Heading into 2017, Roman Gonzalez was viewed by most observers as the top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. He was undefeated in 46 fights, with 38 KOs. He was the WBC titlist at super flyweight and had been the lineal champion at flyweight. He had held alphabet-soup belts at 105 and 108 pounds, as well.
But in March, he experienced the first true setback of his professional career when he lost by majority decision to Thailand’s Wisaksil Wangek at Madison Square Garden. Heading into that bout, Wangek had been a relatively unknown commodity in the United States. He had lost a technical decision to Carlos Cuadras in 2014 and stopped Jose Salgado in 2015, so it was clear that he was a world-class fighter. But I know I was not alone in assuming that Gonzalez would handle him with relative ease. The fight most fans wanted for Gonzalez was either a rematch with Carlos Cuadras or a superfight with Japanese phenom Naoya Inoue.
But the tough veteran from the “Land of Smiles” showed up ready to fight. He knocked Gonzalez down in Round 1 and earned a hard-fought victory in one of the most exciting fights of 2017. This weekend he returns to the United States, this time to Carson, California, to give Gonzalez his rematch.
Gonzalez has already established himself as one of the greatest fighters of all time at 112 pounds or below. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But he has not been his same dominant self at 115 pounds.
He barely escaped with a decision in his super flyweight debut against Cuadras last September. I did think Gonzalez won the fight, but Cuadras roughed him up and was very much in control during the late rounds.
Gonzalez is also 30 now, and fighters in the lowest weight classes have often shown signs of aging more quickly than bigger boxers. I am hardly prepared to say he is washed up, but I am very interested to see how he will do against Wangek the second time around. Wangek fought the fight of his life six months ago, so I am also interested to see if he can turn in a duplicate performance.