GGG and Chocolatito to stand and deliver on HBO
Two of the premier talents in their respected weight classes will be featured in separate bouts tonight on HBO and while neither imported knockout artist will face his most anticipated opponent to date, they will grace the canvas in front of a rousing crowd at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. It’s normally not too popular for crackerjacks in any given division to defend their titles against less-than-thrilling opponents but it’s a unique case for both. The reception leading up to tonight’s HBO doubleheader has failed to gather negative response from typically embittered boxing fans and media alike who would be akin to holding its participants’ feet to the fire. Speaking in terms of the dramatic structure of their careers, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin is still stuck in rising fashion that has yet to show indication of reaching a climax. As for Nicaraguan Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, he’s just beginning his exposition as he makes his premium cable debut.
The lead-in bout of the HBO broadcast will feature a flyweight champion who has been clamored for by boxing experts to grace American television sets for the past few years. A former champion in the lightest weight classes of the sport, strawweight (105 pounds) and junior flyweight (108 pounds), Gonzalez, 42-0 (36), is the current holder of the WBC and THE RING flyweight (112 pounds) titles. The recent outcry for Gonzalez’s dominance to become mainstream attributes to the lack of the smallest weight classes getting any airplay in the United States, especially on the premium networks. To put it into perspective, Gonzalez’s second defense of his titles on tonight will break a 20-year absence of a flyweight (or lighter) to make it on a major HBO telecast. For Gonzalez to be chosen as the man to fill the void, so to speak, substantiates his immense talent but doesn’t make up for everything the mainstream has missed up until this point.
For many, if not all, fighters of the smaller variety must make that trip to the Far East, where the majority of talent in those weight classes flourish. Gonzalez is backed by Japan’s Teiken Promotions, who have historically brought along many Latin fighters in the past like Genaro Hernandez, Edwin Valero and David Griman to name a few, along with its esteemed stable, rich with Far East talent. It was in Japan where Gonzalez won his first world title at 105 pounds against Yutaka Niida in 2008 and, while making stops between there, Mexico, Nicaragua and the US, he was crowned the unquestionable king of the little guys. It most certainly became the truth in perhaps his most memorable win against Juan Francisco Estrada. Oddly enough, that fight also took place in Los Angeles and was broadcast on Wealth TV (known today as AWE) for those in the States. It was non-stop action for 12 rounds and Gonzalez rightfully got the unanimous decision victory. The bout was a candidate for “Fight of the Year” in 2012 and a rematch with Estrada has been the most highly anticipated match for Gonzalez. The stakes of that fight would also be much higher a second time around, as Estrada is the current holder of the WBA and WBO flyweight titles.
Fighting on HBO as a flyweight is not only a big opportunity to get more exposure – thus a bigger paycheck – but it also puts much more pressure on Gonzalez to perform well. Tonight’s opponent, Edgar Sosa, 51-8 (30), was a junior flyweight world titleholder in the mid-to-late-2000s but hasn’t been the same since he lost the WBC belt in 2009, ending a two-year title reign. Although the only two losses in he 35-year-old Mexican’s past 16 fights have been in world title contests, his best days are most certainly behind him. Definitely not the toughest opponent Gonzalez could have faced in his HBO debut but, nonetheless, the network approved him. A vast majority of fans might not have a clue who Chocolatito is but all signs point to him looking impressive and it will likely be a nice introduction. Besides, given the network has shown a clear sign of somewhat investing in Gonzalez with this fight, he will more than likely have bigger fights on the network down the road – and the rematch with Estrada is the fight staring everyone in the face.
With Gonzalez already proven to be one of the best boxers in the sport, there isn’t much risk slotting him on the HBO broadcast. To be honest, it’s almost a gift of sorts for hardcore fans of the sport. The risk factor pales in comparison to the uncertainty of the man they took a flyer on almost three years ago.
