by Cliff Rold
When it was first announced, many people assumed McWilliams Arroyo would simply be throttled and cast aside. There were those who looked at his tough loss to Amnat Ruenroeng and amateur credentials and chuckled at what group one didn’t know.
It’s going to take the broader swath of boxing fans a minute to catch up to what’s been going on at flyweight and who the players are. That’s the Roman Gonzalez effect. Before he was on HBO, he could be what most prominent flyweights have been over the years: a cult favorite.
Mark Johnson, Nonito Donaire, and Vic Darchinyan didn’t make HBO until 112 lbs. was behind them. Michael Carbajal, Jorge Arce, and Ricardo Lopez were attached to HBO near those weights mainly by way of pay-per-view undercard.
This is, for the most part, unprecedented territory. Not only is HBO going lower on the scale than their tradition. They are beginning to invest in a central figure in that division and bringing the audience along for the ride.
Through three HBO appearances underneath Gennady Golovkin, Gonzalez is making that a ride worth taking. He had his longest night to date against Arroyo.
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Gonzalez B; Arroyo B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Gonzalez A; Arroyo A/Post: A; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Gonzalez B+; Arroyo B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Gonzalez A; Arroyo B/Post: A; B+
A fighter doesn’t make the Olympics and win the amateur worlds unless they can fight. Arroyo showed Saturday that it translates at the pro ranks, delivering what might have been his best professional performance.
He still probably only won a round or two at best…and this didn’t appear to be as good a Gonzalez as we’ve seen recently.
Gonzalez is that good.
Part of that was the resistance in front of him, but there was a little less sharpness on display this weekend. It was sort of like when a great strikeout pitcher is missing the zone just a hair and lets his change-up take over.
Gonzalez figured Arroyo out and by the middle of the fight had it taken over. In spots, it was one of his better defensive outings. Gonzalez took some heavy lefts on the night, but he picked off more. Showing off the lessons of the Brian Viloria fight, Gonzalez’s defense to the body was improved from last time out.
If there is one question never fully answered for Gonzalez, it’s his chin. We know he can take it but he hadn’t been caught flush by many guys with proven single shot pop. Arroyo has shown that kind of pop. Gonzalez took it fine.
Arroyo simply couldn’t keep up. Losing the sole of his show didn’t help but the fight was already being taken over before then. To his credit, Arroyo showed off guts and professionalism for all twelve rounds. The first man to last the distance with Gonzalez in eleven fights dating to Juan Francisco Estrada in 2012, he never let Gonzalez have it easy. Arroyo clinched some in the last couple rounds, but he never looked like he was just there to survive.
If there was a negative for the challenger, it was that he faded again as he did in the second half of Ruenroeng. The fists of Gonzalez do that to lots of guys but hopefully this effort gets Arroyo chances to be more active. He’s a talented fighter but he’s had less than 20 fights in a six-year career, only five since February 2013, and most ended early.
Gonzalez has had twice as many fights in the same span. Live fire time counts.
It was a fairly lopsided scoring affair. It was also an entertaining, competitive fight where Gonzalez showed in spots what makes him the most complete offensive machine in any weight class. He’s not the fastest but his combination punching, speed variance, accuracy, and ability to use his defensive position and feet to turn men into even more leather is expert stuff.
Trainer and BoxingScene contributor Stephen Edwards tweeted before the fight that Gonzalez is doing things on a ‘Chavez Sr., Duran, Jofre level.’ Gonzalez has a ways to go to rest in that sort of rare air but the way he takes over and breaks down even good fighters has its echoes.
Perhaps most fun, there is more of the type of quality action we’ve seen in Viloria and Arroyo out there. From 108 lb. titlist Donnie Nietes on up to 115 lbs. and titlists like McJoe Arroyo (McWilliams’ brother), Carlos Cuadras, and Naoya Inoue, there are about eight world-class guys one can mix Gonzalez with to get a real fight and see Gonzalez genuinely challenged.
That’s good for everyone. Let’s hope that starts next with a rematch against Estrada. Estrada has been sidelined with injuries but neither man is likely long for 112. The division has had a hell of a run this decade. Both men have matured and grown as pros since their first meeting.
It’s time for a sequel. It’s the sort of fight that wouldn’t need to be on anyone’s undercard.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2016: 14-5
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]