Chocolatito: P4P Personified

By Ted Spoon on March 25, 2017
Chocolatito: P4P Personified
The Thai is owner of a style that spells pain for anyone at 115 lbs. (Photo: Courtesy)

For ten years and over three divisions he tore through quality opponents, achieving a KO percentage good enough to make any casual drool…

Many factors go into what we call greatness. In boxing we use the term ‘pound-for-pound’ to underline just how good a fighter is, to zoom out beyond world titles while keeping them the focus of the composition. The phrase came about in the 1800s when a bare-knuckle fighter by the name of Samuel ‘Dutch Sam’ Elias held his own and then some against men who outweighed him by several pounds, by margins that would be deemed freak shows today. Dominance and eye-popping talent are other indicators but it was and remains the purest form of greatest, of pound-for-pound kudos, to put ‘em up when at a natural disadvantage.

This past Saturday a fighter who began his career at 105 lbs. closed in on the resident tank at 115. Having fought mostly in Thailand many had not done their homework on Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. With calves like Manny Pacquiao and a well-muscled upper body he was clearly the bigger (small) man. His opponent, Nicaragua’s Roman Gonzalez, considered by many as the best pound-for-pounder today, was primed for battle. 

Those in the know were aware of the Thai’s assets — strength and power. Even so, as the bell dinged, when each combatant was at their freshest, the difference in strength was blatant. While Roman had his usual scout his opponent got off with thudding blows. Seeing how he nonchalantly walked Roman down this had nightmare written all over it. A minute later the Nicaraguan was taking the count. Hit with a right to the body, a replay would reveal simultaneous head contact.

It was the beginning of a trend.

To say these were intentional would be unfair but Srisaket does lead with the head. This propensity shot him in the foot against Mexican Carlos Cuadras in 2014 as he suffered a technical decision loss (and his WBC title) just as he was coming on. Here it worked a treat. Gonzalez was butted in the third, fourth, twice in the sixth, the seventh, at other stages I can’t recall, and the result was a bloody mask. Just as he was getting into his groove, as the combinations started to flow, the button-faced Nicaraguan was repeatedly sent to a neutral corner to look up and inspect the damage on the big screen. I can only imagine what pleasantries the late Lou Duva would have shouted at referee Steve Willis had he been in Roman’s corner. A point was taken in for it in the sixth — poor recompense for the handicap.

From the seventh onwards, at a stage most would agree the champ was ahead, things started to get gory. Delivering his blows with an idiosyncratic “Niesh!” Rungvisai more than played his part in this classic, however, reflecting on the incongruity between the punch stats (Roman is credited with landing 157 more) and the result you wonder what truth may lie in the theory of scoring blood.

A red-smeared face conveys struggling, and struggling conveys losing. Hard to see in a scrap like this but Roman blocked many shots. Problem was they still moved him, so on one hand his defence had done its job, but on the other it appeared he was getting bossed. Does one clean punch count more than five that knock you back? As ever, it comes down to taste. When he opened up Roman was his usual, creative self. He was not the only one with method in his attack though as Srisaket mixed it up well, tripling the left, leading with body hooks, doing things that are hard to read, and always with his feet planted. The Thai is owner of a style that spells pain for anyone at 115 lbs. — Japanese Monster included.

At the close of the eleventh Roman went back to his corner to have his cut pinched while a nasty slice on the head continued to leak down his neck. Plenty of blood had been lost at this point which is what made the next three minutes so memorable. Ding went the bell. Up stood the one called Chocolatito.

I thought the last round effort against Cuadras was impressive. To see Gonzalez wade into a war horse like Rungvisai was tremendous. Getting those famed combinations going again he was all heart, but more so than a display of courage persistence started to pay off — Rungvisai clinched, he jogged away — the pace was just starting to sicken. The smaller man was imposing his will. It was the epitome of the warrior spirit. As the final bell dinged the two men embraced. The Thai cracked a smile. Roman wore the same, sombre expression, one side painted red. I had it a draw. Were it not for the multiple butts I feel Gonzalez would have gotten into his groove more to edge it, officially that is.

I did not see a robbery.

And how could you begrudge Srisaket? Throwing almost 1000 punches himself he had certainly put the work in. To see him tear up as the WBC strap went around his blood-speckled torso you could only feel good for a fighter who used to forage dinner from garbage. He’d waited some time to get back the belt he dubiously lost against Cuadras, and it will take some effort to pry it from him. As two scores of 114-112 went to the Thai, overruling one of 113-113, Roman’s manager Carlos Blandon did his part in consoling before the ex-champ congratulated the new one.

What promised to be 47-0 now reads 46-1.

Unsurprisingly, this single blemish has opened the floodgates for criticism. Some were crass enough to bleat “Exposed!” On message boards and YouTube channels alike there seems to have been much pent-up energy regarding this lie HBO force-fed us about Roman Gonzalez being numero uno. Some begin their ‘break-downs’ with the disclaimer that they’re not too familiar with the wee divisions and then proceed to demonstrate that, but rather than pick out one of many porous arguments it may be easier to ask the naysayers a hypothetical…

If Vasyl Lomachenko was to go up to lightweight, become the top dog, and then go up another to lose a disputed decision against Ruslan Provodnikov, would you say the Ukrainian’s credentials were a myth?

“What are you talking about?” I’m sure the response would be.

Well, there is your equivalent.

Due to lack of exposure many are late to the party. Some were as late as last Saturday, perhaps expecting to see a mini Roy Jones. And therein lays another problem. So bound up is the concept of p4p with looking flash without breaking a sweat that many are on standby to tear down reputations if there are cuts and bruises along the way, as if the greatest victories in boxing were the ones in which there was no resistance. Some of the more savvy fans have voiced an opinion that would make the doubters short-circuit. This narrow loss has only underlined Roman’s stance as pound-for-pound #1.

