IN a New York-based gym in the build-up to their respective Madison Square Garden outings, former opponents Roman Gonzalez and Carlos Cuadras trained alongside each other as intrigued observers watched on.
The pair had collided in a 12-round epic at The Forum in California only six months prior, with Nicaraguan star ‘Chocolatito’ earning a unanimous decision victory to become his nation’s first ever four-weight world champion.
Having claimed that WBC super-flyweight title from Cuadras’ grasp on American soil, the pound-for-pound great found himself hitting the heavy bag only inches away from his previous Mexican rival in training for his maiden defence.
Both men looked set to trade leather once again in a rematch later this year, but a shock decision defeat for Gonzalez at the hands of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai has derailed such a prospect, while a mouth-watering clash with Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue now also sadly looks dead in the water.
Widely regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter before entering the ring in New York City, ‘Chocolatito’ was involved in an early Fight of the Year contender with eventual maiden conqueror Rungvisai.
The 29-year-old sustained two sickeningly damaging cuts above his right eye in the early rounds from accidental clashes of heads, but gallantly battled through the night to ultimately come up short on the judges’ greatly disputed cards.
Meanwhile, ahead of Gonzalez’s first ever loss, Cuadras looked sloppy and discontent during his decision success over mettlesome compatriot David Carmona.
Many pondered whether Gonzalez would be the same fighter after such a strenuous scrap with Cuadras last September, but it was in fact the South American that seemed a shadow of himself and appeared diminished from their relentless war.
Having appeared his usual lively self in the gym alongside his former foe in that shared gym appearance, Cuadras may have been at fault for assuming a Gonzalez rematch was a formality after respective victories on the same card.
Any possibility of that intriguing second meeting between the duo has since been crushed, though, thanks to the controversial decision defeat for ‘Chocolatito’ at the ‘mecca of boxing’.
His place at the summit of that mythical pound-for-pound list may have been come to an abrupt end in light of losing his unbeaten record, but Gonzalez now faces a fresh career challenge following 47 professional contests.
His latest ring outing marked the fourth time he had co-featured on an event alongside close ally Gennady Golovkin on such a grand stage.
But long before the Nicaraguan became the petite sidekick for middleweight kingpin ‘GGG’ on huge pay-per-view shows, he already achieved the pinnacle of his illustrious career and secured admirable feats in the lower divisions.
Ironically, though, after years of rampaging through opponents and reigning top of many organisations’ pound-for-pound lists, ‘Chocolatito’ has gained a more widespread following since moving up to 115lbs, where his toughest tests have come.
Officially, Gonzalez was on the wrong end of a majority decision against Rungvisai, but realistically, the dethroned champion put in an exemplary performance during a gruelling 12-round encounter.
Despite enduring his maiden setback after 47 bouts, a daringly bloodied ‘Chocolatito’ threw over 1000 punches – setting the record for most power shots ever landed in a super-flyweight match-up in the process.
The lionhearted Nicaraguan’s total punches landed on Rungvisai were also the third most in history by a losing fighter during a title bout.
Such was the disputed fashion of his first loss, Gonzalez has called for an immediate rematch, though his sustained battle wounds should keep him out of the firing line for some time.
‘Chocolatito’ was dropped in the first round by his Thai conqueror but proceeded to showcase bravery in its rawest form to the onlooking New York crowd.
It’s evident that the four-division champion is at the maximum weight his naturally slender frame will allow, but that didn’t change his approach in going toe-to-toe with a clearly larger foe.
Gonzalez has long been an ultra aggressive fighter, charging at opponents with grace and fury, but his style at this higher weight against bigger, stronger rivals takes more of a toll on him throughout the rounds.
At times against a visibly broader Rungvisai, Gonzalez was landing an abundance of solid shots, connections which he’s used to putting smaller foes out cold with, but it was a case of attempting to chop down a tree with a pick axe in this particular meeting.
With a sea of red pouring down his face, Gonzalez dug deep to recover from a slower than usual start and was perhaps unfortunate not to have swayed the judges with his heroic surges late on.
In the build-up to his maiden title defence, ‘Chocolatito’ stoutly claimed he was willing to die in the ring and put himself through absolute hell.
In light of such a gory showdown at Madison Square Garden, Gonzalez indisputably removed any lingering doubts over such bold remarks, as he fell narrowly short of defending his crown on a blood stained canvas.
Although, the king of Nicaragua will no doubt return to once again contend for his place on the super-flyweight throne, after the scars of his last savage conflict have faded.