Pretty fly (for a fight card): Super Fly preview
Luke G. Williams
A dynamite 2017 continues this weekend with arguably the best card of the year so far – K2 and Teiken’s sensational ‘Super Fly’ promotion at the Stub Hub center in Carson, California… Luke G. Williams previews an enticing triple header…
The super flyweight (115lbs) division is arguably the most exciting in boxing right now and it gets the promotion and profile it richly deserves this weekend with the four top pugilists in Boxing Monthly’s current rankings all in action on one card, plus our number seven.
Topping the bill is the eagerly awaited rematch between deposed pound for pound king Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez of Nicaragua (46-1, BM ranked number three at super fly) and WBC titlist Srisaket Sor Rungvisai of Thailand (43-4-1, BM ranked number 2).
The men first met in a fiercely contested bout back in March, which saw Srisaket spoil Gonzalez’s 100 per cent winning record as a pro, knocking 'Chocolatito' down in round one en route to eking out a split decision triumph.
Although the verdict was disputed by many, the consensus was that it was a tight fight and that the tough as nails Srisaket performed above expectations. The Thai's power, size, southpaw stance and warrior spirit certainly gave Gonzalez all he could handle.
Several unanswered questions abound ahead of the return – namely, is Gonzalez in decline? Is super fly a weight category too far for a man who began his world title career at 105lbs? And can Srisaket perform at such a high level again?
There is no doubt that Gonzalez’s skills are not quite as sharp as they were two or three years ago, while the death of his longtime trainer Arnulfo Obando has also been pinpointed by some as a mitigating factor in what was - for him - a below-par performance last time against Srisaket.
After his first ever loss, Gonzalez removed Wilmer Hernandez as lead trainer and has been preparing for the rematch under the aegis of Teiken gym guru Sendai Tanaka.
If the Japanese maestro - who in the past has worked with Marco Antonio Barrera among others - can further improve Chocolatito's conditioning, then he may be able to out-last and out-land Srisaket sufficiently to get the nod this time on the scorecards. Certainly Gonzalez is far more experienced at negotiating the 12-round championship distance than his opponent, who has only gone 12 rounds once in his 48-fight career.
Srisaket should not, however, be underestimated - he is awkward, strong and mightily determined. A conclusive stoppage for either man would certainly be a surprise, but my pick is for Chocolatito's greater seasoning and pedigree to carry the day on points.
A warning however - Srisaket's awkward style and southpaw stance, as well as his tendency to lean forward with his head, means that there is the ever present danger of a clash of heads and a cut - as such, a scrappy or controversial technical decision after a stoppage for cuts cannot be ruled out.
It was after a technical decision loss against another of Saturday's competitors - Mexico's Carlos Cuadras - that Srisaket lost the WBC title in the first place back in 2014.
After six defences Cuadras, in turn, lost that belt to Gonzalez and faces an eliminator on Saturday to try and earn the right to win it back.
In the opposite corner to 'Príncipe' will be his compatriot Juan Francisco Estrada, himself a former victim of Gonzalez in a splendid light-flyweight clash back in 2012.
This all-Mexican affair pitches the BM ranked number four super fly (Cuadras, 36-1-1) against our number seven (Estrada, 35-2) and should be extremely tight. Both men can brawl or box, and while the contest could become an all-out war, with so much at stake it may prove cagier than expected.
Cuadras' superior experience at 115lbs may, just, tip the scales in his favour, although he will have to improve on his poor performance last time out against David Carmona. My tentative pick, therefore, is Cuadras by a tight, probably split, points decision.
The third and final super-fly showdown on this card sees Japanese sensation Naoya 'The Monster' Inoue (13-0) make his US debut by defending his WBO crown against Cleveland's Antonio Nieves (17-1-2).
Although Nieves is the naturally larger framed man, having fought at bantam and featherweight in the past, he has never fought an opponent remotely in the Japanese pugilist's class.
Inoue looks like the real deal and is to be commended for venturing outside the comfort zone of Japan. Expect 'The Monster' to win by spectacular stoppage sometime before round 8.