By Cliff Rold

One of the things that sometimes defines a great career is the performance of a fighter in rematches.

If they lost the first time around, can they find a way to reverse the result? If they were pushed to the limit in victory, do they dispatch their rival sooner the second time around? Most press observers felt Roman Gonzalez did enough to win in his first fight with Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. All three official judges disagreed, two scoring for Sor Rungvisai with the third calling it even.

Both men have a chance this Saturday (HBO, 10:15 PM EST) to claim validation against their last result.

For Gonzalez, whose run from 105 to 115 lbs. is arguably the finest run by any sub-bantamweight since the heyday of Ricardo Lopez and Michael Carbajal, the question marks from many will lie more with him than his foe. Again, as was the case in March, he is favored to win.

That doesn’t change the dynamic of the matchup between these two. Sor Rungvisai still hits as hard as anyone in the division, he’s still the naturally larger man. This still has all the same makings of a war it had last time.  

Let’s go the report card.

The Ledger

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

Age: 30

Title: WBC Super Flyweight (2017-Present, 1st Attempted Defense

Previous Titles: WBC Super Flyweight (2013-14, 1 Defense)

Height: 5’3

Weight: 115 lbs.

Hails from: Si Sa Ket, Thailand

Record: 43-4-1, 39 KO, 2 KOBY

Rankings: #1 (BoxingScene, ESPN, BoxRec), #2 (TBRB, Ring, Boxing Monthly)

Record in Title Fights: 3-1, 2 KO

Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Akira Yaegashi TKO by 3; Yota Sato TKO8; Carlos Cuadras L8 – Technical; Roman Gonzalez MD12

Vs.

Roman Gonzalez

Age: 30

Title: None

Previous Titles: WBA Minimumwieght (2008-10, 3 Defenses); WBA Light Flyweight (2011-13, 5 Defenses); Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBC World Flyweight (2014-16, 4 Defenses); WBC super flyweight (2016-17)

Height: 5’3

Weight: 114 ¾ lbs.

Hails from: Managua, Nicaragua?

Record: 46-1, 38 KO

Rankings: #2 (ESPN, BoxRec), #3 (Boxing Monthly, BoxRec, TBRB, Ring)

Record in Major Title Fights: 15-1, 9 KO (16-1, 10 KO including interim title fights)

Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Yutaka Niida TKO4; Katsunari Takayama UD12; Ramon Garcia KO4; Juan Francisco Estrada UD12; Francisco Rodriguez Jr. TKO7; Akira Yaegashi TKO9; Edgar Sosa TKO2; Brian Viloria TKO9; Carlos Cuadras UD12; Srisaket Sor Rungvisai L12

Grades

Pre-Fight: Speed – Gonzalez B; Sor Rungvisai B

Pre-Fight: Power – Gonzalez B+; Sor Rungvisai A

Pre-Fight: Defense – Gonzalez B; Sor Rungvisai B-

Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Gonzalez A+; Sor Rungvisai A

Before digging into the rematch a little bit, here is the take from the post-fight report card:

It’s hard to find many who scored this fight of the year contender for Gonzalez and readers won’t find that here. The final tally on this card favored Gonzalez in six rounds with five to Sor Rungvisai and one even. Others saw it wider for Gonzalez but due credit to the now two-time Thai titlist. He dropped Gonzalez early and gave him hell for all of twelve rounds.

Prior to the fight, it said here that he was a live underdog and the best puncher Gonzalez has ever faced. Both were proven true. Where Gonzalez deserves acclaim is in the way he adjusted. Busted open in more than one spot by repeated incidental head butts, Gonzalez showed how effective he can be defensively at close quarters. Sor Rungvisai landed plenty; it was a high output affair. However, Gonzalez did an excellent job slipping and picking shots with his gloves while landing more and surpassing the challenger’s output.

It was a great fight made greater by the final three minutes. Gonzalez, who has seemed to be slowing in the eleventh, dug deep for maybe the finest three minutes of his career to date. He went on the attack, looking to seal victory, and had Sor Rungvisai in a retreat we’d not seen all night. The decision went against him, but the will to win he displayed, the character in that last stanza, shouldn’t be forgotten.

Gonzalez may still be the best fighter in the world. He didn’t appear to lose this fight and after 46 straight he’ll have to deal with that sting. It was a reminder that a little luck goes into a long-standing “0.” A round here or there and Mayweather could easily have lost to (Jose Luis) Castillo. Joe Calzaghe got the benefit of the doubt in close rounds with Bernard Hopkins. Sven Ottke had an almost mystical ability to get odd decisions in Germany.

Very few finish undefeated for a reason. It’s a tight needle to thread. That doesn’t mean he can’t win a rematch, doesn’t sully his Hall of Fame credentials, and doesn’t detract from what is a genuinely exciting class at 115. Gonzalez added to his claim to being a truly great prizefighter in his first loss.

One thing that perhaps didn’t get enough thought in the immediate aftermath of the fight is what was happening even when Sor Rungvisai wasn’t landing clean. Because he was the stronger man, even shots landing off defensive shoulders were moving Gonzalez. Couple that with the blood from the cuts and from just feet away Sor Rungvisai could be seen by the judges as imposing on Gonzalez.

When a fighter is heavily favored, as Gonzalez was, an opponent winning the tone of the fight if not the science of it can count for a lot.

The respect for the final round effort of Gonzalez remains but he’s now had two fights in a row where he had to will himself to throw unreal amounts of punches, pushing himself past exhaustion, to keep bigger men at bay. How many more efforts does he have like that before he hits the wall? His chin isn’t an issue as much as the total fighter breakdown one can see in lighter weight fighters as the wars accumulate.

Gonzalez has been a championship level fighter since 2008; it’s been nine years since he toppled Niida at 105 lbs. Not many fighters in any class stay near the top that long in one class, much less four. It’s historically been the case more often the lighter on the scale one goes.

Sor Rungvisai may be even more confident this time. He knows he took twelve rounds of everything Gonzalez could dish out and it appears foes take those shots better in this division than the three below. Sor Rungvisai takes a hell of a shot regardless, having not been stopped since his first two professional fights. Was March his best effort or, having seen Gonzalez once, will he adjust and find a way to slow down the torrent of offense that’s coming?

He also knows that the head clashes weren’t just a benefit in the ring. At the weigh-in on Friday, Gonzalez’s fans were screaming at Sor Rungvisai about them. If their skulls clash early again, does Gonzalez flash back to his first loss? Can Sor Rungvisai use that as a chance to dig to the body and make the judges see his physicality over Gonzalez’s punching accuracy again?

They’re great questions and after the classic they delivered in March fans will be in for a treat as they find the answers.

The Pick

If there’s one thing that stood out in making this pick, it wasn’t anything from the first fight as much as it was what we’ve seen in the months leading up to it: no fat suit. Boxing fans have grown accustomed to seeing pictures of Gonzalez working out in full regalia trying to make weight before several of his recent fights. This time he appears to have done the work to maintain his weight reasonably before camp and that could matter.

Gonzalez showed in the first fight that he is more accurate, and more active. If he’s also got more in the gas tank, it’s hard to see what Sor Rungvisai can do better. Gonzalez has to be wary of the head clashes and stay off the floor early when Sor Rungvisai’s power will likely be sharpest. It says here he can.

Gonzalez may not have years of wars left in him but he’s got enough to outwork, outhustle, and outfight Sor Rungvisai and set the record straight after the March controversy. The pick is Gonzalez by decision.

Report Card and Staff Picks 2017: 32-12

Cliff’s Notes…

Of course the main event isn’t the only thing that has hardcore fans thrilled about this weekend…In the semi-main event, look for WBO 115 lb. titlist Naoya Inoue (13-0, 11 KO) to dazzle in his HBO debut against Antonio Nieves (17-1-2, 9 KO) with a stoppage that generates the sort of buzz it’s intended to…In the televised opener, we might just get the fight of the night. Former WBC super flyweight champ Carlos Cuadras (36-1-1, 27 KO) faces former unified flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada (35-2, 25 KO) in a main event worthy affair. Cuadras has a big personality and is tricky but Estrada is one of the most fundamentally sound fighters in boxing. Cuadras may build an early lead but the precision, combination punching, and ability to build momentum from round to round, will serve Estrada well. The pick is Estrada by decision to secure a WBC mandatory crack at the winner of the main event…Finally, all of the good fisticuffs aren’t in the US this weekend. Somehow the first round of the World Boxing Super Series at cruiserweight, one of the best tournaments ever assembled in any class, has no US TV in the quarterfinals. For those who can see it, or find it later on YouTube, expect this to be one man’s end of the road. Marco Huck (40-4-1, 27 KO) has had an excellent career and been around the title picture for over a decade. His last outing, a drubbing loss to Mairis Briedis, left the impression of a spent force. He’s facing the young leader of the class in Olympic Gold medalist and reigning WBO titlist Oleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KO). The thinking here is the favorite to win the tournament gets off to a big start with a stoppage win in Germany…Enjoy the fights wherever you are on this loaded boxing weekend. 

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 roldboxing@hotmail.com