By Jake Donovan
For as long as boxing has been on television, the lower weight classes have struggled to gain the recognition they long deserve.
The continuation of that trend heading in the right direction takes place Saturday evening in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In the HBO Pay-Per-View chief support, Roman Gonzalez puts his World flyweight crown on the line versus former two-division champ Brian Viloria.
Gonzalez (43-0, 37KOs) makes the third defense of the World flyweight championship he won in a 9th round knockout of Akira Yaegashi last September in Japan.
Included among his reign was a two-round destruction of Edgar Sosa in May, a bout that marked his long-awaited debut on HBO.
Prior to his face time among the American boxing public, Gonzalez served as a champion at strawweight and junior flyweight. His overall skill set has prompted many publications to hail him as the new pound-for-pound king in the wake of Floyd Mayweather's recent retirement from the sport.
Looking to challenge that stance is a never-say-die ring veteran.
Viloria (36-4, 22KOs) is the last of the 2000 U.S. Olympic class to still remain relevant at the top level. It's been a long, bizarre ride for the never-say-die warrior from Hawaii, who has enjoyed title reigns at junior flyweight and flyweight.
He enters the biggest fight of his lengthy career having won four straight contests following an upset loss to Juan Francisco Estrada in April '13.
The setback came five months after Viloria, Estrada and Gonzalez all appeared on the same show in the greater Los Angeles area. Estrada dropped a competitive decision to Gonzalez, while Viloria outslugged Hernan 'Tyson' Marquez in a knockout win that represented his last successful appearance in a title fight.
The card was designed to match Viloria and Gonzalez next. It didn't work out that way, but having taken the scenic route has actually created an even bigger event out of the moment.
Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes the World flyweight championship action plays out.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: ROMAN GONZALEZ vs. BRIAN VILORIA
Ryan Burton (Gonzalez TKO7): Viloria tends to run hot and cold but I expect him to bring his A game for this fight. Gonzalez is simply the better fighter and will score a mid round stoppage.
Jake Donovan (Gonzalez UD): I see Gonzalez being drawn into the fight of his life, but finding a way to pull out a decision in a fight equivalent to his win over Juan Estrada years ago. Viloria goes all in, but fades late.
Stephen "Breadman" Edwards (Gonzalez mid-rd KO): Gonzalez stops Viloria midway through in a shootout.
Michael Gibbons (Gonzalez KO7): Viloria is in pretty deep here and will be in survival mode at the onset. I don't think Gonzalez will be have a problem creating his opportunities and scoring the ko victory.
Peter Lim (Gonzalez TKO9): This showdown sure looks like a miniaturized version of The Rumble in the Jungle. Like Ali in Kinshasa 41 years ago, Viloria enters the ring a substantial underdog in New York. But as likable and multi-faceted as Viloria is, he's simply no Muhammad Ali, and there will be no monumental upset. Powerful and pinpoint, Chocolatito gets the better of the toe-to-toe exchanges. When Viloria deploys a circle-and-ambush strategy, Gonzalez chases him down and cuts him off. By round seven, Viloria knows his only shot of victory is to catch Gonzalez with an explosive, fight-ending counter punch. But Gonzalez recognizes the ploy and denies him an opening by keeping his defense tight while continuing to let fists fly. The Hawaiian Punch courageously refuses to wilt but the writing is on the wall and either his corner or the referee steps in to end the beating in the ninth round.
Cliff Rold (Gonzalez KO): The pick here is the same as it would have been had they met in 2013. At his best, Viloria is a very good fighter. Only one of his losses has come to anything less than a top class professional at his weights. Gonzalez is just a little bit better. He’s more consistent offensively, younger, and has a more varied attack. He’ll have to be cautious early and box, but Gonzalez can do that. He has to because if he lets Viloria get off early, the challenger’s chances improve. Anything Viloria can do to slow Gonzalez down or make him think is a point in the veteran’s favor. The thinking here is both men will land in the first six but Gonzalez will land just enough more to set up a takeover of the fight in the second half. A stoppage in the final third of the fight is a possible outcome. If Viloria survives, he’ll be on the wrong end of a clear decision for the disciple of Alexis Arguello. It should be fan friendly either way.
Victor Salazar (Gonzalez late TKO): Roman will face his biggest puncher and maybe have to get off the deck to get his own stoppage which he will.
Reynaldo Sanchez (Gonzalez mid-rd TKO): Viloria has the speed and very nice foot work yet, and Gonzalez is a destroyer. Gonzalez' pressure and accuracy finally will break down Viloria.
Alexey Sukachev (Gonzalez TKO9): Similar to his former bitter rival Sosa Viloria cannot be hanging around forever. His time has passed, and he was great when at his peak. He is still a part of flyweight top-ten, maybe even top-five. But aside of Juan Francisco Estrada I cannot see anyone in this weight class to pose problems to the P4P #1 fighter.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox