The War Report: Superfly (Week 36, 2017)

Darkest of night
With the moon shining bright
There’s a set goin’ strong
Lotta things goin’ on
The man of the hour
Has an air of great power
The dudes have envied him for so long

Once the dust settled, and the initial tears of those rooting for him had already dried, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez found himself left alone in the back of an ambulance to reflect on what had just happened. With the doors already shut and a dimmed light clouded over him, the 30-year old Nicaraguan hero lied there clearly distraught, looking up with his mouth agape as a medic secured his gurney before being taken to the nearest hospital. Not many had noticed it was Gonzalez in the back of the idle ambulance in the innards of the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California, but it was the exact look they had already seen from him earlier once Gonzalez consciously lifted his head up at referee Thomas Taylor, who was waving off the contest in the fourth round after a right hand from Srisaket Sor Rungvisai had momentarily knocked him out cold.

Gonzalez (46–2, 38 KOs) was undeniably defeated for the first time when trying to avenge a controversial decision loss to Srisaket last March. “Chocolatito” entered the first round reluctant to do much, and was quickly reminded of the pesky strength his Thai counterpart presented as he heedlessly came forward — quickly forcing an accidental clash of heads that prompted a flashback to the first fight, where Gonzalez was left gashed and bloodied throughout from the inadvertent fouls. Sitting ringside, something didn’t seem right with Gonzalez after the first frame, and on the HBO telecast, that was abundantly clear as he sat on the stool in silence (Sendai Tanaka was in Gonzalez’s corner for the first time, but Gonzalez is probably still not used to seeing anyone other than Arnolfo Obando, who suddenly passed away last November). Going forward, Gonzalez began to open up a bit more, but it was the punches from Srisaket that resonated far better during exchanges and there were consistent shots to the body that added up quickly. Sor Rungvisai would often give a smirk once Gonzalez did land a shot or two: seemingly knowing they had no shot of hurting him, and that this wasn’t the same offensive wizard that landed 441 of 1,013 punches on him six months ago.

Normally, it’s Gonzalez’s offense that bails himself out when left open to be hit and subtle moves on the inside often times have oncoming shots graze his shoulders, but his defense was almost non-existent on this night. About 35 seconds into round four, Gonzalez went in for a straight right hand but a right hook from his southpaw counterpart got there first and dropped him to the canvas. Gonzalez consciously nodded his head to Taylor during his ten-count, and smartly waited for the count of eight until getting up from a knee, but once time resumed, it was clear that he was in trouble. For about 30 seconds, Gonzalez ditched any tactic of survival besides bobbing his head in the pocket, and then, the same exchange happened where Sriskaet’s lead right hook caught Gonzelez’s chin before a right of his own was thrown. Gonzalez’s body even fell down the same way as the first time, but he wasn’t conscious when crashing to the mat in this instance. His body lied there motionless far longer than any loved one would want to see, but he was only out a handful of seconds until Taylor’s right hand rested on his shoulder, forcing him to pick his head up and assess the situation.

Oh, Superfly
You’re gonna make your fortune by and by
But if you lose, don’t ask no questions why
The only game you know is Do or Die

Most, if not all of the 7,418 at the outdoor arena stood silent once it happened — far different from the anticipated cheers they had as “Chocolatito” entered the ring. Sor Rungvisai (44–4–1, 40 KOs), who was booed heavily upon his introduction, celebrated with a somersault before his team entered the ring to join him, but all eyes were on Gonzalez. He seemed like he wanted to get up sooner than the doctor allowed him to, but it was a slow process as he sat up first for a moment with his legs still sprawled out. Gonzalez hunched over with his head down in that position before getting up and onto a stool while Michael Buffer announced the official result. He left the ring under his own power, but could barely acknowledge the remaining fans cheering him on as he dragged his feet to the locker room.

Thoughts of this being it for Gonzalez were never pondered before this night billed as “SuperFly.” After all, if it wasn’t for “Chocolatito” this HBO triple-header focusing on the 115-pound class would’ve never happened, and with plenty of ample opponents featured like Japan’s Naoya Inoue, Juan Francisco Estrada, and Carlos Cuadras on the undercard, the future seemed bright if only he could do a little better to convince the judges that he was the better fighter than Sor Rungvisai. As it turned out, he wasn’t, but ultimately Gonzalez’s prowess was never fit for the super flyweight division. A close encounter with Cuadras a year ago was a warning, the first fight with Srisaket a harrowing wakeup call, and the rematch a brutal indication.

Since 2008 Gonzalez was fighting in world title bouts, and over the course of three weight classes (from 105–112 pounds), he dominated so impressively, an American television network did unprecedented things in order to make sure the main stream can catch a glimpse of this little Nicaraguan great. HBO’s endeavor wasn’t too late, but just in time to see Gonzalez’s fall, which happens often to even the great fighters who push their competitive limits. The knockout loss will forever serve as an unfavorable reference when comparing him to the all-time greats, but Gonzalez is certainly one of the best fighters in the modern era, not to mention, a revolutionary figure for the smaller weight classes who are left with main stream opportunity without him.

