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Wisaksil Wangek makes history at a legend’s expense: Weekend Review

10
Sep

BIGGEST WINNER

Wisaksil Wangek: The image of Roman Gonzalez lying flat on his back for several minutes after the fight ended was disturbing for those who have admired the little Nicaraguan for so many years. No one wants to see a once-great fighter in that position.

At the same time, Gonzalez’s fate was the result of a special, eye-opening performance by his opponent.

Wangek, also known as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, obliterated a revered fighter with two monstrous rights – one that put him down and another that put him out in Round 4 – to retain his WBC junior bantamweight title on a dramatic Saturday night at StubHub Center in Carson, California.

It was more than a Knockout of the Year candidate, given the magnitude of the fight. It was a career-changing event, for both the winner and the loser. Gonzalez might be finished at 30. Wangek made his biggest statement at the same age, one that will have changed the way he’s perceived in the boxing world.

Wangek (44-4-1, 40 knockouts) got our attention when he narrowly outpointed Gonzalez in their first fight. On Saturday, he proved he belongs among the very best in the sport.

The Thai fighter almost certainly benefited from a size advantage, as most observers believe Gonzalez moved up too high on the divisional ladder. Make no mistake, though: Wangek is an impressive physical specimen by objective standards – strong, durable and an immensely powerful puncher. Gonzalez might as well have been run over by a truck.

And we should have opportunities to see how other elite 115-pounders will stand up to Wangek, as he is now mandated to defend his title against Juan Francisco Estrada, a slick, experienced technician who narrowly outpointed Carlos Cuadras on Saturday’s card. That would be a test for Wangek. As would Naoya Inoue, another 115-pound titleholder who made his debut on the Wangek-Gonzalez card.

If Wangek can do to them what he did to Gonzalez, he’ll become a legend. And don’t be shocked if he does it.

 

BIGGEST LOSER

Roman Gonzalez: Even the great ones eventually decline. Sometimes it’s an issue of size. Sometimes it’s age. And sometimes it’s just the wrong opponent. In the case of Gonzalez, it might’ve been all three.

The onetime 105-pounder evidently moved up at least one division too many, as three difficult fights against Carlos Cuadras and Wangek at 115 pounds suggest. Gonzalez has had 48 fights, many against top-tier opposition. He might’ve been worn down. And, obviously, Wangek is a special fighter.

All that was too much for Gonzalez to overcome. Still, the knockout was shocking.

The Nicaraguan had accomplished so much over the past decade. He won major titles in four divisions, the first in 2008. He was 15-0 in title fights until he ran into Wangek. And he did all that against the best little men in the world, fighters such as Juan Francisco Estrada, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria and Carlos Cuadras.

He seemed to be unbeatable, at least until he moved up to 115 pounds.

That’s why he was able to make his remarkable climb to the top of most pound-for-pound lists, including THE RING’s. He was No. 1 as of March 18, the day of his first fight with Wangek. Six months later he might be facing the end of what will surely be a Hall of Fame career.

Such is the cruelty of boxing.

Gonzalez (46-2, 38 knockouts) won’t be remembered for this stunning loss, as some have suggested. In time, we’ll set that aside and focus on the accomplishments that made him one of the best fighters of his generation.

 

BIGGEST WINNER II

Juan Francisco Estrada: The Mexican doesn’t appear to be a special fighter at first glance. He’s not blazing fast, not a great athlete, not even a great puncher. One could easily overlook him – if it weren’t for his results.

Estrada is an excellent technical boxer — maybe the best from his country. He proved that once again against talented countryman Carlos Cuadras on the Wangek-Gonzalez card. Estrada had trouble with Cuadras’ early in-and-out movement, winging punches and elusiveness but he adjusted and took control of the fight by the middle rounds.

All three judges had the same score 114-113, meaning a 10th-round knockdown by Estrada prevented him from settling for a draw. I scored it 116-111 for Estrada (eight rounds to four). I could see 115-112 (seven to five). Six rounds apiece? That’s hard to swallow.

At any rate, the judges had the right man winning the fight – in spite of Michael Buffer’s failed attempt to announce the winner (see below) – and that means he is now the mandatory challenger for Wangek’s WBC 115-pound title, which is a golden opportunity to claim his own defining victory.

I give Estrada a good chance of winning that fight because of his polished skills, experience and durability. Cuadras, a good puncher, never hurt Estrada on Saturday night. And, remember, Estrada gave a prime Gonzalez hell in a losing effort in 2012.

Wangek. Naoya Inoue. Cuadras. Kal Yafai. Estrada could prove to be the best of a special 115-pound lot.

