It is too early to say how this year in boxing will be judged but one aspect that could be considered when looking back at 2016 is the number of fights that featured two unbeaten fighters going head to head.
Obviously these fights have to deliver to be remembered fondly but there is nothing like the excitement and anticipation just before a title fight featuring two undefeated boxers.
We have already enjoyed Crawford v Postol and Frampton v Santa Cruz and before the year ends there are several more fights that the old promotional slogan of “Someone's 0 Has Got To Go” could be applied to.
Over the coming weeks and months there will be many articles written about the upcoming Golovkin v Brook (Middleweight), Glowacki v Usyk (Cruiserweight) and Kovalev v Ward (Light Heavyweight) fights. In this piece I want to focus on a fight that I hope does not get overshadowed due to it taking place in a weight division that traditionally doesn't get as much coverage or attention as it should.
The fight I'm referring to could be the best of them all: Roman ‘Chocolatito' Gonzalez stepping up to 115lbs to face Carlos ‘Principe' Cuadras for his WBC Super Flyweight World Title.
The scrap, due to take place at The Forum, Inglewood, California on September 10 certainly looks a mouthwatering one on paper.
The challenger, Gonzalez, from Nicaragua 45-0-0 (38Kos) faces Cuadras of Mexico 35-0-1 (27Kos) in front of what is sure to be an enthusiastic crowd at the iconic Californian venue. For those not in the know, Gonzalez is currently rated the Pound For Pound Number 1 boxer on the planet by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. Cuadras is rated as Number 2 in the TBRB Super Flyweight rankings. Both men are highly skilled as their records and these rankings underline.
The probability of their styles mixing and a fan friendly fight developing seems high to me.
Gonzalez fights at a fast pace and with an unrelenting offensive style, constantly keeping his opponents under pressure by utilising his magnificent footwork to cut off the ring. Once Gonzalez has his foe where he wants them he unleashes combinations of hard punches which wear down opponents, impress judges and win over the spectators. Indeed, ‘Chocolatito' was on an impressive 10 fight knock-out streak until his last fight, when McWilliams Arroyo managed to take him to the cards in April. During the Arroyo fight I thought Gonzalez didn't look as sharp and fast as usual so perhaps he is moving up to 115lbs at the correct time.
Will moving up a weight class at this point in his career and his superior footwork be the deciding factors that will enable Gonzalez to remove the ‘0' from Cuadras' record?
Cuadras, from what I've seen, is comfortable fighting off the back foot, looking for the chance to counter and then launch powerful and fast combinations of his own. He also has an effective jab which he uses well, mixing it up to the head and body. When he gets onto the front foot Cuadras has an impressive arsenal of his own, going to the head with powerful uppercuts and the body with painful looking hooks. ‘Principe' is also naturally the bigger man with a slight reach advantage. The 75% knock-out ratio which Cuadras brings into the fight shows that he carries respectable power, something that Gonzalez will need to be wary of.
Will Cuadras' size, reach and the fact he is fighting at his natural weight be the main ingredient to him handing Gonzalez his first career defeat?
Roman Gonzalez really has had a glittering career. This fight sees him attempting to win a World Title in his fourth weight division. Gonzalez recently has been showcased to the HBO TV audience in the United States (and by extension plenty more viewers in other territories around the world) by being positioned as the chief support bout to Gennady Golovkin in his last three fights. Indeed, two of those fights were held at The Forum and the other took place at Madison Square Garden in New York. After experiencing these huge events the prospect of now headlining at The Forum should not phase Gonzalez.
Meanwhile Cuadras, apart from a 2014 bout in Washington DC, has fought all his professional career in his homeland or Japan. Nothing wrong with this but how will headlining a large venue affect him? Will the thought of the massive global TV audience play on his mind? Could this be the component that plays the most important part in the outcome of this fight?
One final point to consider is that come September 10 Cuadras will be 28 and Gonzalez 29. Both boxers are experienced, unbeaten and appear to be meeting in their primes. So often in boxing this doesn't happen so we should be pleased it is the case here.
In conclusion, the boxing calendar for the final few months of 2016 looks slightly threadbare at the moment but there are certainly a few matchups taking place to get excited about. Hopefully a few more good looking fights will get made to keep us entertained as the nights draw in and the temperatures drop but perhaps the little guys fighting in California on September 10 in a big fight will produce one of the best and most memorable fights of the year.