Roman Gonzalez Wins HBO Debut: What's Next for Chocolatito?

Robert Aaron ContrerasContributor IIIMay 19, 2015

Flyweight kingpin Roman Gonzalez
Flyweight kingpin Roman GonzalezMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Roman Gonzalez administered a polished two-fisted attack in defense of his WBC flyweight championship that didn’t just rattle his opponent’s skull, but the LA Forum, too, as most of the 12,372 in attendance cheered feverishly for Chocolatito’s second-round TKO win over Edgar Sosa last weekend in his HBO debut.

It was the network’s first time airing a flyweight bout since 1995 and Gonzalez delivered a brilliant performance.

Chocolatito (“little chocolate”) rates as one of the five best boxers in the world. Only 27, Gonzalez is undefeated through 43 fights, defeating a wide range of talent across three weight classes. Former light flyweight champion Sosa, the No. 5 flyweight in the world by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, despite his fortitude, was next up to slaughter—lasting less than six minutes with the Alexis Arguello protege.

Credit: Robert Aaron Contreras

“I want to fight Juan Francisco Estrada next,” Gonzalez said after the fight via Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports.

Many a fan have clamored for that rematch since Estrada’s emergence into one of the sport’s finest fighters over the last three years.

Could a unification bout between Estrada and Gonzalez be next?

What about a superfight with Japanese wunderkind Naoya Inoue? The junior bantamweight champion is likely the most recognizable fighter under 118 pounds outside of Gonzalez.

Or is there perhaps another dark-horse candidate out of Mexico?

Giovani Segura 

Former world champion Giovani Segura (32-4-1, 28 KO) is rumored to be next in line for Gonzalez, per BoxingScene.com’s Ryan Burton.

It’s uninspiring news especially following such an impressing outing from Gonzalez.

Segura, 33, was last seen in action in late 2014 against Estrada. While still a notable flyweight (No. 8 in the world by TBRB), Segura looked overly sluggish and was beat from pillar to post by his younger Mexican counterpart—his time as one of the 10 best boxers in the world after two savage knockouts of Ivan Calderon, a very distant memory.

But Segura never backs down. A fight with Gonzalez guarantees the same type of one-sided action that went down between Gonzalez and Sosa.

Burton also reports the title defense against Segura is in play for August or September. It’s a quick turnaround that gives hope for a bigger fight with one of the division’s hotter commodities later this year or early 2016.

Juan Francisco Estrada 

Estrada (32-2, 23 KO), the WBA and WBO flyweight champion, wasn’t an easy outing for Gonzalez back in 2012 when the two first fought. “El Gallo” Estrada is the only man to find any sort of success stalking down the Nicaraguan champion, applying enough pressure to steal the first half of the fight.

WBA and WBO champion Estrada.
WBA and WBO champion Estrada.Dennis Ho/Associated Press

Chocolatito ultimately pulled out the unanimous-decision victory but Estrada, a vim 22 years old at the time, has matured into a fine boxer-puncher. He has since picked up wins over pound-for-pound claimant Brian Viloria and top-10 flyweights Milan Melindo and Segura.

Estrada may hold more belts than Gonzalez but Chocolatito is the lineal champion after taking out Akira Yaegashi in nine rounds last year. He has earned the rematch nonetheless. 

And Gonzalez says he wants to give it to him. “Hopefully on HBO and hopefully in the United States,” he continued.

One of the lighter weight class’ biggest appeals was its absence of political influence. In short: The best typically fight the best. 

HBO has had a great slate of fights this year so if all goes well, the network can continue to deliver when it comes to this most excellent flyweight division.

Naoya Inoue

Koji Sasahara/Associated Press

For a dying sport, boxing sure has a surplus of looming superfights. Still less than a month removed from Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao, last weekend seemingly set up two megafights.

Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul Alvarez was one. Gonzalez vs. Naoya “Monster” Inoue is the other.

Inoue (8-0, 7 KO) is the No. 1 junior bantamweight in the world after jumping up two weight classes to crush longtime champion Omar Andres Narvaez in two rounds on December 30. 

The fight between Gonzalez and Inoue was originally mapped out for another big New Years Eve card at the end of 2015, per the fighters’ shared promoter Akihiko Honda (via BoxingScene) back in January.

But with a superabundance of talent in the 112-pound weight class, Honda and Teiken Promotions have their eyes set on the superfight later rather than sooner. 

Gonzalez shared his thoughts on the Japanese champion and shed some light on his plans going forward, per BoxingScene: 

[Inoue] is a great fighter. He is very strong. He hits hard. But he’s at 115 and I’m at 112. When Mr. Honda of Teiken Promotions is ready to take me to 115 – I’m ready. Or when I don’t have any more opponents to fight at 112 [I’ll move up]. At the moment I’m fighting at 112, I’m a world champion.

Unless Gonzalez finds real trouble cutting to 112 pounds in the near future—which there doesn’t seem to be any indication of—it’s going to be a long while until Chocolatito squares off with Inoue because he won’t be running out of legitimate challengers anytime soon.

When writing about the division last year, historian Matt McGrain of Boxing.com, predicted that the sport may have a new golden age upon it, saying flyweight “probably has more legitimately world-class fighters than any other two combined.”

It still stands true today. Even more so considering IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng’s amazing run over the last 15 months, beating three ranked opponents and the super popular Zou Shiming.

Inoue is likely to make a return in August after suffering a hand injury. Unbelievably, he is still only 22 and while even more unbelievably already a master boxer, Gonzalez has plenty of work to do in the 112-pound weight class.

A fight between the two is the right idea.

It’s just not yet the right time.