NEW YORK, March 18, 2017 – Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua, widely considered the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter when he walked into the ring Saturday night in front of 19,939 fans at Madison Square Garden, walked out with the first defeat of his professional career, losing a majority decision and his WBC title in a war with mandatory challenger Srisaket Sor Rungvisai of Thailand.
Judges Julie Lederman and Glenn Feldman both scored it 114-112 with identical scorecards; judge Waleska Roldan disagreed on many of the middle rounds and scored it a 113-113 draw.
Gonzalez (46-1, 38 KOs) had not been in the ring since his first bout at 115 pounds against Carlos “Principe” Cuadras of Mexico, who gave him all he could handle. Rungvisai (42-4-1, 28 KOs), who nearly beat Cuadras in 2014, wasted no time going right after Gonzalez, knocking him down two minutes into the first round with a pounding body shot to the upper right ribcage of Gonzalez.
It was the first knockdown in ten years for Gonzales. He got to his feet, but from that point forward he was fighting from behind. He came roaring back in Round 2, but Rungvisai ate Gonzalez’ hardest shots and came back for more. It signaled what fans at The Garden would see through the remainder of a brutally tough, exciting slugfest.
In round three, Gonzalez was seriously cut to the right eyebrow by a headbutt, an issue throughout Rungvisai’s career. The crowd audibly gasped inside the Garden when it got a clear view of the blood flow down the boxer’s face, prompting Gonzalez to look up at the Jumbotron above him to see it. Rungvisai nailed Gonzalez with a second significant headbutt in the sixth round. At this point, referee Steve Willis took a point away from Rungvisai on the scorecards. Gonzalez’s Argentinean cutman did a magnificent job getting him through the fight as ring physicians continued to check on the cuts round by round.
Rungvisai nailed Gonzalez with a second significant headbutt in the sixth round. At this point, referee Steve Willis took a point away from Rungvisai on the scorecards. Gonzalez’s Argentinean cutman did a magnificent job getting him through the fight as ring physicians continued to check on the cuts round by round.
With blood streaming down his face for the second half of the fight, Gonzalez launched attack after attack against Rungvisai, but the Thai athlete stood up to the assault with a granite chin, and fired back with a fury of fast hands.
Boxing is among the world’s most taxing sports. It is a testament to the conditioning of both athletes they continued to trade power shots with virtually no pause going into the championship rounds. As the final round began, the crowd sensed a close fight and began to cheer Gonzalez on with “Nica-ra-gua, Nica-ra-gua.” Hearing the final bell signaling the fight’s end, Rungvisai and Gonzalez nearly fell into each other’s arms. Both had done all they could do. The fans at The Garden were on their feet.
Once scores were announced, Rungsivai broke into tears as the crowd rained boos down on the ring. Many observers believe “Chocolatito” had won the bout, but the WBC super flyweight title will be going home to Thailand, not Nicaragua.
Both fighters were taken to the hospital for observation after the bout, an indicator of the brutal effort both made to get to the final bell.
Gonzalez’ legacy is assured as the first four-division champion from Nicaragua, surpassing his mentor, the late Alexis Arguello. He will now go home where he will no doubt be warmly welcomed by his countrymen as he always has.
Rungvisai said he’d give Gonzalez a rematch if he wanted one, and who wouldn’t want to see it?
Carlos Cuadras came in as the favorite in his bout against Mexican dance partner in David Carmona, but anyone expecting a Cuadras cakewalk may have been surprised. Carmona put on a solid body attack and made it a tough victory on the cards for Cuardras. Scores were 96-95, and 97-93 X 2. The results brought a round of boos from the crowd, who saw a good effort from Carmona and not the showcase fight Cuadras promised to deliver.
Last May, Carmona (20-3-5, 8 KOs) went the distance against super flyweight champion Naoya Inoue of Japan, one of only two men to hear the final bell along with Inoue. So no one should have expected Carmona to roll over.
Cuadras looked good only on the stat sheet. He outlanded Carmona by 184 to 126 total punches, although with an identical 28 percent connect rate; out jabbed Carmona 63 to 32, and landed 121 of 252 power punches (48 percent) compared to 94 of 273 for Carmona (34.4 percent).
Cuadras wanted to do a lot more than win in his first appearance at Madison Square Garden. He wanted to make the case for a rematch with Roman Gonzalez, or at least put himself in the mix for matches with the other top names at super flyweight, such as Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico or Inoue. Inoue might be more eager to engage Cuadras now that he’s seen cracks in his armor.
Cuadras had admitted earlier in the week he found the weather in New York a little cold for him, and perhaps the atmosphere at The Garden got to Cuadras. He and his team need to conduct a serious assessment of his performance. Anyone can have a bad night, but it can’t become a pattern.
American lightweight rising star Ryan “Blue Chip” Martin (18-0, 11 KOs) of Cleveland stayed true to his moniker, putting on a quality performance against Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz (17-2, 8 KOs) of Port Chester, New York in a TKO victory effort. Martin’s fundamentals are solid: movement, footwork, accuracy, and smart combination punching. He hits with authority if not with crushing power.
At the end of both rounds 5 and 6, Martin landed solid short right and left hooks, snapping Cruz’s head side to side. But Cruz didn’t roll over; credit his tough chin and determination. The ring physician briefly examined Cruz before the seventh round, and let him continue. Cruz kept up his body attack and he made Martin earn the victory. But he could not compete overall. Cruz finally wore down in the eighth round as Martin seized the opportunity for a final assault, and referee Harvey Dock stopped the fight at 45 seconds of round 8.
Martin landed nearly double the overall punch count as Cruz, and 58 percent of his power punches. Martin is a tall lightweight at 5-11. It would be interesting to see if he might gain some power moving up a division in the future.
“Irish” Andy Lee (35-3-1, 24 KOs) kept the good times rolling for Irish fight fans, who celebrated a St. Patrick’s Day victory by Michael Conlan Friday in his professional debut. Lee won by unanimous decision over KeAndrae Leatherwood (19-4-1 12 KOs) of Birmingham, Alabama. Scores were 80-72, 79-73, and 78-74. Lee used his jab and several straight rights to keep Leatherwood at bay for most of the fight.
Things started slowly to the displeasure of fans; Lee was shaking off 14 months of ring rust after his loss to Billy Joe Saunders of England in December 2015. In Round 6, Lee finally warmed up, landing several good punches in the round. Leatherwood was throwing but he punched air much of the time. He was too cautious to get in close enough to find his range, allowing Lee to stay in the fight and win comfortably, if without much action. The win keeps Lee viable as a fallback opponent in the division, even against Gennady Golovkin if no one else will come out to play.
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