By Jake Donovan
Roman Gonzalez will serve as the chief support for a Gennady Golovkin-headlined event for the third straight time. This particular occasion marks one of his toughest tests to date, as he defends his World flyweight championship will come against Puerto Rico’s McWilliams Arroyo.
The bout was announced as the co-feature to Golovkin’s middleweight title defense versus Dominic Wade, with the show taking place on April 23 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Both title fights will air live on HBO.
“Having Roman paired with Gennady was a winning combination in 2015 as both fought in front of huge crowds in Los Angeles and New York City,” said Tom Loeffler, Managing Director of K2 Promotions. “Roman has a very fan-friendly style and we’re pleased that following his HBO debut in May at the Forum, he was recognized as the #1 Pound-For-Pound Fighter by most of the major media platforms worldwide.
“McWilliams Arroyo brings a great deal of confidence and skill into this battle, wanting to join his brother McJoe as a world champion.”
Gonzalez (44-0, 38KOs) will attempt the fourth defense of his World flyweight championship, a reign which began with a 9th round knockout of Akira Yaegashi in Sept. ’14 after having previously served as a strawweight and junior flyweight champ. His current run has included his long-awaited HBO debut, scoring a 2nd round knockout of Edgar Sosa last May.
The fight took place in supporting capacity to Golovkin’s 6th round stoppage of Willie Monroe Jr., taking place in front of a crowd of 12,700 at the very same Forum venue that will host the April 23 show. The dynamic duo teamed up again last October, appearing on an HBO Pay-Pay-Per-View telecast. Golovkin enjoyed his first title unification victory, stopping David Lemieux in eight rounds to add the IBF middleweight title to his collection.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez overcame a stiff challenge from Brian Viloria – a former two-division champ and member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic boxing team – to score a 9th round knockout. He now takes on his second straight former Olympian, once again raising his level of competition.
“I want to thank God, Teiken Promotions - especially Mr. Honda - HBO, K2 Promotions, and my family, and my team for helping me once again obtain the opportunity to fight representing my country and my fans,” stated a humbled Gonzalez.
The news of Arroyo landing the title shot allows the sport’s hardcore fan base to breathe a sigh of relief considering some of the alternatives mentioned. Juan “Churritos” Hernandez was recently mentioned by World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman – whose sanctioning body recognizes Gonzalez as its flyweight champion – as a potential candidate, having been elevated in the flyweight rankings following a 2nd round knockout of Jesus Silvestre on February 6 in Mexico.
Instead, the title fight goes to Arroyo, who served alongside his twin brother McJoe on the 2008 Puerto Rico Olympic boxing team. The two have always dreamt of accomplishing their goals together – going to the Olympics, turning pro and winning a world championship.
There have been more bumps in the road to glory for McWilliams (16-2, 14KOs), who suffered a loss in just his fourth pro fight, but has since emerged as a perennial Top 10 flyweight contender. He punched his way back into contention with 11 straight wins, including a 2nd round knockout of previously unbeaten Frolian Saludar in their June ’14 title eliminator.
The feat led to his first career title shot, traveling to Thailand for a Sept. ’14 showdown with still-unbeaten titlist Amnat Ruenroeng. Arroyo held his own, even scoring a knockdown midway through the fight, but allowed Ruenroeng to box his way back into the fight down the stretch in eking out a split decision win.
Just one fight has followed – a 3rd round knockout of Victor Ruiz last April – while searching for the next best opportunity. His time spent on the sidelines including his on-site support of twin brother McJoe winning a vacant super flyweight title in a decision victory over Arthur Villanueva last July. Arroyo even gave up the chance for a stay-busy fight in August to support his brother, now looking to join him in the winner’s circle.
“I am very happy with this opportunity to fight for the world title again,” said an elated Arroyo upon receiving the good news. “We were confident that this fight would come and now is the time to continue training to bring this title to Puerto Rico.
“We know that Roman Gonzalez is a great fighter, one of the best today, and we will get in the best condition to win that belt. It is our dream to be world champions, my brother (McJoe, IBF superflyweight champion) and I, and I know we will get it done."
Added Peter Rivera, Arroyo’s promoter: Commented Peter Rivera of PR Best Boxing Promotions: “We are grateful to be working with K2 Promotions in this great event. We know it's going to be a great fight, everyone knows Chocolatito and McWilliams, so the only thing to expect is an exciting fight. We are confident in McWilliams' skills, in his preparation, and hopefully he will be crowned like his brother McJoe.”
News of the main event battle between Golovkin and Wade was met with more sympathy than enthusiasm over the matchup. Golovkin (34-0, 31KOs) remains must-see TV, but in absence of securing desired unification title fights with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders was obligated to honor his next mandatory challenge versus the unbeaten Wade (18-0, 12KOs).
The addition of the announced co-feature not only gives viewers a firm one-two punch of the sport’s two best fighters in the world, but gives HBO the opportunity to respond to boxing fans clamoring for stronger matchups than what is presently being offered by boxing as a whole.
“We were thrilled that the sport’s consensus number one pound-for-pound fighter Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez made his debut last year on the network and subscribers were able to see his incredible ability and personality,” said Peter Nelson, Executive Vice President, HBO Sports. “We are delighted that “Chocolatito” will be once again be paired with a Gennady Golovkin event that will be featured live on HBO.”
Tickets for the April 23rd event priced at $400, $300, $200, $100, $60 and $30, will go on-sale Tuesday, February 16 at 12:00 p.m. PT through Ticketmaster (Ticketmaster.com, 1-800-745-3000) and the Forum Box Office.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox