ROMAN ‘EL CHOCALATITO’ GONZALEZ: THE NICARAGUAN BOXING SENSATION

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Several boxing matches took place last week; Showtime’s line-up of matches featuring Adrien Broner, Lucas Matthyse & Andre Berto and the match-up in Belfast between Kiko Martinez and Carl Frampton were fights that significant amount of boxing coverage was focused on. However, there was a fight that took place in Tokyo, Japan last week which got scant coverage in comparison to the aforementioned fights; a significant and fascinating match-up which displayed many traits that all boxing fans crave – sublime skills, heart, courage and sportsmanship. The match-up that took place between the linear Flyweight World Champion Akira Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez was a fantastic fight between two world-class fighters; a terrific style match-up between the hard-punching, relentless and talented Roman Gonzalez, and the skilled, counter-punching and courageous Akira Yaegashi.

Boxing fans were treated to an excellent fight for the linear Flyweight championship, with an abundance of skills, courage and drama. Both fighters started quickly, with combinations landed by both fighters; the power and accuracy of Gonzalez became quickly apparent and he knocked Yaegashi in the third round with a terrific counter left-hook. Despite this, Yaegashi showed tremendous heart and courage to continue, and fought his way to land several powerful punches against Gonzalez, including terrific counter-punches and quick combinations. Despite this, Gonzalez continued to punish Yaegashi with accurate, powerful and fluid combinations to head and body, and hurt Yaegashi in the 9th round. Gonzalezlanded a five-punch combination, with all five punches landing, to knock Yaegashi down for the second time. Yaegashi looked visibly stunned and hurt on the canvas, and the fight was waved off by referee, Michael Griffin. In addition to the victory and becoming the linear Flyeight World Champion, Gonzalez won his third world championship at three different weight classes [105, 108, 112]; Nicaragua have only produced one other fighter who has achieved this fabulous feat – the hall-of-famer and all time great, Alexis Arguello.

The scant coverage of this great fight poses some important questions for the sport of boxing; why was this fight giving such little coverage in comparison to other fights that took place last week? Why was this fight not shown on US or European television networks, thus meaning that fans had to resort to watching the fight on Nicaraguan or Japanese television network via an internet stream? Why are world-class fighters in the lower weight classes under-appreciated by many, in comparison to fighters in the higher weight classes?

Sadly, Roman Gonzalez is one of many fighters throughout the history of boxing who compete in the lower weight-classes who has been under-appreciated by too many; Ricardo ‘Finito’ Lopez was an outstanding boxer, whose tremendous boxing ability produced an extremely successful career, with 23 successful World Championship defenses in two different weight classes and an undefeated record of 51(38KOs)-0-1. Despite the great achievements of Lopez, who was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007, many are sadly unaware of Lopez’s great achievements and his outstanding boxing skills. Mark ‘Too Sharp’ Johnson, another terrific fighter who, like Lopez was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame [2012], defended his championship numerous times, showing terrific boxing skills in the process, was sadly overlooked by the major TV networks and given scant coverage to build his fan-base.

Despite the outstanding skills shown and possessed by fighters in the lower weight classes such as Roman Gonzalez, Ricardo Lopez and Mark Johnson, many sports fans are reticent to watch fighters who campaign in the lower weight classes, assuming that fighters in the lower weight classes are unable to provide knockouts and dramas in comparison to higher weight classes, most notably in the heavyweight division. In turn, this causes less demand to see fighters in the lower weight classes, meaning less TV and sports media coverage for fights in the lower-weight classes and for many to bypass or not know of the terrific talent of fighters in the lower weight classes. This is a huge shame, on several counts; firstly, the assumption that fighters in the lower-weight classes are more than capable of producing great drama and knockouts; Roman Gonzalez and his entertaining knockout of Akira Yaegashi is testament to this; furthermore, the fighters at the lower weight classes are less prone to clinching and hugging, and throwing combination punches, thus leading to entertaining fights, and on many occasions, leading to more entertaining and dramatic fights than the higher weight classes. If we compare the match-up of Yaegashi-Gonzalez to the recent match between Wladamir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin for the undisputed Heavyweight Championship or matches where we see very punches thrown, this clearly dispels that rumour that fights at lower weight classes are less dramatic on the sole reason of weight.

Furthermore, this article began by stating that the match-ups which took place on Showtime were given far more exposure than the Yaegashi-Gonzalez match-up and understandably so. Showtime is a major US network, with the three aforementioned fighters advised by the powerful adviser, Al Haymon, who has been able to allow his stable of fighters to fight weak opposition on national US television; the much maligned match-ups that recently took place between Danny Garcia and Rod Salka, and Lamont Peterson and Edgar Santana are pertinent examples of this. Conversely, we regularly see terrific match-ups taking place in the lower weights due to the lack of boxing politics and some of the major issues facing boxing today, such as issues with powerful advisers, major TV networks and fraught relationships [e.g. Al Haymon and Top Rank]. The best truly fight the best, and fight fans are treated to terrific matches. Some of the greatest fights this year took place in the lower weights; the unification fight between Francisco Rodriguez and Katsunari Takayama, an outstanding fight, is widely considered by many to be the Fight of the Year so far this year. Many of the most talented fighters at the lower weight classes are sadly overlooked due to lack of TV and media coverage.

Roman Gonzalez not only possesses a fan-friendly style with his volume punches and constant aggression, but possesses terrific boxing skills; he is able to throw combinations with outstanding power, precision and fluidity in addition to outstanding boxing technique. He possesses one of the best left hooks to the body, and is able to go to head and body effortlessly. He is undoubtedly one of the most gifted fighters in cutting the ring off and forcing his opponent to fight his fight. He has a terrific chin, and is willing to trade with his opponents, meaning he is constantly in terrific fights. His match with Juan Fransisco Estrada in Novembr 2012 at Flyweight was a brilliant match, a war of attrition between two warriors, where Gonzalez was the victor. After Gonzalez was victorious and crowned Linear champion at Super Flyweight, Estrada fought Giovani Segura one day later hereby Estrada was the victor, successfully defending his WBO and WBA straps. Due to the terrific match-up which took place between Gonzalez and Estrada in 2012 and the chance to unify the division, it is only natural that many admirers of Gonzalez and Estrada would love to see the re-match take place. Regardless of whether Gonzalez is able to be able to fight Estrada in his next bout or if he is matched with another opponent, Roman Gonzalez is building a terrific resume and solidifying his position as an elite fighter. Despite the difficulties Gonzalez faces with lack of exposure due to circumstances out of his control, it is admirable to see a fighter with the skills, courage and fearlessness of the humble fighter from Managua, Nicaragua. Let us hope that more are willing and able to see Gonzalez, and witness and enjoy this fabulous talent.

Aritcle By Qadeer Ali   Twitter @abdulqadeer

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