Regular readers of this site will know I had the Carlos “Principe” Cuadras – Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez WBC Super Flyweight world title fight tagged as a potential fight of the year ever since I submitted the buildup piece (Looking Forward To Chocolatito v. Principe) back in August. The fight has not long finished and it was better than expected.
Coming in, Carlos Cuadras 35-0-1 (27Kos) had agreed to defend his title against the man many people regard as the pound for pound number one boxer on the planet, Roman Gonzalez.
Gonzalez 45-0-0 (38Kos) was moving up in weight, and by trying to snag Cuadras' belt, attempting to make history and win a world title in his 4th weight division. The action unfolded Saturday night before a loud crowd at The Forum, Inglewood, California.
Before the fight began the main topic of conversation had been whether or not Chocolatito had taken a step too far by pushing himself up to the 115lb weight class. We were about to find out.
As perhaps could have been predicted the pace from the opening bell was fast and furious. The opening two rounds going by in a flash. The first had a genuine back and forth quality about it as both men sought to settle into their respective fight plans while the second round saw Gonzalez gradually beginning to establish himself on the front foot. The standard of boxing during these early exchanges was high with any aggressive movements being offset by quality counters from the recipient of the aggression.
Rounds three and four belonged to Nicaragua's Gonzalez as he really began to assert himself during this period, establishing his superior footwork and at times leaving Cuadras with nowhere to go. Cuadras although under pressure during this period was still able to counter and launch combinations of his own to ensure Chocolatito couldn't get reckless with his attacks. During these rounds the belief that a modern classic was unfolding began to grow in my mind and the rising noise of the crowd in the Los Angeles area arena reflected this.
Cuadras briefly switched to southpaw in round five and by doing this and standing his ground he seemed to throw Gonzalez off his rhythm. During this period Cuadras, of Mexico, was able to do some good work but he then switched back to orthodox and resumed his back foot stance for the final minute of the fifth stanza. Chocolatito clawed back some momentum during this final 60 seconds but the round belonged to Principe thanks to his innovative opening two minutes.
The remainder of the fight continued in much the same pattern. Gonzalez, he of the magnificent footwork, closing the gap and assaulting Cuadras with a never-ending stream of attacking output. Meanwhile the Mexican did his best to counter and throw combinations off the back foot in an attempt to keep his smaller opponent at bay. This flow led to plenty of memorable exchanges which had the crowd roaring their approval and resulted in both boxers sustaining cuts on their eyebrows.
The rounds were action packed and full of brilliant technical boxing from both competitors but when the bell rang to end each session the feeling was that the slightly more effective work had been done by Roman Gonazalez. The diminutive Nicaraguan was just a level above his Mexican opponent in most of the rounds. My belief that Cuadras fought well enough to defeat most 115lb fighters on the night was sadly not good enough for him against Gonzalez.
The final two rounds flew by at frantic speed with a flurry of leather. Gonzalez perhaps slowed down ever so slightly in the 11th and allowed Cuadras some momentum but come the 12th normal service was resumed and Chocolatito was back engaging in the to and fro and probably just edging it on quality. The final bell rang to signal the end of a phenomenal boxing match and I will say it right now–the fight of the year.
The cards were announced smartly – 117-111, 115-113, 116-112 all in favour of the new WBC Super Flyweight Champion Roman Gonzalez. Carlos Cuadras looked disconsolate as he exited the ring but on the night he just didn't have enough to match the outstanding performance of Chocolatito. In picking up his latest title Gonzalez made history by becoming the first Nicaraguan to win world titles in four different weight classes. I wonder if the deeply religious, relentless champion muttered a silent prayer thanking his departed countryman and former mentor Alexis Arguello, the man whose achievements he had just surpassed.
One interested ringside spectator was Japan's Naoya Inoue, the WBO Super Flyweight Champion, whom many pundits pick in the top ten pound for pound lists. Despite Inoue's 11-0-0 (9Kos) inexperience he is highly regarded by those in the know. A fight between him and Gonzalez has been talked about for the last few years and now that Roman has moved up to 115lbs and won a title it seems like it could finally become a reality. Based on the evidence I witnessed last night I think it looks close to impossible for any man weighing in at the Super Fly limit to defeat Chocolatito but I am sure plenty of experts would pick “Little Monster” Inoue to do just that.
I strongly believe that Gonzalez moved out of the 112lbs division at just the right time after a comparatively lethargic performance in his last outing at that weight in April. Last night he was once again a non-stop bundle of attacking energy and skillful aggression, the Gonzalez we all know and love. If the Inoue fight gets made I would select Chocolatito as the winner just before reserving my plane seat to whichever city earns the honour of hosting that particular event.
CUADRAS PERFORMED SUPERBLY
As for Cuadras, he should hold his head up high. He accepted the challenge of the widely regarded best boxer on earth and put up a valiant effort. After some time off to recuperate he should be able to win one of the other titles in his division, or if other plans don't work out, organise a rematch with Gonzalez. Whatever direction both men go in next it is with my best wishes for the future and gratitude, indeed deepest gratitude for serving up the Fight Of The Year 2016.
—Introduced to boxing by watching as a teenager with his Dad, Morrison really began to appreciate the sport during the Lennox Lewis era from the mid 1990s. Since those days he has developed into a passionate boxing fan, enjoying all styles of the fight game. His favourite fight is Barrera-Morales 1 and when time allows he enjoys travelling to attend big fights. Morrison began writing about the sport in July 2016. He hails from Scotland, United Kingdom where he lives with his wife and two children and can be found on Twitter @Morrie1981.