Preview Roman Gonzales – Wisaksil Wangek

The hope of fans is that Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue will beat Wisaksil Wangek and Antonio Nieves respectively at the Stub Hub Centre on Saturday night and then meet each other in what would be the biggest fight in the lower weight classes since the Humberto Gonzalez-Michael Carbajal trilogy in the 1990s.

Even if Gonzalez and Inoue both win, there could be difficulties making the match.

The WBC say the winner of Gonzalez-Wangek has to meet either Carlos Cuadras or Juan Francisco Estrada, who also meet on the show, and the weight is another issue. Inoue is believed to be eyeing a move up to bantamweight and though he’s hinted he would be willing to follow him up, Gonzalez may decide 8st 3lbs is his ceiling after tough battles with Cuadras and Wangek.

He ended his WBC-title winning effort against Cuadras that made him a four-weight world champion bumped, bruised and bloodied, then lost the belt to Wangek on a controversial majority vote in March, snapping his winning run at 46 in his first fight without long time coach and father figure Arnulfo Obando, who passed away last November.

Wangek was always likely to be a handful. The Thai left hander is a former holder of the belt (2013-2014), heavy handed and relentless. The opening three rounds were tough for ‘Chocolatito.’ He took a count in the opener – it wasn’t a heavy knockdown – was cut on his right eyebrow after heads clashed and pushed back as Wangek took the fight to him and let his hands go. But by the fourth, Gonzalez had warmed into the fight. He was making Wangek miss and finding the target with clean, jolting punches that forced him to give ground.

The Thai was hurt by body shots in the last minute of the sixth and docked a point later in the round following a clash of heads that left Gonzalez cut on his hairline and though Wangek had good spells in some rounds and boxed well in the 11th, Gonzalez was ahead at the end for both BoxNation and HBO, if only by a couple of rounds.

Punch stats, a decent guide, showed Gonzalez landed more (441-284), but two of the judges had Wangek winning 114-112 and the third had them level at 113-113. That result knocked Gonzalez off the top of most pound-for-
pound lists. He had been there since Floyd Mayweather Jr’s retirement and by putting him on Gennady Golovkin undercards, HBO have given fans the chance to appreciate the talents of a wonderfully fluent combination puncher who’s scalped nine world titlists since turning pro at 18.

Often, Gonzalez starts slowly, but once into his rhythm he’s hard to stay with as he quickly jumps through the gears.

He appeared to be shaking off Wangek by the middle rounds, repeatedly forcing him to break off the exchanges and go on the back foot where he was less effective, and such was the controversy over the judges’ reading of the fight, the WBC ordered a rematch.

Gonzalez says that having watched the first fight many times, he still feels like the champion and in the rematch, he plans to throw more combinations – and be wary of the Thai’s head. He also may look to start quicker as well. Last time, Gonzalez was surely four points down after three rounds.

Inoue was at ringside for Gonzalez-Wangek and makes his US debut this weekend, defending his WBO belt against Antonio Nieves, a 30 year old banker from Cleveland with a 17-1- 2 (9) record. Given that his last fight was a defeat up at bantamweight, Nieves is considered fortunate to get this shot.

That opinion may be revised once Inoue has finished with him. The Japanese prodigy is known as ‘Monster’ for a reason.

He’s big – add a couple of inches or more to the 5ft 4ins listed on Box Rec – strong and has been devouring whoever’s been put in front of him since turning pro in 2012. Of his 13 wins, 11 have come inside the distance and after less-than- electrifying title defences against David Carmona and Karoon Jarupianlerd that can be put down to hand trouble, Inoue has looked more like himself when breaking down and laying out veteran Kohei Knono, then knocking out Ricardo Rodriguez with left hooks inside three rounds in May.

The 24 year old is an unhurried technician who has all the punches and knows when to throw them. As with many punchers, Inoue has had problems with his hands. He was out for a year after walking through long-reigning WBO super-flyweight Omar Narvaez inside a couple of rounds in December 2014 to become a two-weight world champion in only his eighth fight.

He had previously held the WBC light-flyweight title before jumping up two weights to dethrone Narvaez, emulating the likes Roberto Duran and Roy Jones jr. Nieves admits he wasn’t aware of Inoue when he got the call to fight him.

“I’ve been fighting at 118lbs and 122lbs,” he said, “so I wasn’t really paying attention to 115lbs.” Nieves says he had to take what he describes as “a life- changing fight” and insists he won’t struggle to get down to 8st 3lbs.

He points out that he weighed 8st 4 1/2lbs for his last fight, asplit points loss to Nikolai Potapov (16-0- 1) in March. Nieves was convinced the decision should have gone his way after 10 rounds. Nieves believes his extra size – he’s weighed as much as 8st 13lbs – will help him absorb Inoue’s punches – and hurt him, but he starts a big underdog. The ‘Super Fly’ show also features the WBC eliminator between quality Mexicans Cuadras and Estrada, who are both keen to avenge a loss to Gonzalez.

Estrada went on to win WBA Super and WBO flyweight titles after losing a challenge for Gonzalez’s WBA light-flyweight belt in November, 2012, while Cuadras lost to Gonzalez in one of last year’s best fights. ‘Chocolatito’ and Cuadras threw 1,872 punches and though Gonzalez won unanimously on the cards, it was tough for him and Cuadras thought he did enough. The colourful Cuadras was making the seventh defence of the title he won by dethroning Wangek on a technical decision.