THE brilliant career of Roman Gonzalez hangs in the balance after he was dominated and knocked out in the fourth round by Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in front of a sell-out 7,418 crowd at Carson’s StubHub Center.
The pair engaged in a thrilling 12-round war in March which culminated controversially when the verdict and WBC super-flyweight belt was handed to Sor Rungvisai, but there was no doubts whatsoever about the victor here, as the southpaw controlled the opening three sessions before flooring the Nicaraguan with a huge right hand in the fourth. Gonzalez – expected beforehand to prove that the first bout was an aberration – managed to get up, but was soon knocked cold by another sizzling blast from the Thai’s right mitt. At 1-18 of the session, referee Tom Taylor signalled the contest was over without bothering to count to hand the southpaw a standout victory.
“I trained very hard for four months,” Sor Rungvisai said afterwards. “I fought for Thailand, and this is what I dedicate this fight to, Thailand. For the first fight I only trained for two months. For this fight I trained for four months. I knew I was going to knock him out.”
The underdog was warned in the opening round for using his head as four-weight titlist Gonzalez – surely heading for the Hall of Fame irrespective of whether he fights again or not – struggled to find his range. The rivals went hell for leather in the third round as the contest appeared to be warming up in a similar manner to their first encounter. Instead, Sor Rungvisai ended matters in the next round to dramatically underline his arrival among the sport’s elite.
“Srisaket took the opportunity of winning the lottery,” observed Gonzalez’s promoter, Tom Loeffler. “He beat the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter and beat him in New York, and then he beat him more convincingly the second time. Now he has to be considered one of the best in the world. You saw Roman really packed the house, and Srisaket came into a hostile environment and proved he is a true champion. He has tremendous punching power.”
The defeated Gonzalez, 30, remained on the canvas for several minutes and received medical attention before being taken to hospital as a precaution. Hindsight will tell us that the 115lb division was perhaps a step too far for “Chocalito”. Indeed, the manner of his demise makes a successful comeback hard to envision but Gonzalez, who also previously held world belts at straw, light-fly and flyweight, long ago assured his place in history.
“We were both trading punches, but his were harder, and they landed harder,” said Gonzalez. “I was very hurt the second time when I was knocked down, but I think I’ll be okay.”
Fight of the night came when Juan Francisco Estrada edged Carlos Cuadras in a 12-round all-Mexican humdinger on the undercard, with all three judges notching 114-113 in Estrada’s favour. A knockdown in the 10th, scored by Estrada courtesy of a right to the nose, was crucial in deciding this super-flyweight slugfest.
However, confusion occured when the verdict was initially announced in Cuadras’ favour.
“I was surprised when he announced Cuadras,” Estrada said. “It had to be wrong. I felt like I was being robbed.”
No matter, justice was done in the end. Cuadras started fast and appeared to be heading towards a memorable triumph through the first half before Estrada chipped away at the lead during the dramatic last six rounds.
Like main event winner Sor Rungvisai, Estrada is now targeting a showdown with the brilliant Naoya Inoue, who impressed on his American debut as he savaged an overmatched Antonio Nieves to defend his WBO super-flyweight strap for the sixth time.
Inoue – who raised eyebrows in 2014 when he jumped from light-flyweight to dethrone long-time champion Omar Andres Narvaez in just two rounds – was relentless from the start, hurting Nievas in the second with a body attack. After six rounds of sustained and educated pressure, the challenger’s corner wisely signalled to referee Lou Monet that enough was enough.
“I’m very happy with my performance,” Inoue said. “He was a brave warrior, but tonight, I was too good for him. I’m very pleased to fight in the United States and thank HBO. I want to come back here to fight again soon. I will fight anybody, and I want to do it as soon as possible.”