Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez suffered his first career defeat last night, dropping a majority decision to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Along with his unbeaten record Gonzalez also lost his WBC Super-Flyweight title although many who watched were of the opinion that the cards turned in by the judges were flawed.
Before looking closer at that it must be mentioned that the two 115lb fighters put on a tremendous contest. This fight will live long in the memory for all who witnessed it. Thailand's Rungvisai showed relentless aggression throughout, confident that he had the power to take out his opponent. Gonzalez, of Nicaragua, hit back with blistering combinations and looked to this observer to have turned a nightmare start into a winning margin by the time the final bell rang.
Rungvisai made his tactics clear from the outset. The bigger punching southpaw was the aggressor in a fast paced opening stanza, Gonzalez struggling to time his foe. Just as it looked like being a 10-9 round to the challenger a right hook connected to Chocolatito's rib cage and the champion was down. Shaken and looking troubled Gonzalez sensibly took the eight count on his knee before rising to resume battle. Rungvisai returned to his corner knowing his power could trouble Gonzalez and in possession of a two point lead.
The second round began with the Thai boxer attempting to hammer home his advantage but as the round progressed Gonzalez found his range, peppering his opponent with combinations. Rungvisai didn't appear to be troubled by the power of Gonzalez and kept coming forward. The early stages were also also characterised by the challenger surprisingly getting the better of the subtle footwork war that was happening on the canvas. In a southpaw vs. orthodox fight it is preferable to have your leading foot outside the leading foot of your adversary in order to deliver your punches more effectively. I observed Rungvisai achieving this through the first three rounds.
Round three was interrupted by an accidental clash of heads which opened up a nasty cut above Gonzalez's right eye. Roman glanced up at himself on the big screen so he knew how serious the wound was immediately. As the fight resumed Gonzalez got to work, perhaps conscious of the fact the fight could now be stopped early due to the cut. Gonzalez landed the higher quality punches to take the round. The fourth round saw Rungvisai on the front foot trying to bully the champion but Gonzalez hit the target with some beautiful eye-catching counters during this frame.
The action continued through the fifth and sixth rounds. Gonzalez now was getting the better of the foot placement struggle and he closed round five in dominant fashion. The sixth round completely belonged to Gonzalez. He was majestic, boxing with high energy on the front foot, when a clash of heads resulted in the referee deducting a point from Rungvisai. 10-8 round to the champion to cancel out the two point round Rungvisai had in the first.
Seemingly now ahead after his difficult start Gonzalez was still dealing with blood streaming into his right eye as the action rampaged on. Rungvisai fought with purpose and desire in the seventh as we went into the second half of the contest. The eighth round saw some superb boxing from Gonzalez as despite his eye troubles he was able to block and counter much of the fire coming his way. It was beautiful to watch.
The see-saw nature of the second half of the fight continued into the rounds that followed. Rungvisai via his work-rate took the ninth while Gonzalez fought back to win the next session with more exquisite combination punching. Continuing this theme the challenger probably took the penultimate round. Although round eleven was the quietest of the fight Rungvisai put in slightly more work.
Due to the close nature of the fight it was almost a certainty that the final round would be frantic. It was. After the breather both men took in eleven they both emptied their reserves of energy in the closer. The twelfth was a microcosm of the whole fight. Full commitment from both boxers, Rungvisai pressing forward but Gonzalez landing the more frequent and higher grade punches. Gonzalez took the last round to be two points up on my unofficial scorecard.
The judges did not concur. Scores of 113-113, 114-112, 114-112 were returned to give the challenger the majority decision victory and the title. While disagreeing with the official cards I will concede that Rungvisai gave a far better account of himself than I thought he would be capable of against Gonzalez. He used his physical advantages to his benefit and fought in a style that brought him the nod from the judges. Gonzalez, for all he is lauded for his skill, must be praised for his heart and ability to dig deep and stand toe to toe with a bigger, stronger boxer while dealing with a debilitating cut for most of the contest.
So what's next for both men? Rungvisai is a natural at 115lbs, tough and talented and will be a difficult night's work for any of the other main players in the division. An immediate rematch may happen. Gonzalez now finds himself in a bit of a conundrum. Seemingly unable to make 112lbs he is always going to be outgunned in the power department mixing it up with the super-flyweights. Fights like last night and his other outing at 115 against Cuadras last year have seen “Chocolatito” absorb so much punishment. He may need to look at his style as, while constantly going to war will entertain the fans, fighting in this fashion against naturally bigger men will shorten his career, if not his life.
Again the super-flyweight division gave us a thrilling encounter last night. These fighters in the lower weight classes deserve our attention and adulation. Like me you may not be in agreement with the outcome but Gonzalez vs. Rungvisai provided us with an early contender for fight of the year, a huge upset and plenty to discuss in the days and weeks ahead.