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Roman Gonzalez: The New Pound-for-Pound King

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Back when Roman Gonzalez was a twenty-two year old minimumweight with a slate of 25-0 rather than a twenty-eight year old flyweight with a slate of 43-0, I wrote an article speculating as to whether or not Roman Gonzalez would ever assume the dizzy heights of the pound-for-pound #1 slot.

“I think he can,” I wrote in conclusion, “time and talent are on his side.”

Upon the retirement of Floyd Mayweather in the wake of his anaemic victory over the under-qualified Andre Berto, Ring Magazine elevated Gonzalez to the #1 spot; after taking a single week to see if Floyd Mayweather would reverse his decision, TBRB (of which I am a member) followed suit. Mayweather was such a dominant and long-lived #1 that his withdrawal from the p4p list was always going to cause a shuffling of the pound-for-pound pack and the subjective nature of such an exercise means that no new ascendant to the throne was going to be universally agreed upon overnight, but the early votes, certainly, are in: Gonzalez is the best in the world.

The first time I ran the rule over Gonzalez he was a known quantity for all that he was one that flew beneath the radar but he was also a work in progress. In breaking down Gonzalez by category I was handicapped by Roman’s own lack of experience and in many areas I had to pose questions rather than give answers. Today, we know almost all we will know about the Nicaraguan who is at the absolute peak of his powers, has most of his major formative experiences behind him and who has several years in which to express his destructive powers to the fullest of his ability. It’s good to be Roman Gonzalez.

I’m going to revisit the categories I ran him through all those years ago. There will be very different results. Gonzalez is a monster. A machine. A killer. Any and every cliché you feel you would like to apply is valid. He is the antithesis of Floyd Mayweather; a destroyer who does not seek to hit and not be hit, but rather to hit, hit, hit.

He breaks people.

THE EARLY DAYS

“The step up in class went totally unnoticed by Roman Gonzalez.”

What most impressed me about Gonzalez in the first five year instalment of his career between 2005 and 2010 was that he deployed himself independent of the level of his opposition. Against early opponents he was as careful as he would be against world-class opposition; against world-class opposition he was as dominant and confident physically as he was against early opposition. What this meant in practical terms was that a strapholder like Yutaka Niida was dispatched with the same unruffled calm (TKO 4 2008) as a professional loser like Francisco Mezza (RTD 6, KO2, 2006). This was something of an absurdity and for all that it was artificially enhanced by the discipline he showed against the soft opposition he cut his teeth on, it still framed the pertinent question perfectly: how far can he take this?

We know the answer now: all the way to the top. His air of utter dominance may have evaporated in the face of the very best opposition but he is yet to be stretched to the extent of his ability by my eye. An often heard criticism of Floyd Mayweather was that his style and careful selection of opponents meant we never saw him reach his full potential. Gonzalez, too, may not have reached his absolute apex but it is assuredly not a matter of style. Gonzalez is there, right there with his adversary and now he has moved through 105lbs and 108lbs to 112lbs, he enjoys no meaningful advantages in height or reach. As for his selection of opponents, a harsher criticism, perhaps, of Mayweather was that the opposition he bested did not go on to achieve after his having beaten them. If this was true of Mayweather, and I do not say that it is, it is absolutely untrue of Gonzalez.

In 2009, having barely emerged into the world class, he posted his ugliest win over the much fleeter Katsunari Takayama, using aggression and pressure to out-point his much quicker opponent. When Gonzalez exited the division Takayama came again and briefly summited as the world’s best minimumweight before losing out to Francisco Rodriguez Jnr. in the fight of 2014. Rodriguez, too, was a former Gonzalez victim, stopped in seven in a rugged, one-sided encounter from 2013. Gonzalez left in his ruinous wake the men who would fight for the scraps he left behind, primed boxers capable of boxing for titles even after he battered them. His eventual legacy has been enhanced by the opposition he met in his formative years.

STYLE

“If Gonzalez is one day to reach the heights of pound-for-pound #1, he will likely need to hold multiple titles at a higher weight class, so these more careful boxing skills will be crucial.”

Gonzalez is a pressure-boxer with a serious punch (37 stoppages in 43 fights) but that is a little like saying a Beethoven’s Sixth is a piece of classical music. There are shades and variety in his destructive stylings borne, in the main, upon outstanding footwork and balance.

