So it was written and so it has come to past. Saturday’s card may have provided little in so far as surprises but that was never the point though. What we did get to see was the preview of things to come. HBO brought us what many believe to be boxing’s next two big stars. If the results from Inglewood, CA can serve as an eight ball into the future we are all in for quite a treat. Knockouts were abound. Now let’s take a look at what transpired.
The Big Drama Show: Golovkin and Gonzalez Dominate
It’s no secret that the divisions below welterweight are a tough sell for American audiences. The U.S. produces larger body-types and the imaginative destruction that boxing brings does not cross-over for the “little guys.” Many men have fought to shatter that image though. In this millennia, several Mexican fighters have enjoyed success north of their natural border. This was in spite of their naturally smaller frames. Names like Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Erik Morales were at the forefront of some of boxing’s greatest wars. Before them Julio Cesar Chavez reigned as boxing’s pound-for-pound king. But even before that there was a Nicaraguan nicknamed “El Flaco Explosivo” or in English “the Explosive Thin Man.” Alexis Arguello was his christened name and he provided some of boxing’s most dramatic and controversial moments in the ring. Outside he has always been considered one of the true gentlemen in a typically ugly sport/business. Arguello tragically passed in 2009. On May 16th of 2015 we saw the man attempting to carry his torch, fellow countryman Roman “El Chocolatito” Gonzalez.
Roman Gonzalez has become a darling of the internet. His videos hosted on YouTube and housed on file-sharing sites are some of the most traded today. His name is mentioned frequently in boxing’s online forums. His exploits are continually advertised from most of boxing’s elite media where he is continually listed on pound for pound lists. Yet all of this is nothing without a clear presence on American television. True, boxing is Mexico’s sport and is enjoyed worldwide at a much higher standard than it is the States. The potential for earning though is eclipsed when one considers how much a fighter can make in the United States. His inclusion on the card beaming out live from the Forum in LA is his chance to shine. His mentor, Arguello, exploded onto the American scene when he knocked out Mexican all-time great Ruben Olivarez in this same arena. For his first assignment, he drew the highly respected and long reigning light flyweight champion, Edgar Sosa. Sosa is a native of Mexico and one of its true champions of the modern era. Is anyone else sensing history attempting to repeat itself?
How would Gonzalez deal with the mounting pressure for his big-time debut? The answer was “in exciting and dominant fashion.” Merely halfway through the first round, he unloaded on Sosa with devastating combinations that saw the Mexican double-over. Had Gonzalez not pushed down while on top, we likely would have seen our first knockdown. For the next several minutes over the 1st and 2nd round, El Chocolatito owned the center of the ring as he stalked and ran down Sosa. Eating a few punches without so much as a grimace, Roman never let his foot of the pedal. A body shot at 1:21 in the 2nd backed up the game Sosa. Less than 10 seconds later a flush right produced the first true knockdown of the fight. Answering the ref’s eight count, a valiant Sosa would be seated down again less than another eight count later. The shark smelled blood and with the chum laid, it quickly became feeding time. At first, he unloaded a series of lefts. Backing off and coming back now with both of his weapons the end came appropriately with 24 seconds left in the 2nd. An honest and precautious referee stoppage saved Sosa from any further damage.
Undoubtedly, this was the showing everyone was hoping for. The repeat consumers, who are HBO’s base, are undoubtedly eager to see more. There are many more fun matchups for Roman. Maybe not the most competitive, they will be the best display of his “intelligent aggression,” as so eloquently labeled by Max Kellerman. The fight everyone wants to see is against Japanese standout, Naoya Inoue. That contest could be further down the road as promoters may be wanting to build upon the exposure of Roman and perhaps showcase Inoue on a key HBO card as well. Based on his performance though we should be seeing more of Roman and the other flyweight killers. And that is a good thing.
To close out the night, HBO selected a man who has ended many a man’s night early. Gennady Golovkin is quickly becoming one of the most revered personalities in boxing. Knocking out 19 in a row and being ducked by ALL of the sports top names has a tendency to produce that fondness. Golovkin is in a bit of a paradox. Continuing to detach all of his opponents from their consciousness lends him as an undesired challenger to any champion or top contender. Also, he is represented in part by K2 (the promotional firm of the Klitschko’s.) That foreign presence does not lend well to the oligopoly of boxing in American. Were he to be managed by Al Haymon we most likely would have already seen a Peter Quillin matchup. With Top Rank, a fight with Cotto a few years ago. Instead, he is forced to face the feared fringe contenders and the leftovers. Is it in his best interests, to lay low for several rounds? Eat a couple shots and present an otherwise un-thought of sense of vulnerability? The fight on Saturday presented a lot of these questions. Unfortunately, with the politically heavy machinations in boxing none of those questions were truly answered.
Willie Monroe, Jr. has been given a lottery ticket or a death sentence based on who you ask. He is thought to be cannon fodder for the death machine that is Golovkin. That is unless he presents a good accounting of himself or even more wilder a thought, a victory. With his only considerable win coming over Brian Vera, Willie Monroe Jr. is not seen as much of a threat on the middleweight title scene. He is however a skillful tactician who had a great year in 2014.
His slick manueving kept him outside Golovkin’s power in the first. He forgot to keep moving for just a second in the 2nd. At 1:14 he got caught clean in the corner. That launched him across a side of the ring. Less than a minute later he was again on his rear. Smart enough to keep on his feet, Monroe stayed planted long enough to land a good counter uppercut. He was able to avoid further punishment while continually moving and dodging. The third was more of the same. Golovkin seemed to no longer be in pursuit of the early stoppage outside of the 1st minute.
The fourth produced a previously inconceivable result. Staying glove to glove, Monroe decided to fight on the inside. This strategy has not been employed with any frequency as many of Golovkin’s opponents try to stay on the outside of his power. He landed continually and most of the time with good, clean power shots. Willie did want many would never expect: not just survive through four but also win the fourth. Golovkin stepped on the gas in the first minute of the fifth and buckled Monroe’s knees. With little follow through, Monroe continued to stay close and land on Golovkin. Although somewhat close, Golovkin most likely picked up the fifth to add to his considerable lead.
In the sixth, we were reintroduced to the force of nature that is Golovkin. Fifteen seconds in, a hook landed flush. Ten seconds later, a wobbly Willie felt a hook and then met the floor. After some moments of acting and attempting to buzzer-beat the eight count, Monroe knew his limits. Unable to stand on his own he signaled to referee, Jack Reiss, that he was unable to continue. The finish being recorded at :45 of round 6.
The decision and effects of round 4 presented some interesting elements to the Golovkin puzzle. Was he exposed by the slick and determined Monroe? Or…was he manipulative enough to present a façade of weakness? No matter what, Golovkin is in desperate need of a big name opponent. For him, the two biggest names would be Cotto or Canelo. Both of those men seem destined to meet in September. Golovkin may have to wait even longer before getting the opportunity to test himself. There are others who could be considered as interesting opposition. Peter Quillin, Andre Ward or Carl Froch fit that bill. It seems unlikey that any want to risk their health for a somewhat paltry paycheck. Ahh, the frustration of boxing. What is undeniable is that the LA Forum, a previous stronghold of Latino fighters was overtaken by a Kazahk. The shouts of Triple-G filled the air. Who will step up next? Most likely, more martyrs until Golovkin can be seen as able to carry a PPV.
No matter whether we get to see the superfights, we now know that boxing has some true superFIGHTERS. If they can find considerable opposition perhaps we will get to see drama. At the very least we will most likely witness brutality. And in light of THE FIGHT, that may be what boxing needs most.