SAN DIEGO, October 12, 2015 – In America, everything is big, including boxing. Americans have always loved and celebrated their heavyweight champions. Jack Dempsey. Joe Louis. Marciano, Liston and Patterson. Ali, Frazier, Foreman. Mike Tyson.
Boxing has many champions of smaller stature, equally tough and talented. They have struggled to get the attention of American fans. Finally, thanks to the talent on the rise in the smaller weight divisions, there are too many boxers who are too good to be ignored.
WBC flyweight champion (112 pounds) Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua is leading the way. With Floyd Mayweather now officially retired and the designation “Best Pound for Pound” boxer up for grabs. Gonzalez landed the top spot on several of the world’s more respected lists including ESPN, USA Today, and Ring Magazine. This is no small accomplishment, pun intended Consider this: second place is held by a man who outweighs Gonzalez by 130 pounds, heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko.
“It’s a blessing to be compared to such great boxers (like Floyd Mayweather),” said Gonzalez of his pound for pound status. “All I know is I have to keep training to be one of the best.”
Fans can judge for themselves on Saturday, October 17 when Gonzalez steps onto the biggest stage in boxing, Madison Square Garden. Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KOs) and his opponent, American Brian “Hawaiian Punch” Viloria (36-4, 22 KOs) are part of the HBO pay per view event featuring middleweight knockout king Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin and Canadian David Lemieux.
Golovkin and Gonzalez fought on the same card at the Forum in Los Angeles in May. It’s nearly impossible to steal the show from an action star like GGG, but Gonzalez did it with a second round TKO victory. He was christened the “Little Drama Show” in tribute to Golvokin’s “Big Drama Show.” Fans have eagerly awaited Gonzalez’ return to action.
Well-known names Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are welterweights, fighting at a limit of 147 pounds. Gonzalez and Viloria belong to a wave of boxing stars who all hit the scale under 140 pounds, some of them far under it.
Communities Digital News recently visited with Viloria and asked him about his preparation for the October 17 fight. See our exclusive interview and Viloria at work in the ring.
There are eight weight divisions below welterweight chock full of stars, including several with spots on top ten on the pound for pound list such as 22-year-old super flyweight sensation Naoya Inoue of Japan, super bantamweights Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba and Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg of the U.K., featherweights Nicholas Walters of Jamaica, Leo Santa Cruz of the U.S. and Mexico, and Vasyl Lomachenko of Ukraine, and American super lightweight Terence Crawford, the Fighter of the Year in 2014.
Lightweights Jorge Linares of Venezuela and Terry Flanagan of Great Britain both won their bouts with spectacular knockouts last weekend. For hard core fans, this is where the action is in boxing. Casual fans are sitting up and taking notice.
Why now? There has always been showstopping talent in the smaller weight divisions. Gary Gittelsohn, Brian Viloria’s longtime manager and a veteran in the sport, has seen many of them come and go including American five-time world champion light flyweight Michael Carbajal, the first flyweight paid a seven figure purse of $1 million for his 1994 rematch against Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez.
When I asked Gittlesohn about it, he said, “I think the answer is self-evident. Roman Gonzalez has sort of catapulted onto the scene and captured peoples’ attention. With ascendancy – we all embrace it because a rising tide is great for the sport in general and for the lightweight divisions.
“People are captivated by heavyweights over time but there has been a dearth of heavyweights with the exception of the Klitschkos who for many years have fought mostly in Germany and off of HBO,” Gittelsohn continued. “So the sport in general was rudderless after Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
“But when you have someone who has become as romanticized as much as Chocolatito who has now become in most peoples’ minds the number one pound-for-pound fighter, and you have someone who has a good a reputation as Brian Viloria, who has been laboring in the trenches for many years begging to get on the networks, we finally have the sun, the moon and the stars all aligned.
“It’s a rare combination that showcases the little giants of the sport despite my efforts over the years to get recognition for them,” said Gittelsohn. “I never understood the corporate bias against the smaller weights, especially because traditionally the lighter weights are the most talent laden. If you ask any matchmaker, there are no bums occupying the lower weight classes. Any of those guys on any given day can become a champion.”
WBC flyweight champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez is considered by many to be the best pound for pound boxer in the world today. Photo: Will Hart, HBO
Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez understands the banner he carries on behalf of all the lower weight class champions. “It definitely motivates me to be able to fight at Madison Square Garden … I need to perform well so that HBO continues to give me the opportunity to fight the best fighters. But not just me. I hope that other fighters in my weight class can get, from HBO, the same opportunity.”
Brian Viloria agreed. “Finally we are able to showcase what fans that enjoy the lighter weight divisions have been watching. This is a bigger stage and I’m really proud to be able to showcase my talents and I know Roman Gonzalez is really excited … I think for the past couple of years a lot of people have been missing out on some great fights in the lower weight divisions … thank you to everyone who is giving me this opportunity to fight on HBO and to showcase to the world what they have been missing out on.”
Gittelsohn acknowledged the scope of the opportunity. “There is no bigger stage than Madison Square Garden and no bigger platform that HBO Pay-Per-View. It’s a rare combination that showcases the little giants of the sport despite my efforts over the years to get recognition for them.
“But this fight is special – it matches the two most compelling flyweights in the world. I can’t personally remember a match-up of this magnitude since Gonzalez-Carbajal – and that’s really saying something. I’m sure of one thing, after this fight the flyweights will not have to come begging to the premium cable networks to get airtime.”
Viloria says he will do his part. “I can never figure out why our division has never been looked on the same way as the higher weights and the middleweight divisions but I can assure you that come October 17, a lot of people will figure out why they have not paid a lot of attention to it only because we are going to show a great fight. You are going to see two warriors go at it. It is going to epitomize boxing as what it is. It is a great time to be in the lighter weight divisions.
“They (HBO) took a leap of faith with us and we are not going to disappoint, I promise.”
HBO knows something about taking chances on unknown talent. In 2012 it aired a fight featuring an unknown boxer from Kazakhstan making his HBO debut. He destroyed opponent Grzegorz Proska in five rounds, the first time he had been stopped as a professional in 30 fights. His name: Gennady Golovkin.
Gonzalez vs. Viloria fight on the undercard of Golovkin vs. Lemieux, HBO Pay Per View on Saturday, October 17, at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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