 

RABBIT PUNCHES

Naoya Inoue (14-0, 12 KOs) made his U.S. debut on the Wangek-Gonzalez card but it was more of a showcase than a fight. The young Japanese junior bantamweight overwhelmed Antonio Nieves, who settled into a survival mode after tasting Inoue’s power and retired on his stool after six rounds. That limited what Inoue was able to do. Still, the reviews were good. Inoue is physically imposing – strong, quick, athletic. He has a wonderful, punishing jab. And he can obviously punch, particularly to the body. Vicious body shots led to the demise of Nieves (17-2-2, 9 KOs). I look forward to seeing Inoue face another top 115-pounder, maybe Cuadras. … Michael Buffer had his Oscar moment after the Estrada-Cuadras fight. And not in a good way. Buffer, al la Warren Beatty’s Best Picture faux pas during this year’s Academy Awards, announced the winner as “CARLOS ESTRADA!” Cuadras and his handlers, who apparently heard only “CARLOS” celebrated, although that didn’t last long. Buffer quickly corrected the error and announced that Estrada had won. The mistake will live on, though. … Brian Viloria, 36, turned pro in 2001, meaning he has been getting paid to fight for 16-plus years. And he isn’t finished. One of the sport’s true nice guys remains unfriendly to his opponents, as Miguel Cartagena (15-4-1, 6 KOs) learned on the Wangek-Gonzalez card. Viloria (38-5, 23 KOs) stopped the Philadelphian in five rounds, which keeps him in the mix for at least one more big fight. The four-time, two-division titleholder has earned it. …

The thing about Oleksandr Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs) that stands out most to me is his athleticism, which I believe rivals that of Evander Holyfield when he was a cruiserweight. Marco Huck (40-5-1, 27 KOs) witnessed that first-hand on Saturday in Berlin, where they kicked off the World Boxing Super Series. Usyk boxed circles around the faded German with fiery determination before finally stopping him with a flurry of unanswered blows in the 10th round, a stirring beginning to the cruiserweight and super middleweight tournaments. The only thing Usyk might be missing is great punching power, although I think it’s too early to say that definitively. … David Benavidez (19-0, 17 KOs) wasn’t as dazzling against Ronald Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs) as he had been in previous fights – including a final-round knockdown – but he had a huge night nonetheless Friday in Las Vegas. One, the 20-year-old became the youngest titleholder by winning a split decision for the vacant WBC super middleweight belt, his first. And, two, he gained valuable experience in a difficult fight against a good opponent. The scores were widely disparate – 117-111 and 116-111 for Benavidez, 116-111 for Gavril. The right man was awarded the decision.

LIST OF FIGHT RESULTS FROM THE PAST WEEK

  • Bring on Sor Rungvisai – Estrada!

    • ciobanu catalin

      No… Inoue! He looked really good, way above the first fight performance. Like to see them fight it out

    • ceylon mooney

      i know its mandatory, but im more interested in seein how inoue fares.

    • william ellis

      I think Rungvisai, Estrada, Inoue, and Cuadras will all be facing each other soon enough. None of them are afraid of challenging the best. Cuadras has already won a technical decision over Rungvisai, who I think will want to reverse that, and don’t forget that, had Cuadras been given the decision last night, it would not have been as controversial as Rungvisai’s first victory over Gonzalez. (Dan Rafael,for example, scored the fight for Cuadras).

      • ceylon mooney

        after sat nite i favor rungvisai over cuadras; not so much over estrada

        i thought the 1 point win was legit. it took a while for estrada to catch up then take over.

    • Mike Prado

      SuperFly II: SSR v Estrada, Inoue v Cuadras, Yafai v Viloria.

    • NWA+NWA+WCWWA

      Hes a G, I predicted both of his victories. Gonzalez is a superman, but moving up so many weight classes was Kryptonite and SR was General Zod. I knew he was a rough customer and would deliver a stiff contest.

  • Giuseppe

    Man was i way off predicting a Choc stoppage! SSR looked great. Choc looked so sad in the locker room pre-fight!

    • Orca

      I was off too. Hard to predict results like that. It was impossible to gauge how much Gonzalez had left. I agree that it was a combination of size, age and opponent that gave us this shocker. Rungvisai did look very good.

      • Giuseppe

        he had a little smirk on his face that said “i’m not eating out the trash no more!”

        • Orca

          Ha, yeah he did. Good for him. He’s paid his dues.

        • ceylon mooney

          dude knew he was knockin him out. it was his ring, his fight. he sure as shit showed me.

        • Mike Prado

          Lol

        • Floridastorm

          I think that “eating out of the trash” statement was a little hyped. In Thailand there is so much food available that nobody goes hungry or has to eat out of trash bins. Dirt cheap food is plentiful and Thailand has an excellent social services agency that looks after poor people. In fact, my sister in law was the director of the Thai social services department before she retired.

      • Ten Count Toronto

        I thought there was at least a 50/50 chance of Rungvisai winning clearly this time and possibly with a late round attrition stoppage. But no way an early KO.

        Accumulated ring wear and that punishing first fight must have taken a bite out of Gonzalez punch resistance.

        Rungivsai nailed and hurt Gonzalez with some good shots in the first fight, for which he didn’t get enough credit – but even so there was nothing to suggest he could knock Gonzalez cold with only 3 1/2 rounds of work.

