Flyweight Action

By Matt McGrain on May 26, 2013
Flyweight Action
Roman Gonzalez returned to old habits against 31-11-2 journeyman Ronald Barrera.

In addition to the sensational European action witnessed in London this weekend, South America delivered its own share of thrills and spills at flyweight.

First up was the seemingly perennially undermatched Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez who returned fresh from his defeat of Juan Francisco Estrada last November for a non-title fight in his native Nicaragua. Estrada was a break from the norm for Gonzalez. Chocolatito had spent much of the previous two years defending against opposition far below his class and although his close decision win against an opponent who has since battered Brian Viloria out of a strap looks excellent in retrospect, Roman’s tangling with him was less to do with his quality and more to do with his reputation, which was almost non-existent. That Gonzalez was able to beat the unexpectedly brilliant Estrada is testimony to his skill—there are few more talented fighters in the world at any weight.

And weight was the pertinent issue this weekend as Gonzalez returned to old habits against 31-11-2 journeyman Ronald Barrera but whet the appetite of those who have an interest in the lower weight divisions scaling 116 lbs., a career heaviest. Barrera weighed the same making this, technically, a bantamweight contest although Gonzalez is in reality testing the water at flyweight— a rematch with Juan Estrada is now the only fight approaching marquee below 118 lbs. without getting on a plane to Japan, something he has done before and may do again. That being the case, the Nicaraguan has to know how this extra weight will affect him. Neither he nor a partisan crowd will have been disappointed.

Barrera, slow of both hand and foot, presented a meaty target for a sprightly Gonzalez who had no problem maintaining the consistency of movement and punching that makes him one of the best in the business. Demonstrating his usual combination of fluidity on offense and responsibility on technically sound defense, he herded his overmatched opponent around the ring with one of boxing’s best body attacks, relishing Barrera’s tired insistence upon remaining in the pocket and repeatedly dialing in a left uppercut in the third round that left his opponent badly diminished for a one-sided fourth before dropping him with a surging flurry in the fifth. Seconds later the referee was prompted to step in to protect a brave but suffering opponent and Gonzalez had moved to 35-0 with 29 KOs, an occasional struggle to control his ostensibly larger opponent with physical strength alone the only minor concern to what is the mouth-watering prospect of Gonzalez matching the best at flyweight—Estrada, Akiri Yaegashi and Toshiyuki Igarashi amongst the men most likely to test him.

One up, at super-flyweight, is Omar Narvaez. The chances of Narvaez and Gonzalez actually meeting seem near to zero, both men given to the habit of meeting weaker opposition at home. Narvaez did stick his neck out this weekend however, meeting 27-1 puncher Felipe Orucuta in his native Argentina, for the latest in a litany of defenses that stretches all the way back to 2002. Now defending a super-flyweight strap, he is most famous in his home country for his run at flyweight and elsewhere for his somehow brave non-effort in his one-sided 2011 loss to Nonito Donaire. Donaire aside, the much taller Orucuta, out of Mexico, was perhaps his toughest ever opponent and it showed. Narvaez, both the older and the smaller man, fought a roughshod, foraging fight, the type of guerrilla warfare that perhaps only a veteran of his years could have pulled off.  Whether he did so in real terms is debatable, I had it to Orucuta by 115-113 and this seems an unusually narrow card; many had it to the visiting fighter by distance. The judges, though, found for Narvaez by scores of 115-113, 115-113 and 110-118.

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Roman Gonzalez vs Ronald Barrera (1/2)

Roman Gonzalez vs Ronald Barrera (2/2)

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