Hard to understand
What a hell of a man
This cat of the slum
Had a mind, wasn’t dumb
But a weakness was shown
’Cause his hustle was wrong
His mind was his own
But the man lived alone

The sight of Gonzalez waiting to be escorted to the hospital was sad, a tad invasive, but ultimately addicting, especially when trying to think of what was going on inside his head. Clearly Roman was pondering something, but what could it be?

God is always part of the conversation when speaking with Gonzalez, and the same goes for Nicaragua. Family is something that drives all fighters, so surely he could be thinking of them too. Seeing as how he’s 0–2 since his death, the memory of Obando is definitely still fresh. Doubt must linger in a fighter’s head when losing convincingly for the first time, especially when it’s after a 12 year career. What he accomplished would be a positive thing to look back upon. After all, he was the only Nicaraguan ever to win four world titles in as many weight classes — an accomplishment that led him to the super flyweight class, and aimed at doing something his idol Alexis Arguello tried to do a final time 34 years to the day. Should he have known, it would be a chilling thing to think about in that moment, but fitting, because seeing the great “Chocolatito” at his most vulnerable moment was eerie.

The aim of his role
Was to move a lot of blow
Ask him his dream
What does it mean?
He woudn’t know
“Can’t be like the rest”
Is the most he’ll confess
But the time’s running out
And there’s no happiness

All lyrics from Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” (1972)

Fights of the Week

Juan Francisco Estrada UD12 Carlos Cuadras (WBC 115 eliminator) | September 9 — Carson, California

David Benavidez SD12 Ronald Gavril (WBC 168) | September 8 — Las Vegas, Nevada

Photo credit: Rosie Cohe / Showtime

Honorable mention

Kanat Islam TKO9 Brandon Cook (154) | September 9 — Astana, Kazakhstan

KO of the Week

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai KO4 Roman Gonzalez (WBC 115) | September 9 — Carson, California

Honorable mention

Joey Abell KO3 Krzystof Zimnoch (200+) | September 9 — Radom, Poland

Fighter of the Week

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44–4–1, 40 KOs)

Wisaksil Wangek is his birth name, and the 30-year old has suddenly made it worth remembering out of respect. Wangek, 30, has been involved in Fight of the Year (Gonzalez-Srisaket I) and Knockout of the Year (Srisaket-Gonzalez II) candidates in 2017 — not bad for a guy who was once 1–3–1 and out of boxing for five years before making a triumphant return. He’s certain to land another big fight, and his brute style creates drama when someone’s willing to engage with it.

Results

From this past week

World title bouts

WBO 200 | Aleksandr Usyk TKO10 Marco Huck | Usyk defends the WBO cruiserweight title a 3rd time, and advances to the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series | FULL FIGHT

Photo credit: Sauerland Promotions / WBSS

WBC 168 | David Benavidez SD12 Ronald Gavril (117–111, 116–111, 111–116) | Benavidez wins the vacant WBC super middleweight title

Photo credit: Rosie Cohe / Showtime

WBC 115 | Srisaket Sor Rungvisai KO4 Roman Gonzalez | Srisaket defends the WBC super flyweight title for the 1st time | FULL FIGHT

Photo credit: Chris Carlson / AP

WBO 115 | Naoya Inoue TKO6 Antonio Nieves | Inoue defends the WBO super flyweight title a 6th time | FULL FIGHT

Photo credit: K2 promotions

Notables

200+ — Joey Abell KO3 Krzystof Zimnoch

200 — Kevin Lerena UD12 Youri Kalenga (115–113, 116–113, 111–117) — Noel Gevor UD10 Isiah Thomas (100–89 x3)

175—Peter Quillin UD8 Dashon Johnson (79–72, 79–73, 78–74) — Leon Conroy TKO2 Joel McIntyre — Ali Ahkmedov KO8 Justin Thomas

168—Caleb Plant UD10 Andrew Hernandez (100–90 x3) — J’Leon Love TD8 Abraham Han (76–76 x2, 79–73) — Mike Gavronski TKO6 Brian Vera

160 — Meiirim Nursultanov KO1 Ismael Bueno — Kemahl Russell TKO7 Ian Green

154 — Kanat Islam TKO9 Brandon Cook

147 — Zhankosh Turarov UD10 Bruno Romay (97–93 x3)

140 — Ruslan Madiyev UD8 Abdiel Ramirez (80–72, 79–73 x2)

115 — Juan Francisco Estrada UD12 Carlos Cuadras (114–113 x3; WBC eliminator) — Brian Viloria TKO5 Miguel Cartagena

112 — Juan Carlos Reveco UD12 Komgrich Nantapech (120–108, 118–110, 117–111)