On paper, Gonzalez was run close by the savage Francisco Rosas in October of 2010 although in reality, Gonzalez was a clear winner. Nevertheless, Rosas did become the first man to really ruffle Roman physically, employing rabbit-punches and aggression to force Gonzalez to focus on defence rather than offence for short stretches. Rosas perhaps earned the rematch the two fought around eighteen months later for one of the many straps issued by the perennially confused WBA at 108lbs. This is the fight that best illustrates the Gonzalez default style. He begins slowly behind a high guard, but that guard is not an invitation for the opponent to lead so much as a launching pad for his own punches. He remains loose, edging forwards and laterally with tight, small moves. All is economy; if he moves it is in order that he might bring himself into range where he is at his most destructive or to give the opponent a little too much space for his own punches whereupon he can land his own counters. Half way through the first he slips to the ground and when action resumes Rosas tries to bull into him whereupon Gonzalez eases into a new gear. Not quite planted, his stance primarily supports punches now, and he finds a blistering lead right and a three-punch combination that leads seamlessly into a two-piece.

He broke Rosas around a minute into the second; the combination which dropped him for the first knockdown was eight punches long. The combination for the second knockdown was eleven punches long. Rosas had never been stopped before, and has not been knocked out since.

The pressure is relentless, specialised, but there is little about it that is flashy, he doesn’t storm the barricades like Mike Tyson or invoke perpetual motion like Joe Frazier, nor, even, does he seek to decimate flesh like Marciano. His pressure is of an even more deadly kind because it is not an ending in and of itself. Tyson, Frazier and Marciano were more terrifying than Gonzalez in their pressure but that of Gonzalez is far more precise; it is distilled to the point where it functions purely to bring him into range for unerringly accurate punches. Marciano and Frazier lacked his precision and Tyson lacked his economy. In terms of types of pressure, denoted here by the great heavies, Gonzalez is most like Joe Louis but Louis is often criticised for his footwork. Gonzalez does not have that problem.

TEMPERAMENT AND MENTAL STRENGTH

“Such maturity in such a young fighter is rare.”

It is now mostly forgotten that Juan Francisco Estrada came from almost nowhere to give Gonzalez the sternest test of his career late in 2012. It was barely more than a year since he had dropped a decision to titlist Juan Carlos Sanchez and it had taken him nine rounds to dispatch German Meraz in his previous fight despite the fact that Meraz had twice been stopped in four rounds the year before. Since, Estrada has embraced the traditional path for the best Gonzalez victims, dominating a wide variety of world-class flyweights and even enshrining himself upon the TBRB pound-for-pound list. But, to say the least, on the night Estrada ran Gonzalez so close, it was something of a surprise.

This is important to note because it must have come as something of a surprise to Gonzalez himself. With a KO% of 86, it must come as something of a surprise every time an opponent goes the distance, but the taller, rangier Estrada didn’t just survive, he troubled Gonzalez, winning the first two rounds and showing a brilliance in moving just as Gonzalez begins to motor. Kept from his fluid best early, Gonzalez doesn’t freeze and nor, crucially, does he go looking for that single punch to change the fight but rather he accepts that he is going to have to take punishment and he adapts. In the second he throws a straight right lead to the body and as Estrada starts to move off he comes square and rockets in a southpaw jab up top. He finds new planes of attack to replace those Estrada is taking away with his mobility. Estrada finishes the third with swelling around the left eye and blood trickling from his nose.

Buying his way in with suffering and surges the antithesis of his normal balanced approach, by the fifth Gonzalez had happened upon the strategy that would win him the fight. He solved the bigger, faster, world class Estrada in the ring and he did it without even a single loss of control, without the merest hint of uncertainty. It is the only time in his career that there has been tension when the fight went to the scorecards but the officials uncovered the right winner; I suspect the world-class Estrada will get another shot at Gonzalez at some point in the future.

Early in his career, Gonzalez gave an indication that it might be the case but I think now it is fair to say that strategically, he is as adaptable as a fighter can be. Mentally, he seems something close to unbreakable.

FOOTWORK AND BALANCE

“Gonzalez excels at cutting off the ring and looks every inch the mobile destroyer.”

In essence, there is little to say about Gonzalez’s balance in 2015 that I didn’t say in 2010. He does indeed look every inch the “mobile destroyer” and as I also said at that time “[t]his is the area where Gonzalez has shown the most dramatic improvement.” He has continued to shorten his stance until he looks more like a standard-issue box-puncher and he has learned lessons about occasionally sacrificing his exquisite balance in favour of a sudden charge but this facet of his game was all but perfected by the time of his move in earnest up to 108lbs.

