By Francisco Salazar
Inglewood, Calif. - Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez wanted to become the first fighter from Nicaragua to win world title belts in four different weight classes.
Carlos Cuadras did everything he could to prevent that.
What resulted was both fighters giving boxing fans a thrilling fight to remember.
Gonzalez won a hard-fought 12 round unanimous decision over Cuadras before an energetic and boisterous crowd of 6,714 at The Forum.
With the win, Gonzalez improves to 46-0, 38 knockouts. Cuadras suffered his first loss as a pro, falling to 35-1-1, 27 KOs.
"This was the most difficult fight of my career," said Gonzalez after the fight. "He didn't hurt me at anytime during the fight."
After defending his WBC flyweight title four times, Gonzalez moved up from 112 pounds to challenge Cuadras. Both are familiar with one another as both are promoted by Teiken Promotions.
Some wondered whether Gonzalez was able to carry his power up to 115 pounds after having stopped Brian Viloria and Edgar Sosa in recent fights. Would Cuadras box enough and utilize his ring generalship to outbox Gonzalez?
Few people inside The Forum and those tuning in expected the type of fight where both fighters would throw a total of 1,872 punches.
From the opening bell, both fighters connected to the head, bringing fans draped in flags of Nicaragua and Mexico inside the venue to their feet. Gonzalez landed the more telling blows, but Cuadras was never hurt during those exchanges.
As the bout progressed, Cuadras was able to find success with lead or counter right hands to the head. The amount of punches produced a bruise below Gonzalez's left eye by the fifth round.
There were points when Gonzalez was relentless, digging to the body that forced Cuadras to hold on.
Just when it looked as though Gonzalez would control the action, Cuadras would mount a rally, forcing Gonzalez to step out of the pocket or to hold.
As if the first 10 rounds of the fight did not bring enough action, Gonzalez and Cuadras produced epic exchanges in the final two rounds. Both stood in the pocket, trading back and forth, bringing the crowd to their feet again until the final bell sounded.
All three judges scored the bout in favor of Gonzalez, 115-113, 116-112, and 117-111. Boxingscene.com scored the bout 116-112 in favor of Gonzalez.
According to CompuBox numbers, Gonzalez landed 322 out of 983 total punches. Out of 889 total punches, Cuadras connected on 257.
Now that Gonzalez has won a world title belt in four different weight classes, many arguments could be made.
Is he now the greatest fighter to come out of Nicaragua? The great Alexis Arguello, who mentored Gonzalez, won only world title belts in three weight classes.
"It means a lot to win this title. Alexis Arguello was my mentor. He helped train me. He was a father-figure to me."
Is Gonzalez the top fighter in boxing today? Gonzalez is in the shadows of the 50-win plateau without a loss, which is very rare in the fight game.
Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev could also make a case, considering the world title belts he has. Could Sergey Kovalev unseat Gonzalez should he defeat Andre Ward on November 19?
All three fighters are compliments of one another.
But it is hard to argue what Gonzalez has done and what he could still do, considering there are possible fights between him and the likes of Naoya Inoue and Juan Francisco Estrada, who sat ringside on Saturday night.
Not just Nicaragua, but for what he has accomplished, Gonzalez sits on top of the boxing world.
In the co-feature bout, junior middleweight Yoshihiro Kamegai stopped Jesus Soto-Karass in the eighth round.
Kamegai improves to 27-3-2, 24 KOs, while Soto-Karass falls to 28-11-4, 18 KOs.
The fight was a rematch from their 10 round back-and-forth brawl that occurred on April 15. The outcome of that fight was a split-decision draw.
The action on Saturday night was nowhere what took place at the Belasco Theatre in Los Angeles almost five months ago. But there some decent exchanges that kept the crowd engaged.
Both had their moments in the first four rounds, but it took until the fifth round for both fighters to finally let their hands go, providing solid exchanges.
But Kamegai took control of the fight in the sixth round, beating Soto-Karass to the punch. Soto-Karass' punch output dropped as the bout progressed.
Things did not get better in the seventh round as Soto-Karass was hurt by a combination by Kamegai. One round later, Soto-Karass was hurt by a right from Kamegai and eventually went down onto the canvas courtesy of a barrage of punches.
The warrior in him refused to quit, beating the count and finishing the round. As he sat down on his stool, his corner told referee Jack Reiss that their fighter would not come out for the ninth round.
After the fight, Kameagi said he is open to anyone Akihiro Honda, head of Teiken Promotions, puts in front go him.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSaalzarBoxing