I believe there is a pretty widespread consensus that Francisco Vargas’ June Draw with Orlando Salido deserves the honors as 2016’s Fight of the Year. I do not have a big problem with that opinion. The fight is in fact my own runner up. Vargas and Salido went after each other for 12 relentless rounds. They both showed tremendous will and resiliency–what the old timers called “Bottom.”
Salido and Vargas have become regulars in these sort of discussions. They are true warriors and deserve the fans’ adoration and the writers’ accolades.
But for me, that brawl was surpassed by the exhibition staged between Roman Gonzalez and Carlos Cuadras in September. Gonzalez-Cuadras featured plenty of action and fast-paced violence. Gonzalez ended the night with his faced badly swollen and Cuadras sustained a cut to his right eye. The exchanges went back and forth, along with the fight’s momentum.
What set it apart from a typical slugfest was the technical artistry displayed by both men. Gonzalez and Cuadras are two of the best boxers in the sport. And each man excels at things which force the other to dig deep and step up his own game.
Gonzalez started with his typical aggression and stalked and hammered at Cuadras from the opening round. Even though Chocolatito was the man coming up in weight, it was clear that Cuadras was faced with a new type of power. The early part of the fight went to Gonzalez.
But Cuadras adjusted heroically mid-fight and put on a show of his own, displaying exquisite footwork and setting up brilliant traps to catch the come-forward Gonzalez. From the middle rounds on, the fight was a back-and-forth war, with Cuadras getting the better of it in the final rounds.
This was a bout that really made me nostalgic for the days of the 15-round championship bouts. Cuadras looked to be taking control as the fight reached the end of Round 12. But I will not assume that Gonzalez would have been unable to rally yet again, if the situation had required it.
It will be a true injustice if Cuadras does not receive a rematch in 2017. Gonzalez spent the year as the sport’s top pound-for-pound star. But Cuadras proved in September that he is fine match for the four-division champion.