I watched the “fight of the century” on television in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua. Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao stunk up the Las Vegas joint; Floyd “Pretty Boy” Mayweather did as well. Not far from where I watched the disappointment of the century that night on May 2, 2015, must have been Román “Chocolatito” González. I picture him sparring.
A few months later, Mayweather retired, vacating his position as the #1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world. González immediately took the top position on most lists of significance, including The Ring and ESPN. González had just demolished former champion Édgar Sosa over two rounds in as dominant a performance as a civilized person should want to see.
Yet, as 2015 closes, other boxers are being named Fighter of the Year. In particular (see here), Mayweather received the accolade from Sports Illustrated and Round By Round Boxing (Fans); Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez from ESPN.com and Bleacher Report; and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin from Round By Round Boxing (Staff), ProBoxing-Fans.com, Harold Lederman (HBO Boxing), Boxing News Readers, and World Boxing News Readers.
Thankfully Univision has ensured that González is not denied completely.
Álvarez and Golovkin had great years—don’t get me wrong. So did Tyson Fury. But what González accomplished is magical. In the words of Bernard Fernandez, a five-term president of the Boxing Writers Association of America:
… [T]he consensus choice to succeed [Mayweather] atop the unofficial but prestigious pound-for-pound list is an adult male who is no larger than many American sixth-graders. Mixing sports similes again, it’s like the best player in the Little League World Series jumping directly to Major League Baseball and being voted Most Valuable Player … .
Notably, Fernandez wrote that on October 6, 2015, before González beat former champion Brian “Hawaiian Punch” Viloria on October 17, 2015 and proved worthy of co-featuring a pay-per-view event. Viloria looked very strong; yet he was outclassed. A 2000 U.S. Olympian, Viloria went down (in the third round) for the first time in 43 professional fights and more than 200 amateur fights. After the ninth-round stoppage, many of González’s sceptics who matter conceded.
According to HBO’s Pound-For-Pound: A History, the “pound-for-pound” king accolade can be traced to the teens and 1920s. Only two flyweights (or smaller) are mentioned: the British Jimmy “The Mighty Atom” Wilde and the Argentine Pascual “El León Mendocino” Pérez. Wilde first became a British champion over 100 years ago. He has 141 recorded fights and amazingly went undefeated in 103 straight bouts. Pérez fought in the 1950s and '60s, winning 84 of 92 fights.
Other notable flyweights, although apparently not in the consensus #1 pound-for-pound discussion, are the Filipino Francisco “Pancho Villa” Guilledo fighting in the 1920s and the Mexican Miguel “El Maestro” Canto fighting in the 1950s.
It is not clear that Wilde and Pérez were the very best. Pérez is mentioned only after contemporaries Carlos Ortíz and Éder “Galo de Ouro” Jofre; whereas Wilde had Harry Greb as a contemporary, to say nothing of Jack “The Manassa Mauler” Dempsey.
But giving both Wilde and Pérez the benefit of the doubt, González has done something that had been done only twice in 100 years. How, then, is he not “fighter of the year”? I need to have that explained to me like I’m a six-year-old.
González’s case is not limited to a moniker. He has put a weight division on the map, the way that Michael “Little Hands of Stone” Carbajal did, more than 20 years ago, for the junior flyweights. The second flyweight to earn a million dollars for a fight in 2016 better send González a “Thank You” card. Juan Francisco “El Gallo” Estrada wants this to be him, so bad, that he is fighting Chocolatito's nephew on January 16, 2016. Perhaps any González from Nicaragua will do.
Today people cannot mention boxers up to three divisions above González (such as super bantamweight Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux) without saying in the same breath how great it would be to see González go up in weight to take them on.
Álvarez replaced Mayweather as the sport’s “Money”-printing machine. That is noteworthy but it is not historic. “Money” had to be replaced by someone; it could have been Miguel Cotto. The multi-billion dollar sport needs a face to sell; and what the sport needs, the sport gets.
Something truly rare happened in 2015: a fighter from a division that is often seen as little more than a warm-up act for the fights that matter turned all the heads. González flipped the script. In the words of boxing writer Kevin McRae, “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.”
In the press, González gets some grief for fighting Valentín León on February 28, 2015. Critics dismiss the third-round stoppage and say that León was not a quality opponent. But the fight took place outdoors at Puerto Salvador Allende in Nicaragua, a-small-Central-American-country (is there another kind?) of 6 million people, half of whom live below the poverty line. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Americas, after Haiti. A Nicaraguan-sized purse for a non-title fight can attract only so much talent. It is a credit to González that he is not the first person to state the obvious: that he has outgrown his country. The fight was González’s gift to Nicaraguans and he used it as an opportunity to fight (for the first time) a super flyweight at 115-pounds.
– by Guillermo “Nacatamales” Schible. Guillermo ran away from fights as a kid, but he became a barrister, at least.