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Roman Gonzalez vs. Naoya Inoue: The one that got away

20
Mar

Over the past several months I’ve written a feature for THE RING Magazine titled “Fights of Fantasy”, which has proven to be quite popular. I’ve spoken to a variety of boxing experts and gauged opinions on match ups such as Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Vasyl Lomachenko, Kell Brook vs. Amir Khan, Canelo Alvarez vs. Jermall Charlo and Manny Pacquiao vs. Terence Crawford.

The focus this month was to be a prospective showdown between WBC junior bantamweight titleholder Roman Gonzalez and his WBO counterpart Naoya Inoue. I spoke with Kal Yafai, the WBA titleholder at 115 pounds; Rudy Hernandez, trainer of former WBC titleholder Carlos Caudras; and Martin Mulcahey, esteemed contributor to THE RING and fellow RING ratings panelist.

The feature was written, edited and ready to go. I was happy. And then, out of nowhere, came a southpaw curveball from Thailand. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai — a snowball-in-hell underdog — thought it might be a good idea to pull off an upset by dethroning Gonzalez in New York City on Saturday.

Many felt the verdict was poor (not me) but my latest “Fights of Fantasy” piece, as well as Gonzalez’s pound-for-pound No. 1 spot, had taken a dump regardless.

Rather than shelf the doomed feature completely, however, the decision was made to release it on RingTV.com as a reminder that it’s never a good idea to look ahead in boxing. I would like to extend my apologies to Mr. Rungvisai, now a two-time junior bantamweight titleholder, for taking this liberty. I promise I’ve learned my lesson.

Here, now, are some expert opinions on the Gonzalez-Inoue matchup, which is buried a lot deeper in the fantasy section than it was last week:

KAL YAFAI 

Gonzalez is still a great fighter but he took a lot of stick in his win over Carlos Cuadras (UD 12) when he moved up to 115 pounds. He was badly marked up and, even though he hit Cuadras with a lot of punches, Cuadras came out of that fight pretty fresh. I think junior bantamweight is as far as Gonzalez can go and going straight in with one of the world’s best was always going to be tough. Inoue looked impressive against (Kohei) Kono (TKO 6) last time out but I still need to see him against Cuadras, Juan Francisco Estrada or myself. He has the power to hurt anyone but Gonzalez throws so many punches, and you would have to fancy him in terms of experience. The more time that goes by, Inoue’s chances improve because he’s getting better with each fight. To be honest, though, I can’t see it happening because I reckon that Inoue will move up. There are rumors that he’s moving on and Gonzalez will be staying at 115 pounds. I would like to take on Gonzalez at the end of this year or the beginning of next because I think I would be getting him at the right time.

PREDICTION: Gonzalez

RUDY HERNANDEZ 

In the fight with Cuadras, it became clear that Gonzalez had entered a division where he finally met his match. I didn’t think we necessarily won that fight but I didn’t think we lost it, and a draw would have been fair. Now I have so much respect for Gonzalez, and I think he’s even better than Alexis Arguello was, but Inoue is a whole different ball game. Inoue looked so impressive knocking out Omar Narvaez (KO 2) and you have to keep in mind that he’s still young. He’s just coming into his peak years and this would be a very difficult match for Gonzalez to win. Inoue is a hell of a fighter and he’s the future of the smaller weight divisions. I think he’ll end up fighting in the States and, if he does, then that would be great for all the smaller guys. I would have to go with Inoue to beat Gonzalez because of youth, speed and he has all the advantages in this division. Roman is coming all the way up from strawweight and we can’t forget the difference in age. He’s not as young as he used to be and there comes a time when you have to pass the torch.

PREDICTION: Inoue  

MARTIN MULCAHEY  

This is one of the best fights in all of boxing. Gonzalez only has two fights at 115 pounds, whereas Inoue has been at this weight for two-and-a-half years and he’s just a naturally bigger guy. Inoue also has advantages in height and reach, so, as far as physicality is concerned, Inoue is dominant. The fight I like to compare this to is Alexis Arguello vs. Aaron Pryor, which is apt because Arguello was a mentor to Gonzalez. Arguello was moving through the weights; he ran into a physical force in Pryor and he just couldn’t hurt him. That might be the case in this fight, in which the physicality of Inoue is too much for Gonzalez. Age could also be a factor because Gonzalez is 29 years old and Inoue is only 23. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, fighters below bantamweight were done by the time they were 27. They’re lasting a little longer these days but all of that wear and tear is still an issue. You also have to factor in that the fight is likely to happen in Japan, unless HBO puts up the money, and that obviously favors Inoue. He just has small advantages in almost every area.

