By Jake Donovan
Roman Gonzalez seeks to become the first fighter from Nicaragua since the late, great Alexis Arguello to claim a major title in three weight classes. In order to turn the trick, he will have to travel to Tokyo, Japan and the backyard of defending World flyweight king Akira Yaegashi.
The oddsmakers don’t seem to see it as much of an uphill battle, as Gonzalez is a considerable favorite to head home with hardware in tow. That’s not to say he won’t have a fight on his hands.
Yaegashi (20-3, 10KOs) attempts the 4th defense of the lineal flyweight championship he won in a decision win over Toshiyuki Igarashi last April. His one-year anniversary as lord of the flyweights was spent knocking out Mexico’s Odilon Zaleta.
Prior to moving up in weight, Yaegashi briefly served as a strawweight titlist, in a reign that was short-lived yet memorable. A 10th round stoppage of Pornsawan Porpramook to win the crown also served as 2011 Fight of the Year, and regarded by many as the best strawweight fight of all time.
Yaegashi lost the belt in his lone defense, a sizzling 12-round war with Kazuto Ioka in June ’12. The bout served as the first time ever two reigning titlists from Japan met in a unification bout.
Gonzalez (39-0, 33KOs) has long been considered one of the very best fighters in the world, regardless of weight. His title reigns at strawweight and junior flyweight proved more memorable in retrospect than at the time of his fights, such as a Nov. ’12 win in a war with Juan Francisco Estrada, who one fight later went on to win two belts at flyweight.
Friday’s title fight provides Gonzalez with the type of career-defining moment his career has lacked to date. Will he rise to the occasion and prove to be as great as the hype? Will Yaegashi once again find a way to win, or succumb to perhaps the most dangerous fighter in the lower weight classes?
Read on to find out how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes tonight's flyweight action will play out.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: AKIRA YAEGASHI vs. ROMAN GONZALEZ
Shaun Brown (Gonzalez KO8): “A great start to what should be a terrific boxing weekend. For as long as it lasts this will be a memorable affair but in Gonzalez, a mini Golovkin type, we have a fighter who has better tools as well as age and less wear and tear on his side that will be just as decisive as any tactic. He may well batter Yaegashi into submission here.”
Ryan Burton (Gonzalez TKO10): “The younger, fresher challenger will be too much for the champion, forcing a late stoppage.”
Jake Donovan (Yaegashi SD): “Just because someone needs to pick the defending champion. For the sake of logic, Yaegashi is far craftier than the retreads Gonzalez has feasted on (and also a better boxer than the scouting report suggests) since moving up. Both fighters will know by night’s end that they’ve been in a fight, but Yaegashi finds a way to scrape out a close and perhaps disputed decision.”
Ernest Gabion (Gonzalez UD): “I like Chocolatito to take a decision and win the championship.”
Ryan Maquiñana (Gonzalez KO10): “Roman Gonzalez has shown his power will carry over to 112 pounds in his past few fights, and that doesn't bode well for a warrior like Akira Yaegashi, who will end up trading bombs to his ultimate detriment. I foresee a seesaw Fight of the Year candidate where the Japanese fighter will blink first.”
Cliff Rold (Gonzalez KO): “Roman Gonzalez might be one of the 4-5 best fighters in the world but how does he handle someone with the sort of speed Yaegashi has? The WBC and lineal Flyweight champion from Japan has used his legs and the ring more lately and Gonzalez is going to have to find him. Gonzalez's pressure and body work will slow him down and bring out the warrior that made fights with Pornsawan Porpramook and Kazuto Ioka so memorable. That will be Yaegashi's downfall. In what on paper is a fantastic clash between two men in their prime, Gonzalez will add his third divisional crown with a late stoppage.”
Alexey Sukachev (Gonzalez UD): “Honestly, I don't think Yaegashi has much of a chance. Gonzalez in his prime is a natural force one will be very sorry to mess with. On the other hand, the Japanese warrior is as tough as the come. I foresee a very spirited two-way action but Yaegashi will finally succumb (partially) to power and irresistible force of Gonzalez in a close-quarter rumble. His chin will hold up however.”
Anson Wainwright (Gonzalez Dec.): “Great fight between a very underestimated champion in Yaegashi and Gonzalez who looks to become a three-weight world champion. I expect the action to be heated with both men giving there all. Ultimately i see 'Chocalitito' winning a fast paced all-action bout by close by clear decision.”
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