        Probably because Gonzalez really sucked it up to no-sell the impact of Rungvisai’s punches and usually stormed back with combinations. Kind of like the first fights with Fenech & Nelson, Williams-Martinez & Morales-Pacquaio. But in the subsequent fights you saw who really tool the worst damage.

    • ceylon mooney

      me too. i thought at least a repeat of the last fight w/o headbutts or knockdown, but i was sayin ref stoppage.

      • Giuseppe

        me too. i can;t believe the story of him walking 60 miles to work is true! That’d take him a day.

        • Ten Count Toronto

          In old times people who could not afford a horse or a carriage (or were just plain cheap) would walk for 1-3 days to an important engagement. It wouldn’t have been that uncommon an experience.

          • Giuseppe

            My grandfather would take a donkey and walk to bologna, about 2 days’ walk from where we come from in italy, up in the mountains. he’d sell local produce. but the walk was so unbearable he used to spend the money on wine to get home, making the entire trip sort of pointless.

          • Floridastorm

            You made me laugh. Giuseppe. Been to Naples, Rome, and Venice a couple of times.

          • Ten Count Toronto

            The low-intensity economy in a nutshell..

        • Floridastorm

          In Thailand, my wife is Thai and I have lived on and off in Thailand for many years, most people walk at least part of the way to work. He possibly walked a couple of miles, got a ride for a few miles, then had to walk some more, got another ride, etc. You see how it goes. Probably took him two to three hours from his house to work. The Thai people are so hardy and fit that things like that do not bother them. And, the reason why Rungvisai is so strong. He was also a Muay Thai fighter before he was a professional boxer. I would challenge any boxer to be in the ring with a Muay Thai fighter for just 3 minutes before collapsing.

    • Ten Count Toronto

      I suspect he was more “hopeful” of winning than really believing. Perhaps he wondered what else he could throw that Rungvisai had not already walked through in the first bout. Perhaps he imagined that Rungvisai is approaching this fight like “that little guy can’t put me down” and will use his size & strength even more brazenly in the rematch.

      We don’t know what kind of subtle non verbal messages were exchanged in the late rounds of that first fight. Which fighter felt he could get the better of the other if they fought to a conclusion. Apparently it wasn’t Gonzalez.

  • Daniel Patrick Romero

    I had said it before this fight that Gonzalez should have moved more towards a boxing style as he was moving up in weight. His aggressive style worked well in the lower weight classes but you can only carry your power so far. Look at Pacquiao for example, he moved more towards a stick and move counter punching style as he moved up in weight, it was most noticeable in his fight with David Diaz at 135. If Gonzalez would have done that he would have lasted longer, seems too late now though. He could try going back to 112 and see if that works, but 115 is not his weight class unless he improves his defense a lot.

    • Ten Count Toronto

      Older and more set in his ways than Pacquiao was in 2008. And the years of invincibility might have worked against making the necessary changes in a short time. Ultimately what he really need to do was find a nutritionist who could come up with a year-round program making it possible to stay at 112.

      • Mike M.

        Yeah he always did get a little fat between fights.

  • Mauro Hermida

    Thought Cuadras won by winning almost every round in the first half and stealing a round or two in the second half. Estrada was effective, but seriously cannot give him rounds when he is asleep at the wheel for half of a round. Cuadras worked all 3 minutes and landed his share of leather. I didn’t like the decision.

    • Ten Count Toronto

      You are over complicating it. Cuadras was a thoroughly abused and beat up man at the end of that fight. He pushed out lots of mostly inconsequential punches to make the fight interesting and put a brave and honourable effort. He was mostly prey from the 3rd round on except for a couple of rounds.

  • Ten Count Toronto

    Estarad & Gonzalez were BOTH losers on Saturday,and in fact they were losers before they even signed for this fight. They should have made the fight with EACH OTHER two years ago, or even last year at 112 WHERE THEY BELONG instead of posturing and being difficult while getting older each year.

    If Gonzalez was dead set on moving up, he should have taken the Inoue cash out right away. He would have lost to someone people think is killer and could have helped launch Inoue’s stardom a year sooner, for which HBO could repay him with a token gold-watch fight all before he took all this damage in the 2 fights with Rungvisai.

    Meanwhile Estrada has a somewhat hollow victory and mandatory ticket against the much bigger & fresher Rungvisai which won’t pay nearly as much as Gonzalez fight and he’ll probably be doing in Thailand where he’ll be fighting 35’000 other people in the stadium as well as Rungvisai. He might be forced to wait a while if Rungvisai decides to have a some non-title victory lap bouts against local opponents.

    Meanwhile HBO now has a 115lb champion who’s as tough to say and remeber as Michaszewski and won’t provide nearly the kind of exposure & launchpad for Inoue as Gonzalez would have. All because they took 2 years to “hype” the matchup and build it for PPV.

  • Joey Junger

    This is a pretty good summary of recent events, with the exception of a premature and honestly shoddy comparison between Usyk and Holyfield, at cruiser. Really?