PREDICTION: Inoue

The next “Fights of Fantasy” feature in THE RING Magazine will take a fresh look at a potential Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight. And yes, this will be released before Alvarez meets Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on May 6. As I said, lesson learned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Gray is a U.K. Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel.  Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Gray_Boxing.

 

 

 

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  • Chris Stans

    Gonzalez got robbed but I think after a rematch with Sriksat he should move back down win or lose. Staying at this weight is going to wear him out fast

    • Mitchell Nelms

      I agree, he looked really small on Saturday.

      • Mauro Hermida

        Dont think he can make 112 without killing himself. Plus there really are no fish to fry down there. The money is at 115.

  • The Immortal S-Hop

    This is possibly more interesting given Saturday’s results.

  • JC superstar

    Choco is making the 115lbs division interesting

    • Giuseppe

      eactly! every fight has been good. two great. as far as i’m concerned he is yet to be beat at this weight and every win just shows how extraordinary he is by closing the massive size gap with skill. I’ll never pick against him.

  • samuel haworth

    Reckon Yafai himself gives everybody in that division hell

  • ciobanu catalin

    Why shouldnt it still be made, we still want it! Roman isnt a worse fighter from that L … I think the fight is still the most interesting one around that weight

    • Mark Schoeman

      People point to disappointing fights, bad decisions, politics, etc as the biggest ills of boxing…but for me it’s the overvaluation of losses keeps boxing on the fringe. In no other sport would a single loss kill interest in other matchups…especially not a loss that can be disputed as any close decision can be.

      There’s no reason not to still make every effort to make this fight

      • Abraham E. Hernández

        Agree. Fullmer vs Robinson comes to mind.

    • Mark Schoeman

      People point to disappointing fights, bad decisions, politics, etc as the biggest ills of boxing…but for me it’s the overvaluation of losses keeps boxing on the fringe. In no other sport would a single loss kill interest in other matchups…especially not a loss that can be disputed as any close decision can be.

      There’s no reason not to still make every effort to make this fight

    • Julius Kent

      Inoue should fight Rungvisai first and this will be one hell of a fight.

      Rungvisai earned it and he is now the champ.

      • Mauro Hermida

        Inoue will KO him pretty easy imo. Or dominate him.

        • Julius Kent

          And that will gonna be one hell of a fight. The Thai would not just sit down for sure or stay down. Inoue should do some rocky training stuff like lift some goats in Tibet and swim a few laps in some alsakan rivers.

  • WillieSmalls

    We’d all watch & it would be a classic regardless of what happens from now until they fight.

    • Mitchell Nelms

      Agreed.

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      • Julius Kent

        Mitch, did you already check Inoue’s ranking at pound for pound?

        • Mitchell Nelms

          …and?

          • Julius Kent

            You said that there was no p4p boxer near the vicinity of Gonzales’ thrones. There is not only one but two.

          • Mitchell Nelms

            …and?

          • Julius Kent

            Will you apologize to me though?

          • Mitchell Nelms

            No.

          • Julius Kent

            But you made a mistake and I was the one who showed you the light. Because of me, now you know that Inoue is a p4p boxer.

          • Mitchell Nelms

            How does that affect the decision or Gonzalez’s performance in any way?

          • Julius Kent

            Your credibility is at stake. You clearly said that there is absolutely (strongly and confidently implied) no P4P boxer living within 10 blocks of Gonzales’ crib.

            But then I showed you an updated map and the rest is now history.

            A thank you probably?

          • Mitchell Nelms

            You sanctimonious little prick. Yeah, I said there were no fighters near his weight and I was wrong. I don’t spend my days looking at the p4p rankings and I admitted that. But, what point were you trying to make?

          • Julius Kent

            If you are wrong now how can we say that you were not wrong yesterday and what about Tom?

            You would not admit you were wrong today if I did not pull your leg so again thanks to me you were able to.

            You owe two thank yous now.

            If Inoue will fight rungvisai, who do you think will win?

          • Mitchell Nelms

            What? You’re hopeless. You’ll always be a pactard…

          • Julius Kent

            See? You are wrong again. Do you want me to show you the light again?

          • Mitchell Nelms

            No, not really. I’m growing tired of the playground arguments from you.

          • Julius Kent

            Ok, I’ll let you go for now but always remember to do some due diligence next time or else this will happen again. Chao.

            Inoue will butcher Rungvisai (the assassin of Gonzales).

          • Mitchell Nelms

            Ok, Larry.

          • Julius Kent

            You mean styles make fights?
            But do you really think Rungvisai can beat Inoue?
            Can Gonzales beat Inoue when he can’t even beat Cuadras and Rungvisai?

