The War Report: Superfly (Week 36, 2017)
“Darkest of night
With the moon shining bright
There’s a set goin’ strong
Lotta things goin’ on
The man of the hour
Has an air of great power
The dudes have envied him for so long”
Once the dust settled, and the initial tears of those rooting for him had already dried, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez found himself left alone in the back of an ambulance to reflect on what had just happened. With the doors already shut and a dimmed light clouded over him, the 30-year-old Nicaraguan hero lied there clearly distraught, looking up with his mouth agape as a medic secured his gurney before being taken to the nearest hospital. Not many had noticed it was Gonzalez in the back of the idle ambulance in the innards of the StubHub Center in Carson, California, but it was the exact look they had already seen from him earlier, once Gonzalez consciously lifted his head up at referee Tom Taylor, who was waving off the contest in the fourth round after a right hand from Srisaket Sor Rungvisai had momentarily knocked his opponent out cold.
Gonzalez, 46-2 (38), was undeniably defeated for the first time when trying to avenge a controversial decision loss to Srisaket last March. Chocolatito entered the first round, reluctant to do much, and was quickly reminded of the pesky strength his Thai counterpart presented, as he heedlessly came forward – quickly forcing an accidental clash of heads that prompted a flashback to the first fight, in which Gonzalez was left gashed and bloodied from inadvertent fouls. Sitting ringside, something didn’t seem right with Gonzalez, after the first frame, and, on the HBO telecast, that was abundantly clear as he sat on his stool in silence (Sendai Tanaka was in Gonzalez’s corner for the first time but Gonzalez is probably still not used to seeing anyone other than Arnolfo Obando, who suddenly passed away last November). Going forward, Gonzalez began to open up a bit more but the punches from Srisaket resonated far better during exchanges and there were consistent shots to the body that added up quickly. Sor Rungvisai would often give a smirk, once Gonzalez did land a shot or two, seemingly knowing they had no chance of hurting him, and that this wasn’t the same offensive wizard who landed 441 of 1,013 punches six months ago.
Normally, Gonzalez’s offense bails him out, when left open to be hit, and subtle moves on the inside often times have oncoming shots graze his shoulders but his defense was almost non-existent on this evening. About 35 seconds into round four, Gonzalez went in for a straight right hand but a right hook from his southpaw counterpart got there first and dropped him to the canvas. Gonzalez consciously nodded his head to Taylor during his 10-count and he smartly waited for the count of eight until getting up from a knee but, once time resumed, it was clear he was in trouble. For about 30 seconds, Gonzalez ditched any tactic of survival, other than bobbing his head in the pocket, and then the same exchange happened in which Sor Rungvisai’s lead right hook caught Gonzalez’s chin before a right of his own was thrown. Gonzalez’s body even fell down the same way as the first time but he wasn’t conscious when crashing to the mat in this instance. His body lied motionless far longer than any loved one would care to see but he was only out a handful of seconds until Taylor’s right hand rested on his shoulder, forcing him to pick his head up and assess the situation.
You’re gonna make your fortune by and by
But if you lose, don’t ask no questions why
The only game you know is ‘Do or Die'”
Most, if not all of the 7,418 at the outdoor arena stood silent once it happened – far different from the anticipated cheers they let loose as Chocolatito entered the ring. Sor Rungvisai, 44-4-1 (40), who was booed heavily upon his introduction, celebrated with a somersault before his team entered the ring to join him but all eyes were on Gonzalez. He seemed like he wanted to get up sooner than the doctor allowed him to but it was a slow process, as he sat up first for a moment with his legs still sprawled out. Gonzalez hunched over with his head down in that position before getting up and onto a stool while Michael Buffer announced the official result. He left the ring under his own power but could barely acknowledge the remaining fans cheering him on, as he dragged his feet to the locker room.
Thoughts of this being it for Gonzalez were never pondered before this night, billed as “SuperFly.” After all, if it weren’t for “Chocolatito,” this HBO tripleheader focusing on the 115-pound class would’nt have happened and, with plenty of ample opponents featured, like Japan’s Naoya Inoue (the WBO 115-pound titleholder), Juan Francisco Estrada and Carlos Cuadras on the undercard, the future seemed bright – if only he could do a little better to convince the judges that he was the better fighter than Sor Rungvisai. As it turned out, Gonzalez wasn’t but ultimately his prowess was never fit for the super flyweight division. A close encounter with Cuadras a year ago was a warning. The first fight with Srisaket was a harrowing wakeup call and the rematch a brutal indication.
Since 2008, Gonzalez has fought in world title bouts and, over the course of three weight classes (from 105-to-112 pounds), he dominated so impressively, an American television network did unprecedented things in order to make sure the mainstream could catch a glimpse of this little Nicaraguan great. HBO’s endeavor wasn’t too late but just in time to see Gonzalez’s fall, which happens often to even the greatest fighters who push their competitive limits. The knockout loss will forever serve as an unfavorable reference, when comparing him to the all-time greats, but Gonzalez is certainly one of the best fighters in the modern era, not to mention, a revolutionary figure for the smaller weight classes who are left with mainstream opportunity without him.
“Hard to understand
What a hell of a man
This cat of the slum
Had a mind, wasn’t dumb
But a weakness was shown
’Cause his hustle was wrong
His mind was his own
But the man lived alone”
The sight of Gonzalez waiting to be escorted to the hospital was sad, and a tad invasive, but ultimately addicting, especially when trying to think of what was going on inside his head. Clearly he was pondering something but what could it be?
God is always part of the conversation, when speaking with Gonzalez, and the same goes for Nicaragua. Family is something that drives all fighters, so surely he could be thinking of them too. Seeing as how he’s 0-2 since his death, the memory of Obando is definitely still fresh. Doubt must linger in a fighter’s head, when losing convincingly for the first time, especially when it’s after a 12-year career. What he accomplished would be a positive thing to look back upon. After all, he was the only Nicaraguan ever to win four world titles in as many weight classes – an accomplishment that led him to the super flyweight class, and aimed at doing something his idol Alexis Arguello tried to do a final time, 34 years to the day. Should he have known, it would be a chilling thing to think about, in that moment, but fitting because seeing the great Chocolatito at his most vulnerable moment was eerie.
“The aim of his role
Was to move a lot of blow
Ask him his dream
What does it mean?
He wouldn’t know
‘Can’t be like the rest’
Is the most he’ll confess
But the time’s running out
And there’s no happiness”
All lyrics from Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” (1972)