One thing we are all in agreement with — the future is dangerous for the Nicaraguan. All the perks that came with having a bit of size — positioning opponents, rushing decisions — are gone at 115 lbs. What has been the foundation for his style is now defective. It’s similar to a long boxer giving up reach. Get resourceful or sink. Following the battle with Cuadras we knew defeat was a stronger possibility. It’s just a shame it came at this juncture, if only because owning a 49-0 or 50-0 record would have finally produced the coin he deserves.

Some newspapers mentioned Roman for the first time just to inform the boxing world that Mayweather’s record was now safe, but while numbers have of a hold over the uninformed in reality they are just that — numbers. Good indicators of success, poor indicators of greatness. The loftiest legacies in boxing are the ones with scars on them, those proud tokens of consistently fighting the best. And with there being so much bickering before pen meets paper, dictating, weight stipulations, “A-side/B-side” posturing, it only makes Roman’s exploits stand out in bolder relief.

For ten years and over three divisions he tore through quality opponents, achieving a KO percentage good enough to make any casual drool. Sadly the boxing world was asleep at the time. Now he is aiming to squeeze every last drop out of a prime that may already be over, at a weight that does not suit him, and in doing so we are getting an unfiltered display of pound-for-pound worth. No chest-beating, no cherry-picking, just one man swimming against the current.

As Roman made his way backstage a reporter was able to get a statement from the bloody ex-champ. It’s common for fighter’s to slip questions following a tough fight. They need time to lick their wounds, chew it over with family. Who wants to talk fighting after giving their all? Gonzalez went against the grain. We did not need another demonstration of the fight in this dog but we got it.

“I want an immediate rematch.”

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  1. tetumbo 11:50am, 03/28/2017

    “If Chocolatito were Mexicano he would be 47-0…” and if Cuadras were Nicaraguense (NOT Nicaraugano) he would be 37-0 (?). to paraphrase Richard Harris in “Unforgiven”.... a Mesican?….why not cheat a Mesican? “hometown advantage” be DAMNED.

  2. tuxtucis 12:53am, 03/27/2017

    At 115 Gonzalez had lost a fight and lost a fight, simply judges were twice wrong to choose which fight the Nicaraguan had lost…Dear Irish Frankie Crawford, I don’t think is a mattyer of Mexico, cause i think Chocolatito had (narrowly) lost vs Cuadras and (clearly) won vs Rungvisai.

  3. Captain MAGA 09:15am, 03/26/2017

    Lucas McCain..Interesting take on #49. You would have thought that Marciano would have gone for fitty, just to round things off.  Been playing 1212 for a straight on the Cash 4 for years with no luck. Damn numbers probably came in the day I didn’t play them.

  4. Joe G (r.i.p. Alexis Arguello) 08:12am, 03/26/2017

    @Irish….. You are right on brother. Damn near scalped him with his forehead. I never comment on here… just watch close from the shadows and I rarely disagree with Irish when it comes to boxing. I just do not pay attention to all of the political and racial jargon that gets thrown around. Just here out of appreciation of a sport and man that saved my life.

  5. Joe G (r.i.p. Alexis Arguello) 08:05am, 03/26/2017

    @Ted Spoon…. Thank you for such a well written article. To say the least I am still devastated over that loss but that kid deserves NOTHING but the best in life and in a sport full of extremely poor ambassadors. The Alexis Arguello legacy will never die and neither will Roman’s, it is needed in the world we live in. A freaking warrior for 12 rounds and a beautiful human being before and after.

  6. Lucas McCain 08:00am, 03/26/2017

    Good skeptical attitude, Captain.  “Pound for pound” ratings are also hype, but they sure do bring in journalistic ink and ratings.  I think 49 is appealing may be because it is hard to reach but not unreachable.  More recent top fighters (with a few exceptions like Duran) don’t fight as often as guys like Archie Moore, Ray Robinson, etc.  used to, and 49 seem tantalizing.  49 may even be have an unconscious appeal:  the number, by stopping short of a nice, round multiple of 10, has a rough-hewn, real-world quality to it, but under the surface is the hint of “good luck”: 49 is lucky 7 squared.  (I’m not a numerologist, but doodling doesn’t hurt in such instances.)

  7. Captain MAGA 05:58am, 03/26/2017

    @Lennon Wards… I hear ya. I don’t know who decided that 49-0 is an official record of some sort. I get giving Marciano praise for retiring undefeated, but how is his 49-0 some sort of “record.”

  8. Lennon Wards 07:06pm, 03/25/2017

    @Captain Maga
    49-0 is really overrated. Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr was 89-0 before his first loss.

  9. Lennon Wards 06:13pm, 03/25/2017

    Chocolatito is overrated. He is slow and I always thought any fast fighter will outbox him. It should be accepted that he lost against the Thai.

  10. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:21am, 03/25/2017

    If Chocolatito were Mexicano he would be 47-0….but to paraphrase Richard Harris in “Unforgiven”.... a Nicaraugano….why not cheat a Nicaraugano!

  11. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:36am, 03/25/2017

    Great writing here but like other top tier writers on….wrong bottom line…..Sungvisai head butted the shit out of Chocolatito and he still won….period! But for the head butts and the resulting smeary mess Gonzalez would have outlanded him by at least 200 or more punches! The judges scored blood   yes they did! It’s called stupid ass human nature!

  12. Captain MAGA 07:47am, 03/25/2017

    “Good indicators of success, poor indicators of greatness.” WELL SAID and spot on. I won’t deny Marciano or Floyd’s greatness, but that 49-0 thing has to be the most overrated “record” in sports.

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