By Jake Donovan
A show in Mexico designed as a showcase for a lower-weight phenom proved to be pivotal in the careers of three fighters by the time the night was done.
Roman Gonzalez saw his fight with Juan Kantun play out exactly as scripted, overcoming a determined challenger to break him down and stop him inside of six rounds Saturday evening in Tapachula, Mexico. The supporting bout was anything but predictable; former 115 lb. titlist Rodrigo Guerrero opened strong and rode out a brief rally to stop previously unbeaten Daniel Rosas in seven rounds.
Despite appearing on the same show, the fights aired via different televised means; Gonzalez’ win in the main event aired live on Canal 2 in his native Nicaragua, while Guerrero-Rosas served as the televised main event of a one-hour delayed airing on TV Azteca.
Gonzalez, a former champ at strawweight and junior flyweight, is being groomed for a title – or at least a title shot – in a third weight class. The world is presumably his oyster, with plenty of options from which to choose. The trick, however, is getting his divisional peers in the ring with him.
Such fate ultimately drove the undefeated Nicaraguan out of the junior flyweight division. A mouthwatering showdown with Kazuto Ioka was on the minds of anyone who follows the lower weight classes, but never came close to coming to fruition despite alphabet politics suggesting the bout should have been ordered long ago.
Instead, the 26-year old decided it wasn’t worth his time sticking around waiting for a fight that stood little chance of materializing, in a weight class that he would eventually outgrow, anyway.
Four straight wins have now followed at flyweight (and above), including his 6th round drilling of Kantun on the road in Mexico. Gonzalez was precise in his attack and thorough in breaking down his opponent. The fight was not without its nail-biting moment, though.
Kantun spoke all week of guaranteeing a war and did his part to live up to that promise early on. Whether or not he was winning rounds was irrelevant; Gonzalez was in a fight and would have to work hard to achieve his desired result. In that regard, the fight was not unlike the former two-division titlist’s 12-round war with Juan Francisco Estrada in Nov. ’12.
The major differences between the two, however, were that Estrada never wilted or stopped coming forward in making Gonzalez march through hell for 36 minutes. Kantun did his best to emulate, but lacked the firepower and, ultimately, the ability to absorb.
Once Gonzalez was able to hurt the brave Mexican slugger, the fight was functionally over. Things truly avalanched for the crowd favorite early in round six, suffering the first of three knockdowns on the round and fight. Kantun managed to climb to his feet every time, but was never able to turn the tide.
Gonzalez never took his foot off the gas, wearing down Kantun with each power shot. The third knockdown could have ended the fight upon impact, but the referee went all the way to the count of nine before deciding there was no longer a need to allow the onslaught to continue.
The official time was 1:01 of round six.
Kantun, now 21-6-3 (15KO) has now suffered knockout losses in back-to-back fights, and seven total knockdowns in three losses over the course of his past four contests.
It’s not exactly the best means to get Gonzalez ready for a title fight. It does keep him busy in the ring, although it’s beginning to look like the same can be said for his next ring appearance.
Advancing to 38-0 (32KO), Gonzalez is now slated to appear on an April 5 show in Japan, where he frequently fights for Teiken Promotions. Original plans called for a potential title shot on the show, but the big question now is exactly from whom that opportunity will come.
Immediately ruled out is the division’s true lineal champion, Akira Yaegashi, who is targeted to headline the show in a defense versus undeserving challenger Odilon Zaleta.
Gonzalez was installed as the #1 challenger to Yaegashi’s alphabet title, but not necessarily the mandatory challenger. In fact, it’s possible that by the time his targeted April 6 ring return rolls around, he will have lost the top contender spot.
Streaking former flyweight titlist Luis Concepcion fights on Thursday in Panama, in a fight billed for a “silver” title at stake. In simple translation, a win would put Concepcion in position for an eventual mandatory title shot, though like Gonzalez, not necessarily next in line. The likelihood of the two leading contenders fighting on the April 6 show in Tokyo is highly doubtful.
Another lingering option for Gonzalez is a rematch with Estrada, who currently serves as a unified flyweight titlist. The run began one fight after Estrada’s close-but-clear loss to Gonzalez in their thriller, pulling off a major upset with a decision win over Brian Viloria last April.
