by Cliff Rold
Arguably the two most exciting offensive fighters in boxing will share an arena this weekend, one in furtherance of his budding HBO franchise status and one trying to begin his. If, in the wake of the eventual retirement of Floyd Mayweather this year or next, Gennady Golovkin and Roman Gonzalez are battling to be his pound-for-pound heir it would be no surprise.
Fans who waited years for Mayweather-Pacquiao won’t have to worry about a clash with Golovkin and Gonzalez. They are about fifty pounds apart on the scale. Any debate about which of them is the better man will strictly be barbershop fare.
Golovkin is the headliner and both are matched in bouts where they are strong favorites. Of the two, Gonzalez appears to have the much tougher foe.
Let’s go the report card.
Title: Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBC World Flyweight (2014-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: WBA Minimumweight (2008-10, 3 Defenses); WBA Light Flyweight (2010-13, 5 Defenses)
Weight: 111 lbs.
Hails from: Managua, Nicaragua
Record: 46-0, 33 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 11-0, 7 KO (12-0, 8 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 6 (Yutaka Niida TKO4; Katsunari Takayama UD12; Ramon Garcia KO4; Juan Francisco Estrada UD12; Francisco Rodriguez Jr. TKO7; Akira Yaegashi TKO9)
Previous Titles: WBC Light Flyweight (2007-09, 10 Defenses)
Height: 5’3 ½
Weight: 112 lbs.
Hails from: Mexico City, Mexico
Record: 51-8, 30 KO, 2 KOBY
Rankings: #4 (Ring), #5 (BoxingScene, TBRB, ESPN) #7 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 11-3, 7 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 14 (Ulises Solis L6, L12, KO2; Omar Nino L10; Isaac Bustos L12; Gilberto Keb Baas UD12; Noel Arambulet Tech. Dec. 10; Brian Viloria MD12; Luis Lazarte DQ10; Roberto Leyva TKO4, KO2; Sonny Boy Jaro UD12; Pornsawan Porpramook TKO4; Rodel Mayol TKO by 2; Pongsaklek Wonjongkam L12; Giovani Segura UD12; Akira Yaegashi L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Gonzalez B; Sosa B
Pre-Fight: Power – Gonzalez A; Sosa B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Gonzalez B; Sosa B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Gonzalez A; Sosa A
For several years, Flyweight has been of the deepest and most compelling divisions in boxing. A big American stage will finally give these men their due in prime time. HBO picked a good fight to start with, matching the legitimate champion in the class with a still viable top ten contender.
While Sosa is past his best days, it would be a mistake to consider him old entering this fight. He comes in a relatively rested 35, taking two stay busy fights in 2014 after a stacked 2013 campaign. That year, Sosa avenged two early career losses to Ulises Solis (who reigned alongside Sosa for awhile at 108 lbs.) and won a battling decision over Segura. His loss to Yaegashi, while clear, was competitive.
This is his third, and probably last, chance at the Flyweight title. Whatever Sosa has left, he’ll bring it. In terms of speed, his recent form suggests he won’t be at much if any disadvantage to the younger man. Gonzalez is quick handed but not a speed demon. Gonzalez will bring the fight to him and Sosa will have chances to land early.
Where he will be at a disadvantage is defensively. While both men have styles that result in contact, Sosa gets hit more these days. He used to be better but the years have made him rely more on his toughness. Gonzalez makes adjustments and blocks well to the body. As he gets comfortable, the champion is works the body and head with accuracy and variety. It’s not all right hands or left hooks. Gonzalez mixes it up to the head and body and works in nasty uppercuts.
Both men have good chins. Gonzalez has had the better one insofar as he stays off the floor and has never been stopped. Sosa has been tagged by some big hitters and stayed up. Segura and Viloria couldn’t drop him; Yaegashi beat him with better speed and volume.
Sosa’s lone stoppage loss in the last 13 years had some controversy. Sosa cried foul at a second round headbutt he felt was intentional against Rodel Mayol in 2011. The punches that stopped him later in the round were clean enough but the evidence suggests a solid beard. His other stoppage loss was in 2001. Since beginning his career 12-5, Sosa has gone 39-3.
All those losses have come in title fights.
So the chin of each is a solid intangible in this fight, leading to other questions. How will the pressure affect both men? Sosa is close to a win-or-move-on phase of his career and has little to lose. Gonzalez has much more at stake. Not only is his title on the line but he also fights for a possible multi-fight agreement with HBO. He has to win but style points could count here too.
So far, when the lights have been brightest, in fights like Niida (his first title win) and Yaegashi (his latest), Gonzalez has come up big. He seems to want to be great. That’s where power could be the difference. Both men have it.
Gonzalez has more. He’s been a wrecking ball to date, able to score single shot finishes and attrition beatings. He applies smart pressure, boxing to set up that power. So far, only a handful avoided being overwhelmed and Gonzalez rides an eight-fight stoppage streak.
The same can be said of Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin (32-0, 29 KO). Only a handful have lasted the distance and none since an eight-round affair in 2008. Golovkin has stopped 19 straight. There’s no full report card breakdown here for the WBA/IBO and interim WBC Middleweight title fight.
The odds are simply too prohibitive. Monroe is rated by the WBA but isn’t seen by most as a serious top-ten contender in a shallow current field at 160 lbs.
This is a potentially competitive, in spots, showcase fight on the road to potential biog money showdowns with names like Miguel Cotto, Saul Alvarez, or Andre Ward. Willie Monroe Jr. (19-1, 6 KO) has good bloodlines. His uncle, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, handed the great Marvelous Marvin Hagler an early defeat, later avenged twice over. The 2014 Boxcino winner has fought once since the tournament, scoring a decision over veteran Brian Vera. That’s the closest thing on his record to a top ten win.
Monroe’s lone loss came via decision to hard punching journeyman Darnell Boone. That he lost, but wasn’t stopped, by Boone says good things about Monroe’s whiskers. What we haven’t seen is the sort of power that can discourage Golovkin. Monroe can box and if he moves he’ll make Golovkin work for it.
But for how long?
Starting with the Middleweights, Monroe might make Golovkin work more than people think he will, but it's a survival game before it's done. Without the power to keep Golovkin off, eventually it boils down to how long he can take the beating. Golovkin can cut off the ring, has a sea of amateur experience, and is simply too good for Monroe. The knockout streak goes to 20.
At Flyweight, the streak goes to nine. The coming out party (on English language TV) is here for Flyweight and for the Flyweight king. Gonzalez will want to bring his best stuff but so will Sosa. Sosa hasn’t been shown shot yet. He's going to fight hard. It won’t be enough. He will get hit more, harder, and in the end the younger man puts him out to pasture. Gonzalez is the pick inside eight rounds. If he gets him out of there significantly earlier, it would be an impressive feat. Gonzalez will hope for a show-stealing outing.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2015: 32-8
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]