Pound-for-pound king, Roman Gonzalez.
You'll need to get used to hearing that.
Gonzalez, the still undefeated Nicaraguan flyweight world champion who was elevated to the top spot in boxing’s mythical rankings by ESPN and Ring Magazine in recent weeks, blitzed through former multi-time world champion Brian Viloria on Saturday night for an impressive stoppage win.
Viloria, who hit the canvas for the first time in his career in Round 3, was game early but steadily began eating massive amounts of punishment as the fight wore on, which prompted a good stoppage six rounds later.
Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux's showdown for the middleweight championship was the main event of the HBO pay-per-view, but Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated was clear that many fans were there to see the smaller guys:
Ring Magazine's Ryan Songalia had video of the action that forced the stoppage:
Entering Saturday night there was sure to be some legitimate debate—given the lack of the obvious choice presented by Floyd Mayweather Jr.—on the rationale behind ranking a fighter tops in the sport when many fight fans didn't even know him six months ago.
But Chocolatito is the right man at the right time, and thrashing Viloria only underscores that fact.
He’s the rare type of fighter who can break molds and challenge our assumptions about the sport and what it means to be a star.
Gonzalez is the anti-Mayweather in so many ways.
He’s a modest, non-polarizing figure who came from literally nothing and rocketed to the throne reserved for the sport’s best fighter regardless of weight class (in a division not known for producing them) just about six months after many boxing fans saw him fight for the very first time.
He doesn't pitty-pat or play around in the ring but instead chooses to attack with the same ferocity of a chainsaw cutting its way through the base of a tree.
That's often what happens when you have a fighter who made it big from nothing.
Gonzalez recounted key elements of his humble beginnings in the sport to ESPN's Dan Rafael, which included coming from a poor family in Managua (his country’s capital city) and being trained and mentored throughout his amateur and early professional days by the late Alexis Arguello, Nicaragua’s greatest fighter.
He looked a lot like Arguello on Saturday night, and that's about one of the best compliments you can give a fighter. It was in the explosive way that he carried his hands.
Chocolatito's family was too poor to afford boxing gloves, so he used discarded work gloves and a milk sack filled with dirt as a heavy bag, something he never keeps far from his mind.
“When I go back I would never have imagined that I could be No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter or have won three world championships," Gonzalez said, per Rafael. "I have taken care of myself. That is one of the great lessons I have learned.”
Gonzalez doesn’t do brash or flash.
He’s content to let his fists and ample boxing skill do the talking for him.
The 28-year-old spent much of his career as an insider secret for most boxing fans—the type of fighter who finds himself a niche community of fans who light up comments sections and message boards in the hopes of getting some new eyes on their guy.
His HBO debut in April (a dominant two-round blowout of former titlist Edgar Sosa) was largely the result of the groundswell of fans “in the know” building his case, and a second slot, co-featuring a hotly anticipated PPV, completely collapsed the dam between the fighter and the mainstream.
Gonzalez now has the chance to develop the type of traction in the sport that’s rare and hard to achieve for fighters who occupy weight classes that don’t traditionally appear on the radars of many fight fans, at least in the United States.
American fight fans have traditionally been reluctant to invest too much in the fighters who occupy the lower rungs on the weight-division ladder, but they seemed invested in Gonzalez, if crowd reactions were any indication Saturday night:
There have been plenty of good and great fighters occupying the space between 105 and 112 pounds, but the main base of support for those divisions (generally speaking) comes from Latin America and Asia.
Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and Michael Carbajal (both Hall of Fame fighters) are among the best of the American lot, for sure (as is Viloria), but neither man was ever considered to be the very best fighter in the entire sport.
You don’t find many American fighters in the lower weight divisions these days. The fighters are better known for their active and engaging styles rather than huge punching power. That, perhaps, explains some of the aversion from American fans who appreciate big shots and hard falls.
Gonzalez has a chance to blow the perception that the smaller fighters can’t punch right out of the water.
He's undefeated in 44 professional fights with 38 of those wins coming inside the distance—and many in short order.
That’s good for an astounding (in any weight class) 86 percent knockout rate.
Chocolatito has already won world titles in three weight divisions (minimumweight, junior flyweight and flyweight) and is currently recognized by the WBC and Ring Magazine as the legitimate champion at 112 pounds.
He’s beaten a virtual who’s who down there (in the lower weight classes) including Viloria, Sosa, Juan Francisco Estrada (a potential top-10 pound-for-pound fighter), Francisco Rodriguez and Akira Yaegashi.
He’s the goods, and potential fights with Naoya Inoue (the undefeated Japanese prodigy and current WBO flyweight champion) and a rematch with Estrada have the type of big-fight potential (if developed correctly) not seen in many years this far down the weight ladder.
Gonzalez is truly one of a kind, so much so that calling him the pound-for-pound king only begins to scratch the surface of his potential.