gonzalez in a great back and forth action fight in September 2012. Estrada has been demanding a rematch with Gonzalez for years. Estrada has looked impressive since the Gonzalez fight defeating the likes of Brian Viloria, Giovani Segura, and Hernan Marquez. Injuries kept Estrada from fighting more than once in 2016, but in his last fight earlier this month against Anuar Salas (20-4, 12 KOs) he looked impressive getting a fifth round stoppage. At this point, a second Gonzalez-Estrada bout could be this era’s version of Barrera-Morales.
Possibly the most dangerous opponent for Gonzalez is 23-year old WBO super flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (12-0, 10 KOs). Inoue is a phenom who fights with a level of technique well beyond his age and experience. With just 12 professional fights Inoue is already a two-division world champion and rated on some pound-for-pound lists. Gonzalez has fought in Japan a total of nine times, and a fight with Inoue would do big business in the island nation.
At just 29-years of age, it seems that Gonzalez’ best days are behind him. Gonzalez, however, has shown in both the Cuadras and Rungvisai fights that his heart and determination to win have not taken a step backward. There was always a debate as to whether Gonzalez was the best fighter in the world pound-for-pound. What isn’t up for debate is that no matter who Gonzalez chooses to face next, he is the most entertaining fighter in the world that is guaranteed to give the fan’s their money’s worth
(Feature Photo: Getty Images)