As to his footwork, the ultimate testimony to any fighter’s mobility is his excelling against opponents that move away from him. Traditionally, movers present the biggest difficulty for pressure-fighters – returning to our heavyweight analogy, think of the struggles inflicted upon Marciano and Louis by Jersey Joe Walcott. The exception is when a swarmer has the footwork to catch the runner. Think of Joe Frazier chasing down Muhammad Ali, or Tyson’s early-round attacks. Gonzalez has such speed of pressure. He struggled in 2009, as noted, against the world-class mover Takayama, or at least he struggled to pin him down for a serious lashing while winning a wide decision, but since then he has definitely improved, both in terms of knowing when to take a risk and push and in terms of technical execution. Gonzalez is one step ahead of his man, most of the time, and as a pressure-fighter with world-class mobility, he does his best boxing when an opponent gives ground voluntarily or when he is forced to do so by Gonzalez on the warpath.

This may be the key ingredient in Gonzalez’s success.

TECHNIQUE ON OFFENCE

“Just as Gonzalez shows great variety in terms of style, so he shows great variety in his offence.”

In September of last year, Roman Gonzalez became the lineal world champion at flyweight. He had already established himself as the best fighter in the world at 105lbs and done some damage at 108lbs, but 112lbs was to be the first division where his dominance would translate into history. His opponent was the Japanese Akira Yaegashi. Yaegashi was himself a monster of a flyweight who was on a tear up through the hottest division in the sport but has failed miserably to put his career back together behind the brutal beating that Gonzalez laid upon him. It was probably the pinnacle of Roman’s career so far as offence is concerned and that makes it one of the most brilliant displays of box-punching seen since the heyday of Manny Pacquiao.

The number of leads of which Gonzalez is capable is almost as long as the list of punches that exist in boxing. This tortures opponents who move because they expect to be placed under control by the left jab. Gonzalez has one, a good one, but he sees and knows openings for all the other punches too. Yaegashi, who has fast feet, spent the first forty seconds of their fight alive to the left, only to be drilled with a short right hand to the chest. At the fifty seconds elapsed Gonzalez lands with a jab to the body; after eighty seconds it’s the lead right again; at ninety seconds he leads with a left hook. After one-hundred seconds elapsed he leads with the right uppercut and then tries to stitch a one-two on behind it. With just less than two-minutes elapsed he leads with the left-uppercut and has deployed the set.

For Yaegashi, this is a nightmare. He now has to deal with virtual threats across his entire defensive front. This is the very definition of offence working as defence because there is no quarter from which Yaegashi can assume a lesser threat. Yaegashi is world class, but Gonzalez out-and-out favours the lead right hand against him. This is arguably his most exquisite punch, one that he throws in all forms, as a snipe, as a torque-fuelled knock-out blow, as a range-finder, and he throws it to body, head, chest. Worse, it is a punch without a sell and furthermore it is a punch that he can throw behind a left-handed feint; he can dip his left shoulder as though about to hook and then drive home the right. Still, others would disagree. The Gonzalez left-hook is as short a punch as exists in boxing today, a stack of hurt compacted into a blow that is driven through the knee and the hip. It’s superb technique that has left a dozen opponents and more broken on the canvas.

Gonzalez speaks of landing seven and eight punches in quick succession and he can be seen doing so on film, but his bread and butter are the two-piece combinations that act as the spear of the offence of most great fighters. But his one-twos are about more than the jab-right hand. Against Yaegashi, he graduated quickly to bunches, having successfully feinted him out of position and onto the ropes he throws a straight-right, a left hook, steps inside for a left uppercut, back out, jab, right-hand to the body which brings him inside for the wide left hook. Of these, he missed only the left uppercut and it is only the third round.

This type of fluidity on offence is rare. I’ll go a little further: it’s non-existent. Golovkin may be as dangerous, but he is also less elastic for all that he is more destructive. Kovalev, too, is comparable on offence, but he is more a traditional technician and has not yet proven a gift for adaptation or improvisation. Manny Pacquiao is, I think, now passed this level of brilliance and while Naoya Inoue may catch Roman, he’s not there yet.

There is a reason Roman Gonzalez is the pound-for-pound number one and this is it: he is the best in the world at hitting people.

TECHNIQUE ON DEFENCE

“Gonzalez can take it when he has to.”

Roman’s engine and chin were proven beyond all hope of contradiction against Estrada. He was forced to adopt a risky strategy to get the win which meant he had to take hard punches throughout, but come bell he was still throwing and still marching grimly forwards. It was the last piece of the jigsaw in terms of his raw ability and he is now confirmed.

Technically, Gonzalez still abandons his guard occasionally when he throws right handed, his left hand given to wandering. This makes me wonder if he might not prove especially vulnerable to a southpaw with fast hands and why he is proven vulnerable to anyone brave enough to lead with a right hand to the body (stand up Rocky Fuentes). He also abandons the shifty defensive movement he employs at the beginning of the fight when he goes late, another reason a concrete chin is such a boon.

On the plus side, he shows good head movement early, is generally disciplined where his defensive guard is concerned and has some parrying skills. Just as he is a factor of ten ahead of Floyd Mayweather on offence, he is a factor of ten behind him on defence, but he is only Rocky Marciano when he chooses to be, when it is necessary, and for most of the rest of the time he is reasonably difficult to hit clean.

RING GENERALSHIP

“In essence, Gonzalez’s style solves a lot of generalship problems almost by default.”

What I meant by the above remark is that Gonzalez’s dual ability to box his way in or storm his way in provides him with two distinct opportunities at solving any given opponent. When the first fails, as was the case versus Takayama, the second present a default alternative. Now, he has proven the existence of a Defcom Three against Estrada. More than this, the enormous value of his intrinsic abilities means he rarely finds himself in a fight he actually needs to change – whether he is boxing inside, outside, against a fleeing opponent or one who wants to match him, he always comes out on top of the majority of battles and without exception, of the war.

That being said, he has demonstrated a superb ability to force his opponent into the fight he himself wants to be in. Whether he is drawing the fleet-footed Juan Purisima inside or forcing the savage Francisco Rodriguez to give ground, Gonzalez is, at 43-0, a past-master in what Sam Langford surmised as stopping the other man from doing what he wants to do.

SPEED AND POWER

“He may find himself out-sped in fights, but this is unlikely to be the cause of his downfall.”

Re-reading the above line, I’m struck by its brashness. Being out-sped is as likely to lead to a fighter’s downfall as any other single differential. Gonzalez rewarded my confidence however, proving that he can overcome a speed differential.

Gonzalez has come from 105lbs; he’s fast, and although there are faster fighters at 112lbs and below I think he has closed that gap slightly between this and the last time I wrote about him. Thomas Hauser wrote recently in an article about drug use in professional sport that fighters don’t get older, faster and bigger all at the same time but there is a caveat here. It’s true that a fighter’s handspeed shouldn’t increase but a fighter can absolutely get better at landing the second punch in a combination and if he has the type of coordination Gonzalez does, he can get better at landing the third. As his grasp of his own body-mechanics improves a fighter can indeed give the impression of punching more quickly. I think this is the case with Gonzalez and I think this is why faster fighters cannot overcome him.

His feet, too, are quick rather than lightning fast, but he doesn’t waste a single step. This makes cornering quicker fighters simply a matter of persistence; the flyweights are the fastest and there is no flyweight, light-flyweight or minimumweight who has shared the ring with Gonzalez who hasn’t felt the panic at his back hitting the ring-post.

In terms of power, Gonzalez is not among the very elite but he is on the cusp. He has stopped numerous fighters at 112lbs and above and this is his third weight division. Yes, many of these stoppages are a matter of accumulation but one has only to look at the reaction of the veteran Edgar Sosa to the punches thrown at him by Roman Gonzalez during his two-round debut on HBO this year to understand that Gonzalez, if not quite uncovering dynamite, comes to the ring heavily armed.

THE FUTURE

While Mayweather was anointed pound-for-pound extremely early in his career and broke into the Ring list in just his third year as a professional, the same year he won his first strap, Gonzalez was ranked a lowly #9 by Ring as late as November last year by which time he had held straps in three weight divisions – a rather hasty re-appraisal has been ordered in the light of both his HBO debut and the high regard Gonzalez is held in by the wider boxing world. Whatever the detail, both TBRB and Ring have him at number one now, and number one is assuredly where he belongs.

But what’s next?

In his immediate future is a fighter who has himself flirted with a p4p ranking before the wheels were dramatically stricken off by the aforementioned Juan Francisco Estrada, Brian Viloria, “The Hawaiian Punch”. Assuming Gonzalez is victorious here, he has two basic choices. Firstly, he could step up to super-flyweight for a meeting with Naoya Inoue, tackling the man they fittingly call “The Monster” before he has a chance to season. The second is to remain at flyweight, which still has the bones of one of the best divisions in the sport, and clear it out. This, I believe is within his capabilities and is the path he should chose. The temptation of what would be a legitimate superfight with Inoue – these two men are stars in Japan for all that they are little known in the west – may be too much to resist. Win or lose, such a move would have consequences. I felt in 2005 that super-fly may be a bridge too far for Gonzalez and I stand by that.

Either way, boxing has a new pound-for-pound king and surely one it can be proud of. Gonzalez is not just the antithesis of Floyd Mayweather in terms of style but in terms of personality, also. He is humble, gracious and bereft of the more unfortunate appetites that beset Mayweather – a fighter I admired enormously but a man with considerable shortcomings in his life away from the ring.

Gonzalez is not like that. Obviously, sadly, cross-over appeal is limited for a flyweight but those that know fights and fighters have been consistent in embracing him. Long may it continue.

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Amanda Serrano and Jake Paul Vanquish Overmatched Foes in Tampa

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Amanda “the Real Deal” Serrano mowed through knockout puncher Stevie Morgan in less than two rounds on Saturday and Jake Paul soundly defeated bare knuckle champion Mike Perry by knockout too.

Paul and Serrano move on to bigger things.

“It’s feels great, it feels amazing. My 50th fight, my 31st knockout, I’m super blessed,” said Serrano.

Despite jumping up three weight divisions Serrano (47-2-1, 31 KOs) showed more than 17,000 fans and Morgan (14-2, 13 KOs) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, how she was able to win seven weight divisions.

Fans and perhaps Katie Taylor breathed a sigh of relief that Serrano is truly back. In Serrano’s last fight she was forced to withdraw back in March due to an accident to her eye moments before a fight. Now the Puerto Rican and Irish super stars will meet in Texas on November 15.

Fans can expect a rematch of one of the greatest fights of all time.

Tonight, before walking into the boxing ring, Morgan had commented that of all the top female fighters Serrano was low hanging fruit. The Puerto Rican legend merely shrugged her shoulders and replied that she lets her fists do the talking.

Both fighters hesitated touching gloves but did. After that, Serrano immediately went into assassin’s mode and moved forward while punching like a finely tuned hemi-engine. Morgan tried to keep up but discovered Serrano was not easy to hit.

Serrano moved forward smoothly while slipping and punching. A stiff looking Morgan, whose legs seemed unbent, tried to fend off the Puerto Rican champion’s blows but was smacked repeatedly in the first round with lefts and rights.

When the bell rang to end the first round, it was obvious that Morgan was overmatched.

As the second round commenced Serrano immediately slipped into attack gear behind her southpaw defensive guard. Once again, she fired combinations while moving quickly forward against the taller Morgan.

It was even worse than the first round as Serrano unloaded a dozen unanswered blows forcing the referee to stop the fight at 38 seconds of the second round.

“I think these girls were mistaking my kindness for weakness,” said Serrano. “If you’re not on my level that’s what happens.”

Morgan quickly learned she’s not on the championship level.

“Stevie Morgan just started a little while ago. I knew it would have been a little too much for her,” said Serrano. “My hat goes off to her. It’s not easy.”

Now it’s on to Katie Taylor.

Jake Paul KOs Mike Perry

In the co-main event Jake Paul (10-1, 7 KOs) floored Mike Perry (6-1) the Bare Knuckle Champion in the first and second round of the cruiserweight fight. And then battered the smaller fighter with a jolting jab to the body and head that opened up cuts on the former MMA fighter.

Paul continued to show improvement and proved once again that whether its MMA or Bare Knuckle fighting, his boxing skills are superior to their combat champions.

“Man, he’s tough as nails. I’m sorry it took so long. Respect man. He’s the king of violence,” said Paul about his fallen foe whose nickname is the “King of Violence.”

Paul attacked the body with a strong left jab while circling slowly left and right. Perry stood straight up with a low guard and his chin up. Paul hit that chin repeatedly and eventually cracked it in the fifth round.

Perry survived.

In the sixth round the bigger blonde fighter Paul bludgeoned Perry with another left jab and then opened with a barrage of blows that blasted the bare knuckle fighter to the canvas. Though he beat the count, he stumbled and the referee stopped the fight at 1:12 of the sixth round.

“I kind of expected that,” said Paul.

Perry was honest about the outcome.

“I tried man, but the kid hit me hard,” said Perry.

Now it’s on to Mike Tyson on November 15 in Arlington, Texas.

“Mike. I love you. But this is my sport now. I’m so honored but I’m going to take your throne.”

Other Bouts

A lightweight battle between undefeated fighters saw Canada’s Lucas Bahdi (17-0, 15 KOs) lose every round until he unloaded a three-punch combination that rendered Ashton Sylve (11-1, 9 KOs) unconscious before he hit the canvas.

Sylve utilized his speed and counters for five rounds and seemed to cruise for five years. But Bahdi showed a good chin especially against lightning uppercuts that sneaked through the guard.

“He’s very twitchy and very quick. I was trying to get to his body early on,” said Bahdi. “He’s very fast and has good counter punches.

In the sixth round Sylve was opening up a little more with his hands down and Bahdi saw the opening and quickly launched a right followed by a left hook that knocked out Sylve before he hit the floor at 2:27 of the sixth round.

“I knew his head’s there in the center all the time,” said Bahdi. “I think I stole the show tonight.”

Prelim Bouts

A rematch between lightweights saw Corey Marksman (10-0-1) win by majority decision against Tony Aguilar (12-1-1) in a back-and-forth battle. Marksman out-worked Aguilar with an especially effective counter-right that scored repeatedly. Their first encounter last February ended in a draw.

Shadasia Green (14-1, 11 KOs) stumbled a bit but got the win against Natasha Spence (8-5-2) to win by unanimous decision in a super middleweight. It was her first fight since losing to Franchon Crews-Dezurn for the world title.

Green was cruising for most of the fight behind a sharp jab and rights to the body but during an offensive out burst Spence caught her with a counter right and floored her in the seventh. It was half punch and half slip, but she was knocked down.

Though Green did not get a knockout she emerged with the win 78-73, 77-74 twice.

“I had fun in there tonight,” said Green. “I belong at the top with the best.”

Alexis Chaparro (2-0) knocked out Kevin Hill (1-2) with a five-punch combination at 2:01 of the second round in a middleweight fight.

Angel Barrientes (12-1) defeated Edwin Rodriguez (12-9-2) by majority decision after six rounds in a super bantamweight fight. The scores were 57-57, 60-54 twice for Barrientes who resides in Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / MVP Promotions

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Nakatani Strengthens his Pound-for-Pound Credentials: Blasts Out Astrolabio

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Junto Nakatani is the best 118-pound boxer in the world. Tonight, in Tokyo, he reinforced that judgment with a first-round knockout of Vincent Astrolabio at Japan’s national sumo arena. A short left to the solar plexus left the Filipino writhing on the canvas. He tried to rise but fell back down, forcing referee Tom Taylor to waive it off. It was all over in less than three minutes, 2:37 to be precise. Nakatani (28-0, 21 KOs) was making the first defense of his WBO bantamweight title after previously winning title belts at 112 and 115.

Tall for the weight class at five-foot-seven-and-a-half, the 26-year-old Japanese southpaw produced his second highlight reel knockout in his last four fights. The first come in May of last year at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where he scored a frightening, 12th-round one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

Nakatani won’t have to travel far to unify the belt. The other three current bantamweight champions are also Japanese. Down the road, potentially, is a showdown with countryman Naoya Inoue. That match, should it transpire, would be the biggest domestic fight in Japanese boxing history. Astrolabio, who had been stopped only once previously and was making his second stab at a world title, declined to 18-5.

Other Title Fight

LA’s Anthony Olascuaga, a stablemate of Nakatani (both train in LA under the tutelage of Rudy Hernandez), won the vacant WBO flyweight title with a third-round stoppage of Riku Kanu. A left uppercut put Kano (22-5) on the deck for the full count. The official time was 2:50 of round three.

Olascuaga (7-1, 5 KOs) was rucked out of obscurity in April of last year when he dropped down a weight class and performed far better than expected, albeit in a losing effort, against Kenshiro Teraji, a fight that he took on 10 days’ notice. Despite his inexperience and the locale, the LA fighter entered the ring a consensus 3/1 favorite over Kanu.

Also

In his first 10-rounder, ever-improving Tenshin Nasukawa (4-0, 2 KOs) stopped U.S. invader Jonathan Rodriguez in the third round. Five unanswered punches climaxed by a straight left ended matters at the 1:49 mark. The bout was contested at a catchweight of 120 pounds.

Nasukawa, a baby-faced, 25-year-old southpaw, transitioned to boxing after becoming famous in Japan for his kickboxing exploits. His first foray into boxing was an exhibition with Floyd Mayweather who knocked him out in the opening round, but he’s made considerable progress since then.

Against Rodriguez, Nasakawa was dominant from the get-go. Rodriguez was in dire straits as the second round ended. The first fighter from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to fight in Japan, Rodriguez (17-3-1) joins the ranks of one-hit wonders. He scored a shocking first-round KO of former title-holder Khalid Yafai, but then lost his very next fight en route to this affair.

The promotion lost a bit of luster when the title fight between WBO 115-pound belt-holder Kosei Tanaka and Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (no relation to Nasukawa’s opponent of the same name) fell out when Rodriguez weighed a staggering six pounds over the limit.

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Results and Recaps from Fantasy Springs where Rocha Topped Dominguez

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Ringside Report by TSS Special Correspondent Raymundo Dioses…INDIO, CA – Alexis Rocha faced off against undefeated Santiago Dominguez and earned a hard-fought unanimous decision win for the NABO welterweight title on July 19, 2024 at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in a live event presented by DAZN.  The 10-round fight featured plenty of action on a hot night where temperature hit 111 degrees in the Southern California desert.

Rocha, (25-2, 16 KOs) looked to time Dominguez early on and began to throw in combinations leading to his impressive win. Dominguez would press Rocha against the ropes seeking some shots of his own in a fight which swayed back and forth until Rocha was able to find a late rhythm towards the end of the bout.

Rocha began to back up Dominguez, (27-1, 20 KOs) with shots and catch openings while on the inside, with Dominguez steadily slowing from the effects of Rocha’s shots. Rocha kept his hands busy and would catch Dominguez when he would step outside of range, and he began to control the middle of the ring and the terms of the fight as the bout progressed.

Judge Fernando Villareal had it 98-92 while Carla Caiz and Pat Russell scored the bout 99-91 for Rocha, who now finds himself in title contention in the 147-pound division.

“I wanted to show everyone that I’m not just a banger, I can use my IQ in there and that’s what I needed,” said  Rocha. “I knew Dominguez was going to come forward, he just keeps coming, so that’s what I wanted to show. It’s more about my brains from now on. I want to be very aware in the ring, and I want to use my brains. That’s all you’re going to see moving forward. I have a great team behind me, Golden Boy, and we’re just going to see what’s next. I’m right there. I’m knocking on the door still. The belts are gonna be open anytime soon, so I’m just knocking on the door right now.”

The fighters utilized combinations effectively and often, landing on even terms until Rocha found his timing in the second half of the fight and sealed the win.  A solid left hook from Rocha paused Dominguez in his tracks as Rocha began to close in and slow the return fire from Dominguez.

A one-two combination to the chin landed for Dominguez to begin the seventh round. The action moved to center ring with the fighter’s trading shots which got the fans cheering.  Rocha threw a combination and landed a straight-right hand which was effective throughout the contest.

A combination of punches nearly had Dominguez down in the later rounds yet Dominguez would bounce back and punch Rocha to the ropes. There was more middle ring trading as the fight unfolded and both fighters would find offense with Rocha getting the better of the action.

Rocha often fought through a jab to the head and body of Dominguez.  A head-body combination worked for Rocha, and one-two combinations followed by body shots came from Rocha who was making headway as the more offensively scoring fighter.

Time was called by referee Ray Corona in the final round as Dominguez was punched on the leg, and once the action resumed a series of trading resulted in Rocha landing the last punch. Rocha not only landed at will in the last half of the fight, he began to make Dominguez miss and matters ended after ten completed rounds with the fighters throwing as the ten second bell ticked.

Rocha, the youngest fighter to win a gold medal at the junior Olympics at age 14, began his pro career in 2016 fighting under the Golden Boy Promotions banner and the Californian went 16-0 before losing to Rashidi Ellis in October 2020.  Rocha would not lose again until three years later in an all-California match-up against Giovani Santillan in October 2023.  He is the younger brother of former world title challenger Ronny Rios.

Rocha would lose the Santillan fight via knockout loss, yet the new NABO titleholder had a bounce-back win in March 2024 over Frederick Lawson leading into the Dominguez fight.

CO-FEATURE

The nights co-main event saw Gregory Morales, (17-1, 9 KOs) defeat Jayvon Garnett over 10 rounds after a fast start, slow ending type fight in the featherweight division.

Round one was a feeler type affair for both combatants with each fighter seeking to gain ground. The pot-shotting continued into the second round until Morales, who last fought to a decision win on the January 2024 Jaime Munguia-John Ryder tilt in Arizona, was able to put his punches together via combinations.

Garnett landed a combination of his own to begin rounds two and three, and Cincinnati, Ohio’s Garnett proceeded to let his hands go as round three wore on. Busy hands lead to good things in the boxing ring. The fight then swung slightly in Morales’ favor at the 10-second mark of the round with a few punches followed by an audible body shot.

The body shots thrown with both hands continued from Morales in round four which Garnett taunted as non-effective. Morales marched forward and resumed his body attack. Garnett kept busy midway through the fight yet Morales kept composed and pressed forward despite the offense of Garnett. A big shot came from Garnett which did not faze Morales in the sixth round and Morales was able to answer as the round ended.

The action dulled in round seven with fighter fatigue setting in. Morales was finally able to back up Garnett (10-2, 5 KOs) in the eighth round with right hands and in the ninth Morales continued to press Garnett against the ropes. Shots were landed from both fighters near the end of the round.

The final frame was a ‘who wants it more’ type of three minutes with the fighters each wanting to either score a stoppage or win a pivotal round on the judge’s scorecards. The round ended with respect as the fighter’s traded pleasantries after trading blows for 10 rounds.

Scorecards were 96-94, 98-92 and 99-91 all for Morales.

COACHELLA’S FLORES REMAINS UNDEFEATED WITH KO OVER MEZA

The Coachella Valley’s hot prospect Grant Flores scored an impressive stoppage win over Juan Meza in a super welterweight fight.

At the outset Flores, (6-0, 5 KOs) timed Meza well, gauging the distance of his opponent which led to a stirring right hand to end the first round. Flores rocked Meza again in the second round and Meza showed signs of fatigue. Fiery right hands rocked Meza into the red corner and after a few more shots referee Ray Corona had seen enough and waved off the fight at 1:54 of round two.

At a ripe age of 19, Flores is trained by noted trainer Joel Diaz and impressively fought just three weeks ago at the same venue, registering a knockout over Josias Gonzalez on the June 27, 2024 Golden Boy Fight Night card.

CHAVEZ DEFEATS KITANI IN FIGHT OF THE NIGHT

In a tightly contested featherweight matchup Jorge Chavez, (12-0, 8 KOs) and Riku Kitani earned fight of the night honors in their entertaining six-round featherweight bout which resulted in a decision win for Chavez.

The fist throwers battled on even terms and lived up to the featherweight division way of punches in bunches. The action was mostly in the middle of the ring with each fighter connecting and trading.  Each three-minute round was used as a battleground for the fighters.

A clash of heads midway through the fight briefly stopped the action in round four. Chavez threw the classic one-two combination throughout the fight, yet Kitani, (8-3, 3 KOs) would answer with shots of his own.  Referee Raymond Armendariz had the fighters tap each other’s gloves to begin the final round which saw Chavez stalk and land, and Kitani counter-punch in a fight that ended with cheers from the crowd.

Scores were all for Chavez at 60-54.

HOMETOWN FAVORITE LUA WOWS CROWD WITH KO OVER OLGUIN

In the opening televised bout, Indio, California native Bryan Lua, (10-0, 5 KOs) dominated late notice opponent Diuhl Olguin with fast hands and solid ring generalship in what resulted in a knockout victory. The confident Desert product bruised his opponent up with lead right hands and uppercuts.

Lua cut the ring off well and landed at will against Olguin, who took the punishment well and even caught Lua with a right hand before the bell sounded to end round two. The ringside doctor took a look at a cut on Olguin before round three. The dominance continued in the third frame with Lua landing two straight body shots which slightly lifted Olguin off the canvas.

Another uppercut softened up Olguin late in round five which delighted the hometown crowd. Lua ran towards Olguin to begin the final round and pressed the action, ultimately scoring a stoppage win at 2:03 as Team Olguin decided to throw in the towel.

GUZMAN NOTCHES KNOCKOUT NO. 5 IN FIVE FIGHTS

Middleweight prospect Fabian Guzman, (5-0, 5 KOs) continued his knockout streak with a first-round stoppage over Las Vegas native Corey Cook.

Guzman started out tentative against his left-handed opponent, warmed up midway, then dropped Cook with a flush right hand which dropped Cook to a knee.  A 10-count ensued by referee Raymond Armendariz and Guzman was awarded the knockout at a recorded 2:14 of round one.

PHOENIX NATIVE IMPROVES TO 3-0

In the opening contest of the night Phoenix, Arizona native Juan Estrada impressed against opponent Dyllon Cervantes in a four-round fight.  Estrada, (3-0, 1 KO) threw effective combinations from the outset and worked both the body and the head throughout the bout.

End results of the fight were 40-36 all for Estrada.

DAZN commentators: Beto Duran, Sergio Mora

Fighters in Attendance: WBC Flyweight titlist Ricardo Sandoval, Bektemir Melikuziev  

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