            You were wrong yesterday, wrong today and I am pretty sure you will be wrong again tom.

            Do some due diligence.

          • Mitchell Nelms

            Ok, you have the high ground. You should become a vegan.

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          • Julius Kent

            It’s simple mitch and you should know it by now. Gonzales is too small for these guys. There, because of me again you were enlighten. You owe me three now.

  • Abraham E. Hernández

    My pick would be Inoue.

  • maxx

    Inoue vs Gonzalez was one of the most intriguing bouts in boxing yet just like Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux I fear it has drifted away no thanks to Julia Lederman and co.

    • ceylon mooney

      yyyyep

    • Ten Count Toronto

      Though it’s possible she may have inadvertently saved a life by scuttling the match up….

      • maxx

        Well Inoue would be the favourite imo, the other night just reinforced my view.Kudos pal

  • ceylon mooney

    the curveball wasn’t from thailand it was from 3 judges.

    according to the 4 criteria for scoring, gonzales won UD by a few rounds.

  • ceylon mooney

    in some ways its easier to make the fight cuz gonzales can be one fight away from inoues mandatory.

  • Ten Count Toronto

    Inoue reminds of the very young Nonito Donaire in terms size & athletic gifts. I feel Gonzalez vs.Donaire of 2007 -2010 would look something like Hearns-Duran (except with Gonzalez getting up a couple more times before it’s finally stopped! ).

    If Inoue is at all the real deal, this is simply too much of a physical mismatch and a dangerous one. The only road to a different outcome would be if Inoue totally outgrows the division between now and fight time and is dead at the weight. In that case, with both fighters seriously compromised, I think the advantage would go to the battle tested veteran with apparently endless fortitude.

    The jury is still out on Inoue to some degree, maybe he’s strictly a front-runner, maybe his chin isn’t that good, maybe he just caught a couple of smaller guys on the decline.

    But I suspect the talent is for real, at least a lot closer to a Donaire than a Rayonta Whittfield.

    • Mauro Hermida

      I will say this, he has yet to get hurt and his fights go rounds. I have not seen a stamina issue either, even though I have not had the chance to catch a lot of his fights.

      • Ten Count Toronto

        I would be more concerned about how he handles his success. I remeber Koki Kameda getting derailed by Wonjongkam when he was in a similar career trajectory.

        • booyahcah29

          Inoue is more of a talent. Both guys are cocky to be sure.

    • booyahcah29

      Inoue has more in the arsenal than donaire. I’ve always been a fan of donaire, but he got by on his size and speed. He spent too much time throwing one shot at a time and ignores the body. Inoue throws a lot of punches in combo and goes to the body a lot. He is more of a five tool guy to me if I’m using a baseball analogy.

  • Ten Count Toronto

    If Gonzalez wants to extend his career as an elite fighter beyond 2017, he should hire a resident nutritionist, stick to planned diet 6 days all year round, and try to return to 112.

    He’s struggled to make 115 the last two fights. He is simply not big enough to be having a hard time making 115 or even 112 unless he’s getting too fat between fights like Toney or Hatton.

    You look at Gary Jacobs at +180lbs without an ounce of fat, you understand why he has roungh time making 160. Ditto Kell Brook @147. That’ doesn’t seem to be the case with Chocolatito.

    It’s obvious from the Gonzalez’ sharpness & stamina he’s still willing to work his ass off in training camp. But when you get older and those wars & training camps add up. that’s not always enough to stay at weight anymore, If one does not have the style and skill set to neutralize a a size advantage, then it’s time to make even greater sacrifices or take the kind of damage associated with trying to beat bigger fighters the hard way every time.

    • Julius Kent

      Elite boxers move up in weight and remain elite and that’s why they are great.

      • Ten Count Toronto

        Yes but he had already moved up twice since his first title at 105. Everyone has their limits, he is too small to safely go beyond the Pygmyweights. He’s not getting respect and he’s not great defensive fighter. A coupe more of these and he’ll go south fast, end up as Mauricio Pastrana type trial horse with a name & titles .

        • Julius Kent

          But Hagler stayed where he is and still he is considered great. GGG will never ever reach that greatness. Know the difference?

          • Ten Count Toronto

            I think the difference is a little exaggerated, but there definitely seems to be one. Saturday may have been a clash between the two best Middleweights of recent years but it certainly didn’t look like a bout with participants who belong on a P4P list. Unless they have a rematch and Golovkin demonstrates this was just an off night, I think his postscript will that of a solid, “caretaker champion” of a depressed period in the division.

