World boxing is presently awash with A plus talents – reference Mssrs Golovkin, Ward, Alvarez, Crawford and Kovalev – but the majority view among the experts seems to be that diminutive Nicaraguan destroyer Roman Gonzalez is the finest of them all.
Both Ring magazine and the ESPN network place the 5ft 3in ‘Chocololito’ at the top of their mythical pound-for-pound ladder and BoxNation subscribers are treated to another opportunity to assess Gonzalez’s worth when he challenges for a world title in a fourth division against Mexico’s unbeaten and formidable WBC Super-Fly king Carlos Cuadras, at California’s Inglewood Forum on Saturday.
It speaks volumes for the Latin atom’s incontestable ability that such influential US outlets even consider him for the sport’s ultimate bragging right, given the disadvantages of his size, birthplace and native tongue.
The man from Managua’s stats, frankly, are astounding. Having gone 88-0 as an amateur, the little Roman soldier has triumphed in 45 straight -38 early endings – since debuting as a pro in July 2005, a fortnight after his 18th birthday.
Since 2008, fifteen of those wins have come inside a world championship ring (one ‘interim’ title fight), spanning the minimumweight (105lbs), light-fly (108lbs) and flyweight (112lb) classes.
All three titles were acquired on foreign climes – Gonzalez is yet to fight for a world title in his homeland – and he subsequently ‘cleaned out’ each division, successfully retaining his belts on 11 occasions. Ten title victims failed to finish, as did six of the eight rival world champions he has conquered!
And to paraphrase the Fun Boy Three/Bananarama hit of the early 1980s: ‘It ain’t what he does, but the way that he does it.’ ‘Chocololito’ certainly gets results but there’s a real style and pizzazz to how he carries out his business. At 29, he is in his absolute prime and we should savour him.
The tiny terror brings the quintessential all round package; a granite chin, Ferrari engine, brutal body attack and a hefty dig in both mitts. After years of brilliant drudgery from P4P predecessor ‘Money’ Mayweather, ‘Chocololito’ is of a refreshingly offensive mind. He is blessed with the intuitive balance, co-ordination, precision and judgement of distance that can’t be taught but which all the very greatest possess.
And he is as fearless at the matchmaking table as he is between the ropes, consistently coveting the stiffest tests available. A man of faith and a thoroughly decent human being, Roman is a perfect poster boy for the sport. Belatedly, HBO (US) and BoxNation (Europe) have jumped on board to provide the exposure his gifts unquestionably deserve.
While Gonzalez may lack inches, his credentials more than measure up to the leading P4P competition. Andre Ward – fine fighter – can match him for nous and possibly exceeds the Central American defensively but lacks the ‘pop’ to turn a fight with a single blow which Gonzalez possesses and is compromised by inactivity.
‘The Son of God’s claim will be strengthened if he can neutralise another P4P contender Sergey Kovalev in their light-heavy showdown in November. And if the unbeaten ‘Krusher’ from Russia probably hits harder ounce for ounce than Gonzalez, he concedes to the Nicaraguan nightmare in almost every other department.
Unbeaten Nebrasken light-welter Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford is a box-fighter of boundless potential but his CV presently lacks the depth to merit serious consideration above Gonzalez.
And while ‘Canelo’ Alvarez eclipses all of the above in terms of commercial worth, at elite level the Mexican is ponderous of foot and still exhibits defensive shortcomings. Though he fights the big names, they usually have smaller frames. We can re-assess if he passes the harshest of examinations from Liverpool’s bull strong WBO Super Welter boss Liam Smith on Saturday week.
So that leaves only Kazakh middleweight phenom Gennady Golovkin as a viable alternative to Gonzalez with regards to topping the P4P pile. ‘Triple G’, who defends his barrow load of middleweight titles against Sheffield’s Kell Brook at London’s O2 Arena this weekend, is himself unbeaten in 35 and another serial globetrotter.
Whilst ‘GGG’ can’t claim to have gone unbeaten in the unpaid sphere, he was certainly more decorated, winning the world amateurs plus Olympic silver. He brings a similarly expansive all round game to Gonzalez but, with 32 big kayos, is probably blessed with the heavier artillery. All 16 world title foes were obliterated ahead of schedule.
However, in a career 10 months and 10 fights lighter than ‘Chocololito’s’, the much avoided 34 year old has conquered just three world champions to Gonzalez’s eight. A career middleweight, his portfolio lacks the breadth of weight classes that the Nicaraguan can boast and perhaps that, above all, accords Gonzalez a wafer thin edge. Either way, it’s mighty close.
The sport’s premier pair go head-to-head again on Saturday – albeit on opposite sides of the Atlantic – but Gonzalez faces much the greater challenge.
A stellar victory against the naturally bigger, elite level, ‘bang in his prime’ Cuadras will certainly add a ton of weight to Gonzalez standing as the industry leader.