Taking a chance on an unknown Eastern European back in Sept. of 2012 has worked out for the network and now Gennady Golovkin, 32-0 (29), is one of its biggest stars. GGG has fought on the network seven times since knocking out Grzegorz Proksa in his debut and all of those fights have also ended within the scheduled 12 rounds in thrilling fashion. The current WBA middleweight titleholder has also become a household name in the process and, with his action-packed style as the catalyst for his fandom, it’s been the remarkable job of his promoter, K2 Promotions, that has made chicken salad out of a chicken-shit situation for the kid from Kazakhstan. So far, the narrative of Golovkin’s pro career has been a fun one because he looks so unstoppable but if it all ended today, its biggest qualm would be the fact that he doesn’t have a victory over a premier opponent.
For more than a year now, Golovkin’s lack of competition has been repeated like a broken record but it’s not been without him and his team trying because, in that span of time, he’s been positioned to try and enforce the fight he wants. But as time moves along, that fight with the lineal champion of the division, Miguel Cotto, seems like pipe dream and for every time the Puerto Rican icon is mentioned by Golovkin, one almost wants to bring the Kazakh back down to reality. Although Cotto is only a year older than Golovkin, he has more mileage in the ring. Not to mention he’s not even a true middleweight, having only one fight in the division against a one-legged Sergio Martinez last year that got him the lineal title he holds today. Lastly, Golovkin towers over Cotto in terms of size. As Cotto is set to defend his WBC and THE RING titles this June against Daniel Geale, a contender Golovkin already stopped in three rounds last July, it’s not hard to figure out Cotto is electing to take the smoother-paved road as he drives off into the sunset with a Hall of Fame career already established.
Should Cotto get past Geale, Golovkin (who also holds the WBC interim belt) is slated as the WBC mandatory opponent for his next fight but, in all likelihood, it will defer to a much bigger bout for Cotto against Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another for Golovkin as a big fight always seems to elude him. Yet he still continues to be a sensation and has been adopted by a large commonwealth of Mexican fans, who like his no-nonsense style of fighting. He also fights regularly, something champions of different divisions often fail to accomplish when there is seemingly no opponent worthy for them. Golovkin will defend his 160-pound WBA title for the 14th time against Willie Monroe Jr, 19-1 (6), who is known more for being the great nephew of Willie “The Worm” Monroe, whom defeated Marvelous Marvin Hagler in the 1976. Monroe, 28, is an athletic southpaw who won the 2014 “Boxcino” middleweight tournament, televised on ESPN2. He has since beaten the biggest name on his ledger, Bryan Vera, in his most recent fight last January. He’s certainly a live opponent but Golovkin is heavily favored in this fight. Leading up to it, Monroe has made the signs clear by donning clothing with the Cuban flag that his strategy will be to dance around Golovkin’s attack with a technical boxing style. If he’s successful, it will be a boring fight (akin to Canelo vs. Erislandy Lara) but no one has been able to do that with Golovkin up until this point. It’s the first southpaw GGG will face since making his HBO debut and Golovkin has said he wants to prove he can beat the style Monroe will use but we all know it’s a testament to his troubles getting the big fight and how clear a sign of how meager the middleweight division is these days.
Calling it like it is, tonight’s HBO broadcast is a showcase of talent at The Forum and the abilities being put on display are atop some of the best offensive fighters in the world. With a combined record of 74-0 (65), Golovkin and Gonzalez are destroying anything put in their path with joint KO percentage of 88%. GGG is looking to make Monroe his 20th straight knockout, while Chocolatito has stopped 13 of his past 14 with the only distance outing being a “FOTY” candidate. Both stalk their opponents in the ring and their inalienable power comes from arguably some of the best footwork the sport has to offer – and it’s not footwork that runs around a ring for 12 rounds. Seemingly never off-balance or in trouble but always looking for a fight. For many, it’s a glimpse of what they have been missing when it comes to Gonzalez and for everyone tuning in to watch Golovkin, it’s a reminder of how entertaining he is and how desperate everyone wants to see him in the ring against an elite talent. To be fair, anything short of dominant performances from both fighters will be a disappointment and an utter catastrophe – marking an abrupt climax to the dramatic structures of their careers. Even though both will be laughable favorites in terms of betting odds tonight, The Forum will be packed and HBO’s ratings will be high, thus proving everyone simply wants to be entertained.