          • Julius Kent

            The difference is their respective wars. Hagler fought WW1 and WW2 and came out on top. GGG is still fighting the Koreans.

  • Ten Count Toronto

    If Gonzalez wants to extend his career as an elite fighter beyond 2017, he should hire a resident nutritionist, stick to planned diet 6 days all year round, and try to return to 112.

    He’s struggled to make 115 the last two fights. He is simply not big enough to be having a hard time making 115 or even 112 unless he’s getting too fat between fights like Toney or Hatton.

    You look at Gary Jacobs at +180lbs without an ounce of fat, you understand why he has roungh time making 160. Ditto Kell Brook @147. That’ doesn’t seem to be the case with Chocolatito.

    It’s obvious from the Gonzalez’ sharpness & stamina he’s still willing to work his ass off in training camp. But when you get older and those wars & training camps add up. that’s not always enough to stay at weight anymore, If one does not have the style and skill set to neutralize a a size advantage, then it’s time to make even greater sacrifices or take the kind of damage associated with trying to beat bigger fighters the hard way every time.

  • Randall Bannister

    I think this (The headline) is one of the main problems with boxing as a whole. Why can’t this fight still happen? Within the boxing world there would still be a huge appetite regardless of Saturday nights result. A fighter loses and all of a sudden he can no longer mix it at the top or he doesn’t warrant being mentioned with the top names in his division; please. Nobody is unbeatable even Floyd, who’s record suggests otherwise is still beatable. If Floyd did lose does that all of a sudden mean he’s no longer a great? Of course he’d still be a great. If we judged fighters solely on losses we wouldn’t have any greats in our sport. Everyone loses eventually and Gonzalez is no different nor is Golovkin. I think we should all embrace fighters who test themselves rather than protecting their precious records. Yes I understand that boxers need to build a record but record building should only last so long before fighters, promoters & some fans realise that fighting the best and losing can be a good thing, especially if those tough fights turn out to be classics. All of the greats have losses on their records apart Marciano, Calzaghe and Mayweather. Even then, certain sections of the boxing world would say Calzaghe isn’t a great as he was ‘protected’ .

  • Daniel Patrick Romero

    Gonzalez’ problem is that he is not modifying his style as he’s moving up in weight, or at least it seems that way to me. He seems to be fighting the same come forward aggressive style, which doesn’t work well when you’re fighting guys naturally bigger than you. Even Pacquiao had to modify his style to more of that of a boxer when he moved up to lightweight and beyond. Gonzalez can keep the workrate, but he has to move more and counter and come forward less, especially early in the fight. As you move up in weight, guys can take your punches better and it’s best to fight a less physical type of fight.

    • oswaldo moreno

      I agreed with your point of view and that’s the same that I think. first He is too small in that division and He is facing not only the power but strongest opponents with skill and durability.if He keep fighting the same way I don’t see a better future for Him. you are right in what you say.

  • Mike M.

    Honestly I hate how 1 loss scuttles such a great fight. Most who watched agree it was a crappy decision, I don’t get how not having the WBC belt makes a fight with Inoue any less significant. Its a bunch of boosewah!!! I tell you!

  • Mauro Hermida

    If Inoue moves up, I think his limit will be 118. I hope he stays to collect belts and if he does meet Gonzalez, I think he runs through him. He might stop him early via bodyshots. The thai fighter, who dropped him via body shot, hits hard, but not as hard as the monster imo.

  • TNT

    I want to see these little giants fight, period. So, RG lost (on the cards), so what. Big fucking deal. The ATGs would win and lose while fighting nearly every day of the year. We need to get past that mentality that a boxer is finished if he loses. That kind of mindset is ruining the sport.

  • Autosmell

    why cant these little dudes get it on? dont yall member when Zahir the Dream Raheem beat Esai Morales ass? And guest what? Morales still went on to get his ass whoop by Pac! The power that be made dam sure that fight was gonna happened. But no body want to talk bout that!

  • Joey Junger

    I’d like to see one for Luis Ortiz vs. Joshua or Wilder (I think it has as much chance as being made as Lomachenko-Rigondeaux, which is also high risk, low reward). Ortiz’s name was in the mix until the Malik Scott fight, which was crap, but solely due to Scott’s spoiling tactics, and through no fault of Ortiz’s.

    I also think it’s a no-brainer that Jacobs and Lemieux should fight, if GGG doesn’t give Jacobs the rematch. I’d pick Danny to win, but someone with Lemieux’s punching power always has that chance, and it would be a good show while waiting for the elusive Canelo-Golovkin fight to happen.

  • PrinceGian

    This fight will more than likely happen and I would put my money on Inoue by UD or late round stoppage.