Only one defense has followed, a decision win over Milan Melindo last July. Both title fights took place in Macau, meaning that the willingness of both fighters to travel allows a rematch to take place literally anywhere in the world.
Also rumored in the Chocolatito Sweepstakes is top flyweight Juan Carlos Reveco. However, the Argentine boxer has a fight scheduled in March, which – even if a viable option as a next opponent – wouldn’t happen until at least summertime.
For now, Gonzalez remains unbeaten and a cult favorite in the sport. Saturday’s win served as his latest attempt to keep busy while awaiting a big fight to materialize. Eventually his handlers will have to figure out a course of action that will have everyone’s favorite little big man accomplishing more than merely keeping busy.
GUERRERO SHOCKINGLY DOMINANT, STOPS ROSAS IN SEVENT
Former 115 lb. titlist Rodrigo Guerrero scored a minor upset with a 7th round stoppage of Daniel Rosas. The bout was by far the best of the weekend, with Rosas rallying from a horrible start to make a fight of it, but was ultimately worn down late in round seven.
The bout served as proof that you should take what’s offered rather than letting a fight marinate to the point of burning the sauce and ruining the meal.
Rosas was once in line for a mandatory title shot versus long-reigning super flyweight titlist Omar Narvaez. An injury prevented the unbeaten Mexican from following through on that opportunity, but - for reasons only his handlers can explain – that fight was never again revisited.
The 24-year old has taken five straight fights above the super flyweight limit, having now completely outgrown the division. Attempts to revive his contender status have proven futile. A decision win over Juan Alberto Rosas (no relation) last October took place at the bantamweight limit, but the unbeaten fighter hardly looked like a future champion on the night.
He looked even less so on Saturday night, this time in a fitting measure as the fight came against an actual former champion.
Guerrero has endured several peaks and valleys over the past eight-plus years of his career. A pro since 17, the battle-tested Mexican overcame a rough start to his career and a poor showing in his first title challenge to slug his way back to the title picture. A narrow points loss to Raul Martinez in Nov. ’10 came with sweet revenge, scoring a convincing win – albeit in a cut-shortened bout – to capture a vacant title.
The reign was brief, losing his belt in his very next fight and then landing on the wrong end of history in his next title challenge. A disputed points loss to Daiki Kameda last September marked the first time ever that three brothers simultaneously reigned as major titlists.
There was no title at stake or even the assurance of a title shot in Saturday’s fight with Rosas, but Guerrero fought as if his career was on the line. Perhaps it was, even at age 26 as he has been forced to work harder than most for everything he’s achieved.
That level of desire and willingness showed in the opening round, when Rosas was dropped hard and nearly taken out. Guerrero applied heavy pressure in the first couple of rounds, before Rosas was able to rally back in round three.
A deep cut over Rosas’ eye slowed his momentum in the fourth round, and perhaps played a factor in the fight, Guerrero didn’t show any mercy, pouring on the attack although Rosas was firing back plenty in return.
For boxing fans, the fight was one of the better entries in a weekend loaded with boxing action around the world. It’s doubtful that Rosas will be content with simply wearing that badge, as his days as an unbeaten fighter quickly came to an end. Guerrero had the rising young contender in considerable trouble before the fight was stopped in round seven.
Guerrero returns to the win column for the first time in nearly a year as his record improves to 20-5-1 (12KO). Perhaps another title fight is in store, or perhaps not. But the former champ can take great pride in knowing that such a fate is now completely out of the running for Rosas, who falls to 17-1-1 (10KO) in a fight that said a lot more about what he should have previously done than what he can potentially do.
TV AZTECA UNDERCARD
Javier Cifuentes' pro debut was nowhere nearly as memorable as his brother Jose, as he was stopped in four rounds by Luis Nery in their televised preliminary bout.
Nery looked every bit the part of an unbeaten prospect having his way with a debutant, boxing early and pouring on the power as the fight progressed. A series of left hooks lare in round four had Cifuentes in trouble, prompting the stoppage.
The official time was 2:10 of round four. Nery advances to 11-0 (7KO); Cifuentes is now 0-1 (0KO).
In the opening bout of the telecast, Naciff Castillo and debuting Jose Cifuentes fought to a six-round draw. Scores were 58-56 Castillo (17-5-2, 5KO), 58-56 Cifuentes (0-0-1, 0KO) and 57-57 even.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox