Connect with us

Featured Articles

The Patterson vs Johansson Fight That Could Never Happen Now as it Did Then

Bernard Fernandez

Published

on

The-Patterson-vs-Johansson-Fight-That-Could-Never-Happen-Now-as-it-Did-Then

Dr. Margaret Goodman, the Las Vegas-based neurologist and former chief ringside physician for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, has never seen the tape of the first of three Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson fights, which took place on June 26, 1959, in Yankee Stadium. But she has heard the details of the remarkable third round of that heavyweight championship bout and, as a tireless crusader for increased safety in boxing, she never does want to see it.

The mere idea of Patterson, the about-to-be-dethroned champ, being floored seven times in a single round, and clearly discombobulated after the first of those floorings, is enough to make the good doctor, recipient of the 2016 Boxing Writers Association of America’s Barney Nagler Award for long and meritorious service to the sport, cringe.

“Seven knockdowns in one round are obviously excessive,” she said. “Thank goodness times have changed, but I still see some fights now that I think should have been stopped a lot earlier. (Anthony) Joshua was knocked down four times against (Andy) Ruiz and he was quoted as saying he didn’t remember what happened after the second knockdown, or maybe it was the third.

“The standard for the way things were handled back then (1959) were different. There was a greater likelihood of allowing a fighter to continue taking that kind of punishment. How horrible is that?

“Is boxing safer today? I think maybe it is in some ways. Maybe we’re just more aware of what’s going on. I do wish fighters were evaluated more closely. And it’s not just the number of knockdowns that matter; one knockdown can be just as much of a concern in some instances. And so much depends on other factors. What is a fighter’s prefight history? Was he taking multiple shots in the gym that went unrecognized that might have contributed to his being knocked down more readily in an actual fight? Then there’s hereditary factors, genetic factors. There are a lot of questions that aren’t always answered. I’d much rather see a fighter quickly knocked out than to suffer blow after blow after blow to the head.”

This story was to have been a simple look back at a classic fight that is fast approaching its 60-year anniversary. Johansson – Sweden’s once-disgraced heavyweight silver medalist at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics – would ride the momentum of those seven knockdowns, squeezed into just 123 elapsed seconds of round three, into one of the most bountiful hauls of honors any fighter has ever received for a single performance.  The handsome, charming 26-year-old, dubbed “boxing’s Cary Grant” by one publication, would be awarded the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of 1959 as well as being named Associated Press Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. His smiling face appeared on the covers of SI and Life magazines, the latter also adorned by Ingo’s smokin’ hot Swedish girlfriend, Birgit Lundgren.  Johansson also snagged a role in a Hollywood movie, 1960’s All the Young Men, in which he played a U.S. Marine during the Korean War, albeit one with a distinctly Scandinavian accent, in support of leads Alan Ladd and Sidney Poitier.

There would be no such high-profile victory tour for the vanquished Patterson, but he would get the better of Johansson in two subsequent bouts, each by knockout. And although both men would go on to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Patterson in 1991 and Johansson in 2002, the consensus among historians of the sport is that neither was as accomplished enough a heavyweight to be considered among the division’s all-time best. Patterson, a quiet and dignified gentleman outside the ring, and Ingo, the international bon vivant, were probably fortunate to have found each other during a comparatively fallow period for big-man boxing.

But one person’s snack is another’s feast, and especially so if the feaster is an 11-year-old boy whose dad, a former pro welterweight, was treating his only son to his first fight telecast at a closed-circuit venue, then the cutting edge of late 1950s technology.  Instead of watching Patterson-Johansson at home on a small black-and-white television with a blurry screen, I got to see it in New Orleans’ magnificent Saenger Theater, in black-and-white on a much larger, blurry screen. When it was over and Ingo anointed as the new king of the heavyweights, the love affair I already had with boxing, which began years earlier with Friday night telecasts of the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, had deepened into what would become a life-long obsession.

The way a child looks at something, however, often differs from the way an adult does, and maybe even more so when your grown-up self is a veteran sports reporter who is paid to look beyond the surface to discern some greater truth, if there is one. The adrenaline rush I got at 11 from seeing seven quick knockdowns has since been tempered by asking myself the type of questions Dr. Goodman wishes would be asked and answered before any fighter steps inside the ropes.

Was Ruby Goldstein, then 51 and a former fighter who was one of high-level boxing’s most distinguished referees, remiss for allowing a dazed and stumbling Patterson to keep being battered as if he were a human piñata? By today’s more stringent safety standards, absolutely. Johansson was a fighter of relatively limited skills, but he was possessed of an overhand right so powerful that it bore three nicknames – the “Hammer of Thor,” “Ingo’s Bingo” and, when spoken in English coated by Johansson’s Swedish accent, “Toonder and Lightning,” the toonder a reference to thunder. When the challenger came straight down the pike with that three-headed monster of a right and it landed flush to the jaw, Patterson went down as he were a ship at port’s dropped anchor.

Floyd beat the count, but he was so hurt and flummoxed that he thought the round was over. He turned to scuffle back to his corner, presenting the opportunity for Johansson to run up alongside him and score knockdown No 2 with an uncontested left hook to the side of the head, followed up by a right to the back of the head. After that the fight resembled a basketball game, with Ingo making like Boston Celtics guard Bob Cousy and bouncing Patterson up and down off the canvas. This went on until even Goldstein had seen enough and waved off the massacre after an elapsed time of 2 minutes, 3 seconds.

It should be noted that Goldstein, a 1994 inductee into the IBHOF, was the referee for the March 24, 1962, death match in which Benny “Kid” Paret, hung up on the ropes in the 12th round, was pummeled into unconsciousness by Emile Griffith’s blistering, two-handed attack. He remained in a coma until his death 10 days later. Goldstein, remorseful that he was slow to react to Paret’s fast-worsening circumstances, never again served as the third man in the ring. I wonder if, in retrospect, he had misgivings about allowing the third round of Patterson-Johansson I to continue past a point when it was obvious to everyone, even an 11-year-old boy in a movie theater in New Orleans, that the champion had nothing left to give, much less any hope of mounting a miraculous comeback.

You also wonder whether Patterson and Johansson, if they could have peered into the future and seen how their lives would eventually play out, would still have chosen to make their mark in a blood sport that demands so much, and sometimes all, of its participants. Probably they would have; asked the same question, Muhammad Ali, his voice all but stilled by Parkinson’s Syndrome, said he wouldn’t have changed anything about a life lived larger than most people could ever imagine. Told once that he held the dubious record of being knocked down 17 times in heavyweight title bouts, nine of those coming against Johansson, Patterson said, “That’s true, but I also hold the record for getting up the most times.”

Floyd Patterson was 71 when he passed away on May 11, 2006, in New Paltz, N.Y. A two-term head of the New York State Athletic Commission, he resigned that post years earlier when subordinates began to notice that their boss could no longer remember the name of his secretary, or even that of his wife. Alzheimer’s disease had had the chilling effect of erasing most of his memories even before prostate cancer served to hasten the 10-count he never received from the recalcitrant Goldstein that fateful summer night in 1959.

Johansson’s death, at 76 on Jan. 30, 2009, in a nursing home in Kungsbacka, Sweden, mirrored that of his onetime arch-rival. Like Patterson, he spent his earthly championship rounds in a sort of netherworld, slipping ever deeper into the dark cave of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Ingo was too ill to attend his IBHOF induction, and he was two years gone when his hometown of Gothenburg unveiled a statue of him in 2011, outside the Ullevi stadium where, on Sept. 14, 1958, he had earned the shot at Patterson’s title by scoring a first-round knockout of highly ranked American contender Eddie Machen, before 53,615 screaming Swedes.

It is a testament to the unifying bonds of boxing that two men who had taken each other to hell and back could later become fast friends, forever to be linked in death as they for so long were linked in life. That is not always the case, of course, but then almost from the beginning Floyd and Ingo seemed to recognize that they were more alike than different, two sides of the same coin, too similar in many ways to be separated by skin color, lifestyle or an ocean.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Featured Articles

Boxing Odds and Ends: Fury’s Next Opponent, Lomachenko Redux and More

Arne K. Lang

Published

on

Boxing-Odds-and-Ends-Fury's-Next-Opponent-Lomachencko-Redux-and-More

It wasn’t long ago that Bob Arum was talking about potting Fury-Wilder III at Las Vegas’ new Allegiant Stadium in December. But Arum and his business partner Frank Warren have switched gears. Fury-Wilder III is on hold indefinitely.

According to Team Fury, Wilder invalidated the rematch clause in the Articles of Agreement for Wilder-Fury II by failing to activate it within the required time frame. That opened the door for Fury to choose a different opponent for his next fight. The frontrunners are reportedly Agit Kabayel and Carlos Takam. The fight is expected to come off in December in London.

Agit Kabayel, a 28-year-old German of Kurdish descent, is 20-0 (13 KOs). He came to the fore in November of 2017 when he upset dangerous but erratic Dereck Chisora, winning a 12-round decision at the Casino in Monte Carlo. In his most recent fight, in July of this year, he won a lopsided 10-round decision over an obscure opponent before a small gathering (per COVID policy) at a public park in Magdeburg.

Carlos Takam (39-5-1, 28 KOs) is best known for taking Anthony Joshua into the 10th frame before succumbing when they met three years ago this month at Principality Stadium in Wales. Takam was called in from the bullpen when Kubrat Pulev was forced to pull out with a shoulder injury.

In his most recent fight, the 39-year-old French-Cameroonian won a 10-round decision over unheralded Jerry Forrest at the MGM Bubble. As had been true when he was matched up against Joshua, Takam got the call when his opponent’s original opponent fell out. Takam replaced Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller who failed his pre-fight drug test, as was his custom.

In the words of fight writer Kenneth Friedman, regardless of whether it’s Kabayel (pictured) or Takam, “this will be a stay busy fight for Fury, and not one meant to be serious entertainment for the boxing public.”

We appreciate boxing writers who refuse to sugarcoat, but this strikes us as a bit harsh. Kabayel can fight more than a little, and should he get the call he may prove to be as pesky as Otto Wallin.

Lomachenko

It has come out that Vasiliy Lomachenko was damaged goods heading into his bout with Teofimo Lopez. He had a shoulder ailment that forced him to miss a week of training in the gym. This past Monday, Oct. 20, the noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache – the head team physician for the LA Dodgers and LA Rams – put Lomachenko under the knife.

Dr. ElAttrache told Yahoo! boxing writer Kevin Iole that Loma had a bruised rotator cuff and a chipped piece of cartilage and that the injury was in the same area in his right shoulder where Vasiliy suffered a torn labrum in his bout with Jorge Linares in May of 2018.

Lomachenko’s promoter Bob Arum said he had no knowledge that the Ukrainian was less than 100 percent. Neither did the bettors. Had the word got out, the wiseguys would have “steamed” the underdog.

We’re reminded of the 1995 fight at the Caesars Palace outdoor arena between Oscar De La Hoya and the late Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez. It leaked out that Hernandez had suffered a broken nose in his final sparring session and the odds favoring De La Hoya zoomed from 4/1 to 17/2.

In the sixth round, a punch from Oscar broke Hernandez’s fragile nose. The blood came down in torrents, Hernandez quit at the conclusion at the round, and the bookies took a bath.

From a betting standpoint, injuries are far more relevant in an individual sport such as boxing than in a team sport. A heavy sports gambler of our acquaintance, now deceased, invariably bet on an NFL team missing one or more key players. “The back-ups were All-Americans too,” he said by way of explanation.

The contract for Lomachenko-Lopez did not include a rematch clause. Teofimo has no interest in a rematch and has earned the right to move on. However, we would bet that most fight fans would love to see them go at it again. Lomachenko is expected to be fit to resume his regular training regimen in January.

Davis vs. Santa Cruz

“In what is being billed as a 50/50 fight….” reads a SHOWTIME press release heralding the forthcoming match between Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Leo Santa Cruz.

What an interesting choice of words. Who exactly is it that is billing this as a 50/50 fight? Certainly not the bookies. As of Friday, Oct. 23, Davis was anywhere from a minus-460 to minus-680 favorite at prominent betting establishments offshore. (For the sake of convenience, let’s just say that Gervonta is a 5/1 favorite.)

No, this is hardly a 50/50 fight, at least not in the view of the bet-takers who have no choice but to be transparent. But in defense of SHOWTIME, this is an intriguing contest between a brash upstart who has yet to taste defeat and a 32-year-old veteran who has suffered only one defeat in 39 starts, a defeat that he avenged.

Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) will walk right through Leo Santa Cruz if he fights as well as he did against Jose Pedraza in 2017. But if “Tank” fights as he did later that year against Francisco Fonseca, Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) will make it warm for him.

Davis vs. Santa Cruz will play out on Halloween before a live audience in the San Antonio Alamodome. It is the main attraction of a PPV event with a suggested list price of $74.99. It will be interesting to see what numbers it draws since the show goes head-to-head against an ESPN+ card featuring the U.S. debut of Naoya “Monster” Inoue.

Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, which handles Tank Davis, has predicted that Davis will someday command “Mayweather money.” He bases this not merely on Davis’s talent, but on his large social media following. The 25-year-old Baltimorean has a big presence among the hip-hop crowd.

At stake in the Davis vs. Santa Cruz fight are a pair of WBA titles hitched to different weight classes. One of the belts at stake is the WBA lightweight title.

Hey, wait a second, didn’t Teofimo Lopez just win this very same title?

In Deadwood, South Dakota, one can visit the saloon where Wild Bill Hickock was shot dead while playing poker. Or one can walk down the street and visit a different saloon that claims to be the place where Hickock was shot dead while playing poker.

WBA president Gilberto Mendoza doesn’t own those two saloons, but he could have.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

Avila Perspective, Chap. 110: Chocolatito, Lipinets and More

David A. Avila

Published

on

Avila-Perspective-Chap-110-Chocolatito,Lipinets and More

Avila Perspective, Chap. 110: Chocolatito, Lipinets and More

In the middle of the former Aztec Empire, now called Mexico City, a series of super flyweight world championships will be staged for the entire world to see on Friday.

If this were the 1500s there would be blood. This is 2000, there will be knockouts.

Leading the charge WBC super flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada (40-3, 27 KOs) defends against former champion Carlos Cuadras (39-3-1, 27 KOs) at Gimnasio TV Azteca in Mexico City. Also joining will be Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, the WBA super flyweight world champ. DAZN will stream the card live.

Both Estrada and Cuadras want another crack at Chocolatito.

This is the second time around for the Mexican fighters. Estrada won their first encounter when they met at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. Cuadras just could not pull the trigger. Blame it on Estrada.

Cuadras, 33, has more to lose than just consciousness. The fighter known as “Principe” will be fighting in his hometown. That’s bad for business to lose in from of your home boys especially if you talk as much smack as Cuadras.

Northern Mexico’s Estrada, now 30, handily defeated Cuadras three years ago but views the Mexico City native as a stepping stone to his true target Chocolatito. The fighter known as “Gallo” wants revenge.

Back in 2012, in the city of Angels, “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Estrada met at the old Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. That arena no longer exists but the memories of their encounter blazed its way to most fight fans brain cells. Although under-publicized, it was one of the best fights of that decade.

Nobody knew much about Estrada at that time, but Gonzalez was in the middle of a triumphant run toward becoming the best recognized fighter “pound for pound” in the world. He would reach it against Cuadras of all fighters. But against Estrada the Nicaraguan master fighter nearly was toppled.

The several thousand fans in attendance knew they had witnessed a classic. Many wanted to see a rematch. If both win on Friday, it’s likely that rematch will take place early next year.

Chocolatito

Gonzalez (49-2, 41 KOs) meets Israel Gonzalez (25-3, 11 KOs) of Los Cabos, Mexico. Many fans thought Chocolatito was done when he lost twice to Thailand’s Sor Rungvisai. It was the knockout loss that seemed to be the clincher. But he found a solution training in the desert sands of Coachella, California and now he’s back stronger than ever.

Chocolatito ripped the WBA world title away from Khalid Yafai last February and that left fans speechless. But at 33 how much is left for this 115-pound warrior?

What better place than Mexico City to discover who emerges from the smoke?

It was here in Mexico City, formerly known as Tenochtitlan, that the Aztec empire ruled over much of North and Central America. Battles were held constantly just for practice. True story. The Aztecs would have practice wars to keep up their killing skills and lives would be lost. It still remains one of the world’s greatest fight capitals.

Another bout features WBC flyweight world titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (16-1, 12 KOs) the fiery Mexican City fighter defending his throne against Moises Callero (33-9-1, 17 KOs).

The card on Friday night will be a strong one. Don’t miss it. It all begins at 4 p.m. PT on DAZN.

Showtime

Former super lightweight titlist Sergey Lipinets (16-1, 12 KOs) moves up a weight division and battles Canada’s Custio Clayton (18-0, 12 KOs) for the interim IBF welterweight title at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Showtime will televise.

Lipinets, who trains in Los Angeles, has long sought another title shot at super lightweight and now heads into the welterweight realm and finds himself facing a Canadian fighter. You never know how good these guys are until they step in the boxing ring.

Also, on the same card, undefeated Xavier Martinez (15-0, 11 KOs) meets former world champion Claudio Marrero (24-4, 17 KOs) in a 12-round super featherweight match. Martinez, 22, may not be ready for the super slick Marrero but the Californian hasn’t had much trouble so far.

Fights to Watch

Thursday Oct. 22, UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Luis Torres (8-0) vs Orlando Zepeda (9-1).

Fri. Oct. 23, DAZN, 4 p.m. Roman Gonzalez (49-2) vs Israel Gonzalez (25-3); Juan Francisco Estrada (40-3) vs Carlos Cuadras (39-3-1); and Julio Cesar Martinez (16-1) vs Moises Calleros (33-9-1).

Fri. Oct. 23, Telemundo, 11:30 p.m. Belmar Preciado (20-3-1) vs Rodolfo Hernandez (30-9-1).

Sat. Oct. 24, Showtime 7 p.m. Sergey Lipinets (16-1) vs Custio Clayton (18-0).

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading

Featured Articles

The Top Ten Flyweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Matt McGrain

Published

on

The-Top-Ten-Flyweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019

The Top Ten Flyweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

As we near the end of a lengthy series, a reminder of our criteria.

These are decadal lists, placing under the microscope the fights and fighters that occurred between January first, 2010 and December the thirty-first 2019; no fights outside these dates are considered.

Fights that occurred outside the weight class to hand, in this case flyweight, are only of passing interest – we appraise here the men who fought at 112lbs only. In doing so I utilise a number of different tools, from the video upload sites delightfully stuffed with boxing of all shapes and sizes, to the DVDs I continue to buy with inexplicable regularity to the detailed rankings helping to decipher who was who the day two contenders met.

Those rankings are from Ring Magazine from 2010 through 2012 before the founding of the TBRB allows independent rankings to be utilised for the remainder of the decade.

Finally, achievement, the who and the how, are given much heavier weight than more speculative concerns like perceived skillset and projected head-to-head predictions.

With the boring stuff out of the way, allow me to introduce you to the top ten flyweights of the decade past.

10 – Sonny Boy Jaro

Peak Ranking: Ch. Record for the Decade: 17-7-5 Ranked For: 10% of the decade

The Tale of Sonny Boy Jaro is one of the great and under-told stories of the decade.  A journeyman, he also had an iron will that saw him bounce his equally iron-hewn physique from 108lbs up to 118lbs and back, fighting a busy schedule in his native Philippines and beyond. Problematically, he would also lose whenever he stepped up to elite level.

Until he ran into the great Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. That Jaro was able to beat him is astonishing.  Then ranked the world’s number eight fighter pound-for-pound, Wonjongkam was probably approaching a place where he might have been ready to be taken, but he just didn’t lose to the likes of Jaro, a type he ran into often. Jaro though, had learned his trade. He hurt the champion with the very first punch he threw and dropped him with the fourth or fifth, then he stayed right on him throwing consistent, hard punches, staying rough and aggressive. In the sixth, Wonjongkam was suddenly and finally worn, down twice, the second time dangerously under a vicious assault; the fight was waved off.

Jaro, alas, did not shake off his tendency to lose the big ones and dropped the title in his first defence. This makes Jaro’s hold on the number ten spot a little tenuous, but the fact is that nobody in contention held anything like as superb a win over so accomplished a fighter. From Daigo Higa to Artem Dalakian to Hernan Marquez, nobody did enough to supplant him.

09 – Amnat Ruenroeng

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 20-3 Ranked For: 22% of the decade

First, let’s get Amnat Ruenroeng’s 2015 defeat of John Riel Casimero out of the way. You can read about this insane parody of a prize-fight, for which Ruenroeng receives no credit, here. As I wrote at the time, “referee Larry Doggett…was very clearly guilty of, at the least, ineptitude. Like much in life that is truly ludicrous, it was funny and tragic in equal measures.”

His best win neutralised by his indiscipline, Ruenroeng’s victories of note become a little thin on the ground, but as we have seen, there is no depth of competition for these lowest slots. 2014 was his key year and in May Kazuto Ioka, one of the better 108lb boxers in the world, stepped up. It was bizarre to see the smaller man bringing the pressure while Ruenroeng maneuvered, seemingly spooked by Ioka’s beltline work and prodding straight; he found the gaps though, especially for an impressive uppercut which allowed him to hang on to Ioka’s coattails and a late rally saw him hold on to his strap in a widely judged split decision where each and every card somehow seemed reasonable.

This confusion, this chaos, is Ruenroeng’s hallmark, and whether he was throwing knees and elbows or waiting and deploying his jab, he had an air of intimidation matched by his ability to get under his opponent’s skin. Against McWilliams Arroyo he was dropped in the sixth by a winging left hook, cast adrift on the cards left and in need of five of the remaining six rounds. He got them. He got them by swapping out his cautious countering for sudden, rampant aggression and discombobulating holding and wrestling, culminating in his throwing Arroyo to the canvas in the tenth. Arroyo, furious and thrown from his rhythm, won only the last of the second six.

Ruenroeng earned supplemental wins over Rocky Fuentes and Shiming Zou and was a bubbling, vicious handful for absolutely every flyweight he ever met.

08 – John Riel Casimero

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 15-4 Ranked For: 19% of the decade

After being mugged by Amnat Ruenroeng in Bangkok, Filipino John Riel Casimero was made to wait an entire year for a rematch, to be fought on neutral territory in China. Preparation was disastrous for Ruenroeng who managed to weigh in over the super-flyweight limit on his first attempt, finally making the 112lb limit four hours later at the hotel in front of few witnesses. Whatever occurred, Ruenroeng looked sharp in bagging the first but his dark arts were firmly under the control of referee Tony Weeks, although he did manage to cast Casimero to the canvas in both the third and the fourth.

But later in the fourth, Casimero did the casting, dumping Ruenroeng into prayer position with a lighting left hook as the two twisted inside. Ruenroeng made it up but in what must rate as the most satisfying moment of his career, Casimero achieved his revenge, untidily but definitively by knockout in the fourth.

This was a good summary of Casimero in those flyweight days. He was brave and direct but sometimes disorganised; fun but a little frothy although he had more than enough though to see off future beltholder Charlie Edwards, among others. Casimero couldn’t hold the poundage long enough to make a serious dent but he is happily locked above his nemesis Amnat Ruenroeng, a real case of the good guy finishing first.

07 – Pongsaklek Wonjongkam

Peak Ranking: Ch. Record for the Decade: 17-2-1 Ranked For: 18% of the decade

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (also known as Phongskorn Wonjongkam or Pongsaklek Sitkanongsak) is the greatest flyweight on this list – but as far as the decade goes, we capture only the last meaningful wins of a once pre-eminent fighter’s career, followed by his shocking loss to Sonny Boy Jaro. Behind that loss, Wonjongkam achieved no other wins of interest and in fact managed to throw in another shocking loss.

In 2010 though, Wonjongkam was holding onto the very last of it and in the ring with the division’s number one contender no less, Koki Kameda. In an impressive veteran’s performance, Wonjongkam won clear, despite the inexplicable drawn card found by judge Predrag Aleksic. He can be seen punishing Kameda for even minor transgressions in positioning, finding him with punches if Kameda moved across him rather than taking a half step back and going across him, forcing Kameda to circle more widely, taking more steps than he would have wished, forgoing the range and movement he appeared to have trained for. Perhaps not unrelated was Pongsaklek’s strong finish. Despite being the more shopworn of the two, he dominated the late action.

A year later, Wonjongkam met the final ranked contender he would defeat in his storied career in the form of Edgar Sosa, a near peer, a man born just two years after him who nevertheless had fought just over half the contests. It showed. Once more Wonjongkam finished the fight the stronger of the two in winning a wide decision victory fighting at a fast pace but he earned that right by out-hitting his fresher opponent throughout the entire contest, by wasting little, by knowing where his opponent was at almost all times. These behaviours are learned rather than taught and it was wonderful to watch a master of them ply his trade.

Not so much that Wonjongkam could be installed at number six though; he does post losses to Jaro, perhaps the least likely true champion since James Douglas, and then Rey Megrino, a professional loser of the type Wonjongkam had been beating up for walking-around-money for years. Still, his sun setting on the era was one of the events of the flyweight decade.

06 – Kosei Tanaka

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 15-0 Ranked For: 11% of the decade

Kosei Tanaka stepped up to 112lbs early in 2018, quickly tested the water versus the overmatched Ronnie Baldonado, then steamed headlong into Sho Kimura and the fight of the flyweight decade.

Writing about Tanaka back in 2015 with his record at just 4-0, I named him the world’s brightest prospect but pointed out that his mobile but aggressive style was a demanding one. “Does he have the engine for it?” was my question. “If he does, will he hold his power late enough for it to matter?”

Tanaka answered the first of these questions gloriously and forever against Kimura. Kimura, at that time the world’s number two contender, is a granite-jawed pressure fighter with the type of insistent pressure that only elite power can dissuade. Tanaka whaled on him early, a glorious left hook to the body his main power shot, but straight punches and dashing hooks were sprinkled liberally throughout. Tanaka has delightful footwork but rather than moving (some short late spells aside) he used it to form a tight, constricting circle while throwing serious punches with a fluidity which would have pleased Roman Gonzalez. Kimura, ceding rounds early, nevertheless threw return punches relentlessly, himself a technician of no small note.

Re-watching them for this article (and for any other reason I can think of) I had the sense that each man’s punch resistance relative to the other’s power meant they could barely hold one another’s punches comfortably enough to retain form and no more; slightly more power on either side would have upset the rhythm of this glorious fight. As it was, each hurt the other but once, Tanaka bending Kimura’s knee briefly in the second, himself stalling under the fuselage that was the height of Kimura in the twelfth and final round.

A lifelong atheist, I occasionally pray for a rematch.

Also, in my 2015 appraisal of Tanaka I claimed that his power would remain a limiting factor – that “I don’t think he will ever be the kind of fighter to be rescued by his power.” One of the great glories of following Tanaka’s career has been watching him emerge as a puncher, not a darkening one, but something more than just stinging, too. He proved this most of all in August of 2019 against number ten contender Jonathan Gonzalez. Gonzalez is far from impossible to stop, the trick has been pulled twice before but it was Tanaka’s relentlessness that impressed me as much as anything else. He determined to apply pressure to a moving opponent and at some point around the sixth his technically sound punches morphed into technically competent meathooks. Gonzalez went from moving to outright fleeing to being lashed to the canvas by a body-attack that is painful to watch.

One suspects the next flyweight decade will belong to Tanaka.

05 – Akira Yaegashi

Peak Ranking: Ch. Record for the Decade: 16-5 Ranked For: 15% of the decade

Akira Yaegashi wasn’t really a flyweight but a Japanese superfight with Toshiyuki Igarashi was impossible to turn down; Yeagashi won and found himself on an exciting, enriching and impressive flyweight adventure as well as the legitimate flyweight champion of the world. It made his legacy.

Igarashi just didn’t have the power to keep Yaegashi under control, nor the silk to throw fluidly enough on the move to consistently outscore him, so the fight devolved into a brutal and aggressive shoot-out, a fight that Igarashi could not possibly hope to win. Yaegashi was the champion of the world. He beat up a wilted Oscar Blanquet in his first defence and then matched the number three contender, Edgar Sosa, a tough fighter in the best form of his life.

Yaegashi thrashed him. This fight was a little different, the Japanese working to keep one step ahead of his opponent, but generally speaking, he was a shark in the ring, irrefutable upon smelling blood but vulnerable when he ran up against superior firepower. Such was his fate in 2014 when he ran into the irresistible Roman Gonzalez in the absolute prime of his career.

He immediately dipped back down to 108lbs, where he probably belonged, re-emerging briefly at flyweight in 2019 where he suffered another loss. More of Yaegashi, who may prove to be underrated in a pound-for-pound sense, next time, but credibly cracking the top five at 112lbs is no mean feat. It will be his highest divisional ranking.

04 – Brian Viloria

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 12-4 Ranked For: 66% of the decade

It makes me uncomfortable when a fighter’s keynote win is a fighter from the division below moving up, but I make an exception for Brian Viloria in the case of Giovani Segura, who moved up from 108lbs to take him on at 112lbs in 2011. Segura was, at that time, ranked among the top ten fighters in the world pound-for-pound having twice blasted out the great Ivan Calderon and if anyone deserves the nod four pounds north it is him. Viloria though demonstrated how much those four pounds can matter, negotiating Segura’s hard-swung punches to stop him in eight one-sided but exciting rounds.

This fight came as a part of Viloria’s golden 2011/12 run and even more exciting had been Viloria’s nine round destruction of Julio Cesar Miranda five months earlier. Viloria, a powerful puncher, dropped Miranda in seven but the number seven contender came back steaming and an electric battle for territory followed, fought at pace and for the most part on the inside, a fight which Viloria won. Miranda, unable to fight going backwards, was neatly dispatched in the ninth.

Viloria looked near invincible when he was dominating but in fact he was easier to hit than is normal for an elite flyweight. This cost him later in his career when he had slowed down a bit and in truth, despite his lingering in the rankings until 2018, his last truly meaningful win came in late 2012 over the excellent Hernan Marquez. This was a painful memory for me as Hernan was one of my favourites and Viloria soundly thrashed him around the ring, dropping him in the first and fifth before stopping him in the tenth. Viloria was a fighter of real talent on offence, but a certain vulnerability meant he was always to come up short against the division’s true elite.

03 – Moruti Mthalane

Peak Ranking: 2 Record for the Decade: 14-0 Ranked For: 95% of the decade

South African Moruti Mthalane cracked the Ring Magazine rankings back in 2008 behind his defeat of the formerly ranked Australian Hussein Hussein. Today, TBRB ranks him at number two and although he was removed for six months for inactivity in 2013, he has spent 95% of the decade past operating as a ranked flyweight. This is astonishing.

And yet, rather like Omar Narvaez at 115lbs, although the overall career-arc is impressive, the detail feels underwhelming. In thirteen years hunting straps Mthalane has met so few Ring/TBRB ranked contenders it can be painted a deliberate strategy. In fact, Mthalane never met a fighter ranked higher than nine, which is a travesty.

Almost despite himself though, Mthalane built a solid resume in taking on lowly or unranked fighters who would reach the top of this division or who had previously made their mark. Such victories bookend his decade.

In September 2010 Mthalane posted a knockout over the budding (but ranked) flyweight Zolani Tete. Tete was unbeaten at 13-0, but Mthalane just rounded him up with an insidious pressure that must be awful for an inexperienced fighter to face, before dispatching him in the fifth. Six months later he pulled an almost identical trick against none other than John Riel Casimero.  Nearly ten years later Mthalane stopped former champion Akira Yaegashi in nine. Three different seek-and-destroy missions played out against three different opponents with ten years separating the first and the last; it is impressive stuff.

Mthalane’s legacy problem is that in between, he did so little of note, Muhammad Waseem and Masayuki Kuroda his best performances in the interim, but his longevity and his undefeated status for the decade impresses so much he is rendered at #3. That he made a victim of Yaegashi last year gets him over that line.

02 – Juan Francsico Estrada

Peak Ranking: 1 Record for the Decade: 28-3 Ranked For: 31% of the decade

Juan Francisco Estrada emerged from 108lbs with the brakes off, matching the world’s number one contender Brian Viloria in June of 2013 in an immediate and violent assault on the division.

Clearly unintimidated, Estrada stepped into Viloria’s wheel-house and out-fought him there, matching his armaments, and out-hitting him. It was the seventh when the divisional number one finally broke before him and the fight was a foregone conclusion from that point. Estrada did not drop another round on my scorecard.

Variety was the key for Estrada in this fight. He eschewed the jab in favour of leading with right hands, left hooks, and especially uppercuts, sometimes stepping in with the front foot and bringing up an “L” while face to face with his prestigious foe. It was a risky strategy and Estrada suffered for it in the sixth, but as he continued to mix leads at speed regardless of cost, Viloria found himself more and more on the end of punches he was not prepared to counter. Once the pre-counter was beaten out of him he fought on without real hope.

Rocketed to the very top of the division, Estrada certainly did no hiding meeting ranked contenders Milan Melindo and Giovani Segura (by then an established flyweight) and the sliding Hernan Marquez. Of these, his performance against the unbeaten Melindo most impressed me. His left, as always, weaved magic, a combination of push jabs, uppercuts, hooks, especially to the body and of course feints; but it seemed that the right spoke more forcefully than it had until this match, too. A slingy, overhand punch was perhaps the most damaging and persistent he threw, and a menacing right uppercut, though less frequent, partnered it.

A preference for the brutal, heart-rending knockout he scored against Marquez is valid but either way, it’s a resume and execution worthy of the number one spot. Sadly, he once again has to make do with number two, which is the same position he landed at 115lbs. An old adversary edged him out.

01 – Roman Gonzalez

Peak Ranking: Ch. Record for the Decade: 25-2 Ranked For: 29% of the decade

Juan Francisco Estrada may have had the best uppercut/power-punch combination of the flyweight decade, but there were no other two-pieces, combinations or flurries of any designation where any flyweight could rival Roman Gonzalez. He is a superb puncher and perhaps the best composite puncher in the division’s entire history. His coming to flyweight was a sure reckoning.

Gonzalez had probed the division for years but arrived in earnest in 2013 against no-less a figure than Francisco Rodriguez, a component rather than a great fighter, but one who is always in great fights. Rodriguez’s Mexican approach could not stand Gonzalez though, who turned him away in seven. One year later he stood in the ring with Akira Yaegashi, the flyweight world champion.  Yaegashi had until this day demonstrated a heart of oak and elite punch-resistance but he never recovered from what Gonzalez fed him.

No fighter is more comfortable at all distances than Gonzalez and he gave a masterclass in seek and destroy when Yaegashi tried to move. Yaegashi tried to check his man’s momentum with brave forays but over and again he was out-hit, out-thought. Never was the right hand better; Gonzalez threw it in all shapes and at all ranges and at many different carefully selected targets. The glove eventually became a living feint, something that made Yaegashi flinch away in uncertainty, even as Gonzalez began to wind up the left. The referee eventually intervened after the second knockdown of the fight in the ninth round, and a new champion was birthed.

Gonzalez did good business in the top five as king, without making his claim as one of the great ones.  He staged four defences, chief among them Edgar Sosa and Brian Viloria ranked four, and McWilliams Arroyo ranked seven. He brooked no resistance, rolling over Sosa in two, outfighting a brave Brian Viloria who managed to survive for nine rounds, before finally going the distance with Arroyo. This last is the most fascinating fight of these three in that Arroyo found a way to survive.  Gonzalez ceded the opening rounds, as he often did against bigger men, but, like Joe Louis, like Ray Robinson, once he had found you, he had found you for all time. Gonzalez decoding how a man below 112lbs moves is the same as his winning the fight, going on all available evidence.

Arroyo covered up, staged resistances but he was outhit for the third through to the twelfth by four and five punch combinations, narrow, webbed punches within which net Gonzalez responded to movement with the same sensitivity as a spider detecting prey. He took the closest range against Arroyo, a good fighter, and beat him up. This is Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez distilled.

It is also the last of him as a great fighter. He remains, to this day, a good one but his final fight at 112lbs was his last where he was able to work with fighters who did not hold over him a prohibitive size advantage. When he departed the division for the richer purses at 115lbs he also broke the lineage of the longest lineal title in the world, dating back to Miguel Canto and the 1970s. It was a prestigious crown to abandon.

You sense it would have come about either way though. Roman Gonzalez could be fighting at the weight still and it is unlikely they would have found a man to defeat him – whenever he departed the division he would have taken the title with him.

The uncontested number one decadal flyweight.

The other lists:

Heavyweight

Cruiserweight

Light-Heavyweight

Super-Middleweight

Middleweight

Light-Middleweight

Welterweight

Light-Welterweight

Lightweight

Super-Featherweight

Featherweight

Super-Bantamweight

Bantamweight

Super-Flyweight

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

Continue Reading
Advertisement
In-Defense-of-Julie-Lederman
Featured Articles3 days ago

In Defense of Julie Lederman

Emerging-Heavyweights-Three-To-Watch
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Emerging Heavyweights: Three to Watch

RIP-Ricardo-Jimenez-One-of-Boxing's-Most-Beloved
Featured Articles1 week ago

RIP Ricardo Jimenez: One of Boxing’s Most Beloved

Tony-Yoka-Makes-Quick-Work-of-Duhaupas-Yoka's-Wife-Wins-Too
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Tony Yoka Makes Quick Work of Duhaupas; Yoka’s Wife Wins Too

-C'mon
Featured Articles4 days ago

“—C’mon!” (from the pen of Springs Toledo)

Jermell-Charlo-Unifies-Super-Welterweights-Via-Solar-Plexus-Punch
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Jermell Charlo Unifies Super Welterweights Via Solar Plexus Punch

loma
Featured Articles1 week ago

The Official TSS Lomachenko-Lopez Prediction Page

Will-The_Pandemic-Hurt-Boxing-in-the-Long-Term-A-Blockbuster-TSS-Survey
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Will The Pandemic Hurt Boxing in the Long Term?: A Blockbuster TSS Survey

Avila-Perspective-Chap-107-El-Flaco-the-Charlo-Twins-and-More
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Avila Perspective. Chap. 107: El Flaco, the Charlo twins and More

Jose-Zepeda-Wins-Knockdown-Battle-with-Ivan-Baranchyk-at-the-MGM-Bubble
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Jose Zepeda Wins Knockdown Battle with Ivan Baranchyk at the MGM Bubble

Jermall-Charlo-UD-12-Derevyanchenko-Figueroa-and-Casimero-Also-Triumphant
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Jermall Charlo UD 12 Derevyanchenko; Figueroa and Casimero Also Triumphant

Conor-McGregor-vs-Pac-Man-The-Circus-is-Back-in-Town
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Conor McGregor vs. Pac-Man: The Circus is Back in Town

Johnny-Bos-Large-in-Life-A-Cult-Figure-in-Death-A-TSS-Classic-by-Randy-Gordon
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Johnny Bos: Large in Life, A Cult Figure in Death (A TSS Classic by Randy Gordon)

Does-Lomachenko-Still-Have-Enough-Blue-Book-Value-to-Motor-Past-Lopez?
Featured Articles1 week ago

Does Lomachenko Still Have Enough Blue-Book Value to Motor Past Lopez?

Teofimo-Takes-Over-Upsets-Lomachenko
Featured Articles6 days ago

 Teofimo Takes Over: Upsets Lomachenko

Matchroom-Fight-Results-Buatsi-TKOs-Calic-Chantelle-Cameron-Wins-a-World-Title
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Matchroom Fight Results: Buatsi TKOs Calic; Chantelle Cameron Wins a World Title

Mairis-Briedis-and-Josh-Taylor-Impress-on-a-Busy-Fight-Day-in-Europe
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Mairis Briedis and Josh Taylor Impress on a Busy Fight Day in Europe

Season-2-of-the-World-Boxing-Super-Series-Concludes-on-Saturday-in-Munich
Featured Articles4 weeks ago

Season 2 of the World Boxing Super Series Concludes on Saturday in Munich

The-Top-Ten-Super-Flyweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The Top Ten Superflyweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Las-Vegas-Trainer-Bones-Adams-Talks-About-Life-on-the-Bubble-Circuit
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Las Vegas Trainer Bones Adams Talks About Life on the Bubble Circuit

Boxing-Odds-and-Ends-Fury's-Next-Opponent-Lomachencko-Redux-and-More
Featured Articles2 hours ago

Boxing Odds and Ends: Fury’s Next Opponent, Lomachenko Redux and More

Avila-Perspective-Chap-110-Chocolatito,Lipinets and More
Featured Articles1 day ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 110: Chocolatito, Lipinets and More

The-Top-Ten-Flyweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles2 days ago

The Top Ten Flyweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

In-Defense-of-Julie-Lederman
Featured Articles3 days ago

In Defense of Julie Lederman

-C'mon
Featured Articles4 days ago

“—C’mon!” (from the pen of Springs Toledo)

Kelsey-McCarson's-Hits-and-Misses-Takeover-Edition
Featured Articles4 days ago

Kelsey McCarson’s HITS and MISSES: Takeover Edition

Teofimo-Takes-Over-Upsets-Lomachenko
Featured Articles6 days ago

 Teofimo Takes Over: Upsets Lomachenko

Lewis-Ritson-Nips-Hard-Luck-Miguel-Vazquez-Plus-Undercard-Results
Featured Articles6 days ago

Lewis Ritson Nips Hard-Luck Miguel Vazquez Plus Undercard Results

Avila-Perspective,-Chap.-109:-Teofimo-vs.-Loma-and-More.jpg
Featured Articles1 week ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 109: Lopez vs. Loma and More

loma
Featured Articles1 week ago

The Official TSS Lomachenko-Lopez Prediction Page

Does-Lomachenko-Still-Have-Enough-Blue-Book-Value-to-Motor-Past-Lopez?
Featured Articles1 week ago

Does Lomachenko Still Have Enough Blue-Book Value to Motor Past Lopez?

RIP-Ricardo-Jimenez-One-of-Boxing's-Most-Beloved
Featured Articles1 week ago

RIP Ricardo Jimenez: One of Boxing’s Most Beloved

The-WBCs-Franchise-Sticker-and-More-Judges-Add-to-Boxing's-Numbers-Glut
Featured Articles1 week ago

The WBC’s ‘Franchise’ Sticker and More Judges Add to Boxing’s Numbers Glut

The-Top-Ten-Super-Flyweights-of-the-Decade-2010-2019
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

The Top Ten Superflyweights of the Decade: 2010-2019

Navarette-Powers-Way-to-WBO-Featherweight-Title
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Navarrete Powers Way to WBO Featherweight Title

Will-The_Pandemic-Hurt-Boxing-in-the-Long-Term-A-Blockbuster-TSS-Survey
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Will The Pandemic Hurt Boxing in the Long Term?: A Blockbuster TSS Survey

Charles-Conwell-Breaks-Down-and-Stops-Wendy-Toussaint-at-the-Mohegan-Sun
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Charles Conwell Breaks Down and Stops Wendy Toussaint at the Mohegan Sun

Avila-Perspective-Chap-108-Knockdowns-Featherweight-Title-Fight-and-More
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Avila Perspective, Chap. 108: Knockdowns, Featherweight Title Fight and More

Johnny-Bos-Large-in-Life-A-Cult-Figure-in-Death-A-TSS-Classic-by-Randy-Gordon
Featured Articles2 weeks ago

Johnny Bos: Large in Life, A Cult Figure in Death (A TSS Classic by Randy Gordon)

Matchroom-Fight-Results-Buatsi-TKOs-Calic-Chantelle-Cameron-Wins-a-World-Title
Featured Articles3 weeks ago

Matchroom Fight Results: Buatsi TKOs Calic; Chantelle Cameron Wins a World Title

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Advertisement