As the long-awaited rematch between Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada approaches, Boxing Social’s Luke G. Williams is revisiting, fight-by-fight, the nine-bout series between Gonzalez, Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Carlos Cuadras, which has provided boxing fans with a 21st Century equivalent of the 1980s Four Kings series… Today he reexamines the all-action first contest between Gonzalez and Srisaket from 2017…

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai W12 Roman Gonzalez (majority decision), March 18, 2017, New York.

After losing the WBC super-flyweight title to Carlos Cuadras in 2014, Srisaket Sor Rungivsai admitted the bitterness of the loss left him re-evaluating and reconsidering his career.

“The three years before I got to fight for the title again against Chocolatito were really tough,” he told this writer in a 2017 interview. “I considered ending my career many times.”

While waiting for the chance to regain his crown, Srisaket ended up keeping a busy schedule, stopping 15 opponents, all of them on home soil and most of them utterly over-matched.

Meanwhile, after defending the title six times, his conqueror Cuadras had in turn been toppled by Gonzalez, now proud possessor of a 46-0 professional record and widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.

Srisaket entered the bout in a buoyant mood, announcing: “I was able to hurt Cuadras in the way that Gonzalez could not. Cuadras did not hurt me when we fought but he hurt Gonzalez throughout their fight I am confident I can beat Roman Gonzalez.

“This is history. I will fight for Thailand and my family. I will fight to bring back the WBC super-flyweight belt to Thailand where it belongs. Some fans in America might not know me well, but I have knockout power and I will go there to win.”

As for Gonzalez, he went into the fight against a backdrop of tragedy, after the sad death in October 2016 of his longtime trainer Arnulfo Obando. Wilmer Hernandez had assumed the role of lead trainer, alongside Gonzalez’s father as assistant trainer.

The Nicaraguan was now such a well-regarded talent that for this first defence of the WBC super-fly title he was placed on a major HBO bill alongside Gennady Golovkin vs Danny Jacobs at the legendary Madison Square Garden. 

It was to prove a contest more than worthy of such a grand stage.
The first round was a sensation. Srisaket started fast and, as the end of the round approached, a heavy right to Gonzalez’s body sent the Nicaraguan down. Chocalatito recovered well and, by round three, the two men were ripping into each other with some thrilling exchanges, although Gonzalez had also picked up a cut to his right eye after a clash of heads.

The fourth was an all-action classic, as both men’s fists blurred with violent intent, while Gonzalez landed three big head shots just before the bell. Like many of the rounds it was hard to score, with Srisaket often dominating the early exchanges, while Chocolatito would invariably rally in the second half.

Round six was a big round for the champion, who produced some dazzling flurries and also benefited from Srisaket being deducted a point after another head clash. However, just as it looked like the Thai was tiring he came roaring back in the seventh.

The duo continued to exchange hurtful punches at a bewildering rate as the fight edged towards the championship rounds. By round eleven, Srisaket – who had never gone more than ten rounds before in a 47-fight long career – looked extremely tired but rallied brilliantly, although Gonzalez – with a champion’s effort – appeared to take the final round with his ceaseless aggression.

After such a brilliant fight, it was a shame either man had to lose. Indeed, a draw would have been a fitting result. 

Gonzalez, by recovering from the early knockdown and fighting through a bad cut, had showed a warrior’s heart, but it was Srisaket who was given the benefit of the doubt on the cards, edging a majority decision by scores of 114-112 (twice) alongside a level card of 113-113.

For Srisaket, it was a historic victory and arguably the most high-profile win ever by a Thai boxer. Indeed, the only previous example I could recall of a Thai wresting a ‘big three’ world title from an existing champion on American soil was Saman Sorjaturong’s thrilling WBC/IBF light-flyweight victory against Humberto Gonzalez in July 1995 at the Great Western Forum, Inglewood, California, a forgotten classic which won The Ring magazine’s ‘Fight of the Year’ honours.

The sole Thai representative in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Khaosai Galaxy, never fought in the United States in a glorious 48-fight career. For all his amazing accomplishments, though, including 19 defences of his WBA super-flyweight crown, Galaxy never enjoyed a win approaching the profile of Srisaket’s against Gonzalez.

“I would like to thank all the Thai people for their support,” Srisaket announced after the fight. “To be honest, Roman was so strong and he kept punching. I won today because of the support from the whole country.”

Given a hero’s welcome on his return to Thailand, Srisket’s victory was also hailed by the Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, with government spokesperson Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd announcing: “The prime minister really admires Srisaket for his determination and boxing without fear. He showed his mental strength, which enabled him to beat the champion in front of the whole world today.”

As for the vanquished Gonzalez, despite the controversial nature of the loss, he remained as dignified in defeat as he had proved in 46 previous victories.

“It was hard for me to take,” he later admitted to this writer. “The result didn’t go down well with many. But I’ve always said you have to be ready for difficult times when you lose and you have to be grateful to God for all the good things. It was a good fight for the fans. It should have been my day, but these are the things that happen and that you learn from boxing.”

Main image: Ed Mulholland/HBO.