by Cliff Rold
For those who have been following the career of Roman Gonzalez for years, Saturday wasn’t a surprise. He was the perfect companion to the ongoing rise of Gennady Golovkin at Middleweight. For those watching the Flyweight kingpin for the first time, welcome to the bandwagon. You’ll enjoy the ride.
It was hard not to enjoy the ride Saturday from start to finish. Sure, the favorites went all American Pharaoh, but there is value in that sometimes. Listening to the crowd at the Forum on Saturday, they got what they came to see.
They wanted violence.
They wanted knockouts.
Next time, let’s see some competition.
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Gonzalez B; Sosa B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Gonzalez A; Sosa B+/Post: A+; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Gonzalez B; Sosa B-/Post: B+; C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Gonzalez A; Sosa A/Post: A+; B+
It would be over the top to pretend that Sosa was seen as having a shot to beat Gonzalez. At 35 and with lots of miles, this always felt like a last chance more than a real chance. What was hoped for is that he might be able to give Gonzalez some good rounds.
That’s where Gonzalez impressed. No one has done that to Sosa. Three fights ago, Sosa won a thriller with the brick fisted Giovani Segura and never came close to going down. He’d been stopped without controversy only once, in 2001. His other stoppage loss, to Rodel Mayol in 2009, was precipitated by a bad headbutt.
Sosa, with ten title defenses at 108 lbs. and wins over quality foes like Brian Viloria, Ulises Solis, and Segura, has been one of the more accomplished and durable little men of his era.
Gonzalez destroyed him.
It wasn’t that Gonzalez won. It was the way he won. In terms of intangibles, we are starting to see a trend with “Chocolatito.” He’s a gamer. He looked quicker, sharper, and more responsible defensively against Sosa while as aggressive as ever. He came to show out. When the lights are brightest, when the pressure should be the most intense, he’s better. It was the case when he crushed the formidable Yutaka Niida for his first title. It was the case when he brutalized Akira Yaegashi for his third title last year.
It was true in his breakthrough fight in the biggest money market in boxing. He knew they eyeballs would be there, he knew there was a potential multi-fight deal at HBO in the balance, and he exceeded expectations.
That’s what special fighters do. Gonzalez is special.
Now we find out how special. The Flyweight division is still loaded. Kazuto Ioka, Moruti Mthalane, Brian Viloria, and Amnat Ruenroeng are all excellent potential foes that would test Gonzalez in different ways. Should Jr. Flyweight titlist Donnie Nietes rise in weight, he would also be an excellent test.
At the front of the line is unified titlist Juan Francisco Estrada. They had a classic at 108 lbs. in 2012. Both have done nothing but get better, more mature, and more seasoned since. If they were bigger men, their rematch would be as demanded as any fight in the sport. Among the hardcore faithful, it’s near the top of any wish list.
Gonzalez need not be pressured to move up in weight too soon. Flyweight is too good to be dismissed without doing more to clean it out before hitting the increasingly interesting 115 lb. class.
Gonzalez stole the show in the ring but the show was still Golovkin’s. It said here on Friday that Willie Monroe’s challenge amounted to a showcase fight. It turned out to be true for both men. Monroe’s will to win, and survive, before finally giving in during the sixth was commendable. That he summoned enough to win round four was too. Monroe made a dramatic leap in quality of opposition and gave his best.
His best wasn’t good enough.
No one else’s is at Middleweight right now either. Golovkin was his typical nasty self. The hook he landed to score the first knockdown sounded like a cannon blast. He showed some vulnerability to the boxing and volume punching of Monroe but that’s not a bad thing. Aggressive fighters get hit.
Maybe it will entice a Canelo Alvarez by next year, the sight of Golovkin being tagged and given pause a couple times by the relatively light hitting Monroe.
That’s all that’s left after all. He continues to win at Middleweight playing the Hopkins game with little interest in moving up. If that’s his course, to be a career Middleweight, so be it. Eventually, the name opponent he craves will rise. The unification chances will come.
Until then, he’ll keep winning.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2015: 36-8 (Including staff picks for Benavidez-Paez and Makabu-Mchunu)
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]