Can Roman Gonzalez bring the lower weight classes to prominence?

Can Roman Gonzalez bring the lower weight classes to prominence?

By Hector Franco

This Saturday night at the Forum in Inglewood, California we will witness the return of WBC Flyweight Champion, Roman Gonzalez (44-0, 28 KO’s). He will be making the fourth defense of his title. This time, he faces off against Puerto Rican, McWilliams Arroyo (16-2, 14 KO’s). Arroyo is best known for taking on current IBF Flyweight champion, Amnat Ruenroeng. The bout took place in Thailand and Arroyo lost via close split decision. Many thought Arroyo did enough to win the bout. Besides his experience of facing a world champion in his home country, Arroyo was also a highly touted amateur. Arroyo won three gold medals in the amateurs. 

The Puerto Rican won gold medals at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2006, The Pan American Games in 2007 and the World Amateur Boxing Championships in 2009. Despite Gonzalez being a big favorite over Arroyo, he will be in tough against McWilliams Arroyo. 

For Gonzalez, this bout is just another title defense, but he is upholding and representing much more. For most boxing fans any weight class below 122 pounds is usually ignored. Networks like HBO and Showtime don’t pick up the bouts.  This leaves fans forced to search through Youtube to find the fights. Gonzalez, however, has been put in a rare situation where he has been put on HBO and HBO PPV.  Besides the likes of Johnny Tapia and Michael Carbajal back in the 1990’s, there haven’t been any fights featuring Flyweights on HBO. Gonzalez so far has lived up to the hype of being recognized as one of the best in the world. But will this be enough to give these weight classes the recognition and exposure that they deserve? 

Even with Gonzalez being ranked as the best fighter in the world by publications such as Ring Magazine and putting on great performances against the likes of Brian Viloria, it won’t be enough to get the attention of many fans. 

It will take a rivalry of great fights against a great opponent to bring these smaller divisions more recognition. There are many quality fighters at these weights and it will take a collective of fighters to bring this to light, not just one individual. The perfect opponent for Gonzalez at this point would be former opponent, Juan Francisco Estrada. Their first bout was one of the best match ups of 2012. These two men have been equally impressive against similar opposition since their first fight. A rematch could even headline a card as the main event in California.  Along with Gonzalez finding a rival to participate in great match ups, HBO will also need to go all in on these lower weight classes. Fighters like Naoya Inoue, Carlos Caudras, Amnat Ruenroeng and Donnie Nietes need to be featured on the network.  This would help Gonzalez by bringing in a whole new set of opponents that would provide great competition.  But, also other fighters that HBO has featured in the past.

Guillermo Rigondeaux could use an opponent that is actually willing to face him.  Current 118-pound WBC champion; Shinsuke Yamanaka may be the perfect fit.  Both men are undefeated and Rigondeaux has shown that he is more than willing to travel to Japan for a fight. The last memorable bout HBO had in Japan was the bout between Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas. A card in Japan featuring Guillermo Rigondeaux and Roman Gonzalez against the right opponents could pack an arena.  It could potentially bring in the highest viewership that the smaller weights have ever produced. 

The story of Roman Gonzalez has been exciting and has brought more attention to the smaller weights, but fans need more than one story for them to get invested. If Gonzalez keeps winning and HBO is willing to put on more quality fighters from the lower weights it will only be a matter of time before divisions like Flyweight get the attention they deserve. 

Featured Photo: Naoki Fukuda

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