The man who many regard as the finest boxer on the planet will soon be back under the hot lights doing what he does best.
In roughly four weeks time Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-0-0, 38KOs) will be in action at Madison Square Garden, defending his WBC Super-Flyweight crown against Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (41-4-1, 38KOs).
Once again Gonzalez is fighting in the chief support slot to Gennady Golovkin; this time before GGG's Middleweight showdown with Daniel Jacobs. The card will be broadcast on HBO PPV (UK television details still pending).
Also boxing on the televised portion of the show is Carlos Cuadras, the man who Gonzalez conquered to win his current title during a “superb battle” in September 2016. Both men will be taking an interest in one another's fight on the night, the talk already circulating that should both emerge with wins the rematch will take place later this year.
First, though, business must be taken care of on March 18.
Now a four weight world champion, “Chocolatito” is a sure fire hall of famer and one of the best fighters to watch ply his trade in the sport today. The offensive juggernaut from Nicaragua utilises his incredible footwork to keep his opponent under constant pressure and regularly lands most of the punches he throws in blurring combinations.
Against Cuadras in last year's classic Gonzalez faced a fighter good enough to land plenty of his own shots, many as counter-punches, and by the end of the bout he was showing the signs of battle – heavy facial bruising to go with two cuts close to his right eye. This has made me wonder if Roman will change his style slightly from now on. The move up to 115lbs seems to have benefited him in terms of being able to fight at a high pace for the duration, due to no longer being drained, but he won't want to be receiving as much punishment as he did in the Cuadras fight against the naturally bigger and stronger opponents he will now be facing. Will Gonzalez now fight in a more circumspect style?
Another issue for consideration is that long time head-trainer Arnulfo Obando will no longer be in Gonzalez's corner.
Obando was rushed to hospital on October 31 after suffering a stroke and he sadly passed away on November 10. Having bossed Roman's corner since 2010 his absence is bound to be felt on fight night. Gonzalez's father Luis will now take on the head-trainer duties and he will be assisted by Wilmer Hernandez. Although Gonzalez Sr. and Hernandez worked under Obando it remains to be seen what the dynamic for team Gonzalez is like minus Obando's leadership during the heat of battle.
Despite these concerns it will be nothing short of a major shock if “Chocolatito” does not win this fight. His talent, style and desire to dedicate a convincing victory to his late trainer should see him prevail convincingly, however certain facets of Rungvisai's game may cause the champion some problems.
So what does the experienced Rungvisai bring to the table to trouble Gonzalez?
First of all the Thai fighter is a southpaw. Not a huge deal but Roman hasn't squared off against a lefty since 2013. During the Cuadras fight I thought that Gonzalez looked most vulnerable to being hit during the brief periods that Cuadras switched to southpaw.
In terms of boxing fundamentals Rungvisai is not in the same class as Gonzalez but from the footage I could find he does carry very respectable power although his tendency to load up frequently would leave him exposed to Gonzalez's fast combinations. He also looks to be strong and competent fighting on the inside and his right hook to the body, perhaps his signature punch, needs to be guarded against.
Rungvisai is actually a former holder of the WBC Super-Flyweight world title. He owned the belt for exaclty one year before losing it to Cuadras (that man again) in 2014. He will be highly motivated to win the belt back and then perhaps rematch Cuadras himself.
These positives in Rungvisai's favour are offset and overtaken by this key point though. Since his loss to Cuadras in May 2014 he has gloved up fourteen times, all in his native Thailand. The information available tells us that two of his opponents were on debut while seven had losing records. It seems strange for a highly ranked fighter to be boxing so often and it looks like the thinking in that part of the world is quantity over quality when it comes to match making. Recent history like this is not the ideal way to equip any fighter who will very shortly find himself standing across a ring from Roman Gonzalez. Hopefully the man from Thailand has had a testing training camp otherwise the task facing him will quickly feel like mission impossible.
Overall there are a number of questions which will hopefully be answered as once again Roman Gonzalez goes to work on a stage fitting of his talents. The contest should provide some back and forth excitement in the early running before “Chocolatito” takes over and showcases his phenomenal skills from the mid-point on. If a surprise result is to occur Rungvisai will need to have the night of his life in New York. We can't completely rule that out as this is boxing and anything can happen but if the WBC 115lb world title is not still the property of Gonzalez come the end of the fight then we will have witnessed an upset for the ages.