March 14, 2017
March 14, 2017
Roman Gonzalez

Chris Farina/K2

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THIS weekend, Roman Gonzalez makes the first defence of his WBC super-flyweight title against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in New York. He will also be looking to maintain his incredible unbeaten run.

Nicaragua’s first ever four-weight world champion, ‘Chocolatito’ will go 47-0 this weekend if he prevails, as he is expected to. He is the favourite because he is the best fighter, pound-for-pound, on the planet.

He took that mantle when Floyd Mayweather retired in 2015 and the pair could be linked in another way should Gonzalez keep winning. Mayweather, as he so often reminds us, retired at 49-0, matching Rocky Marciano’s perfect record.

He could soon be joined by Gonzalez, a god-fearing, softly spoken master whose character is worlds apart from Floyd’s. It’s taken him 12 years to get to this point, whereas Mayweather had been a professional for 18 by the time he hit 47-0.

Admittedly, amateur star Mayweather was matched tough from a very early stage, though Gonzalez himself has only ever faced world class opposition since he won his first world title in 2008.

While Mayweather’s entire career took place under a microscope, which got bigger and more intrusive as time went on, the vast majority of Gonzalez’s pro run has come in obscurity. It has only been in recent years that people have caught on to his remarkable talents, largely due to the fact American broadcaster HBO decided to back him.

Mayweather went 47-0 by defeating Marcos Maidana in a rematch, earning an obscene amount of money in the process. At this point of his career, he was the highest paid athlete on the planet and in his next outing would defeat Manny Pacquiao in the highest grossing fight of all time.

He had masterfully built himself into a pay-per-view emperor, calling every shot going and raking in enough cash to set up several Mayweather generations for life.

Gonzalez, who does not speak English, headlined his first regular HBO broadcast last year and this weekend appears on his second American PPV show, both times underneath Gennady Golovkin in the main event.

But that does not reflect the quality of his record. He has scalped an astonishing amount of elite fighters in the lower weight divisions and continues to seek out the hardest challenges. Rungvisai is one of the best at super-flyweight and if Roman wins, he is set for a rematch with the excellent Carlos Cuadras, who he outpointed in a thriller last year.

After that there could be a rematch with Mexico’s Juan Francisco Estrada or a super-fight with Japan’s unbeaten Naoya Inoue. These are all five-star match-ups that would be difficult to call.

First, he has to get past Rungvisai, a top-class fighter who is one of the best body-punchers in the game. Gonzalez will need to be at his best to see him off.

Mayweather was 37 when he earned his 47th win. Gonzalez is 29. At the rate he has been fighting, he could conceivably match Floyd’s record this year and could then go on to break it. A word of warning though; Argentinian super-lightweight Cesar Rene Cuenca was one win away from matching Mayweather’s record in 2015 but then suffered consecutive losses to Eduard Troyanovsky.

Though several fighters in the past, such as Julio Cesar Chavez, went beyond 49-0, Mayweather called it quits at that stage and bowed out as the best fighter on the planet.

Of course, he may extend his run to 50-0 if negotiations for a fight with UFC star Conor McGregor come to fruition. But does a win over a professional debutant really count?

Gonzalez himself probably isn’t fussed. He refuses to accept the praise of being hailed Nicaragua’s greatest ever fighter – he feels his mentor, Alexis Arguello, will never lose that title – and simply wants to provide for his family.