Two Wars, One Weekend (It’s THIS Weekend)

By Matt McGrain on September 2, 2014
Two Wars, One Weekend (It’s THIS Weekend)
There’s just no way for the fans to lose this weekend. Unless they don’t bother to watch.

When I was told Joe Frazier had liver cancer the first words out of my mouth were “don’t be surprised if he beats it…”

Simply put, Roman Gonzalez (39-0) is one of the four or five best fighters on the planet right now. He’s better than Danny Garcia, he’s better than Wladimir Klitschko, he’s better than Carl Froch, he’s better than Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez, and with a hook in my ear and Joe Frazier on my chest, I’d probably say he’s better than what remains of the great Manny Pacquiao.

Joe Frazier. When I was told he had liver cancer the first words out of my mouth were “don’t be surprised if he beats it,” death, counting ten over that old savage, better keep his guard high. Scythe is no good at that kind of range.

We haven’t replaced him and we probably never will, but there are descendants. Akira Yaegashi (20-3) is one of them. He takes too many steps back to form a part of an unbroken line, pitdog to pitdog, and he throws too many right hands to be really like him, but there he is, coming in low, digging to the body, an angry looking fighter. He’s a flyweight, so his feet are faster and he has a bounce, a bounce that sometimes breaks from the half tumble that halts the surge that the winging overhand right he’s just thrown induced as it whistled past some terrified opponent’s right ear.

This is the guy that wants to make a dummy out of me for and my grand pronouncements concerning the relative merits of Roman Gonzalez to stuck-on hall-of-fame first-ballot certainties Manny Paquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez; this savage Japanese, a fighter I personally rank among the first ten pound-for-pound only a few steps behind Gonzalez, who wants to laugh in my face and make my stubborn insistence that even as he has begun to move into boxing’s wider consciousness, Gonzalez is still underrated redundant.

Fortunately for me my reputation is non-existent, or I perhaps wouldn’t be sleeping so well at night.

Yaegeshi will dip that menacing head to the task of proving me wrong this Friday in Tokyo and there is a very real very beautiful possibility that it will be the fight of the year and the fight of the decade, but twenty-four hours later it may be usurped from that position seven thousand miles away in Mexico City. Lurking there is a Mexican warrior who does not need to be qualified in his comparisons to Joe Frazier – he is more aggressive, more savage, more untethered from the civility of the modern world than Frazier ever was. Frazier training Yaegashi would have left him alone maybe – there might be just enough violence in the Japanese to keep from Frazier’s lips the cry, “On his chest!” Maybe. Giovani Segura (32-3-1)? If I could spend just an hour with Smokin’ Joe and pick his brain I might choose not Muhammad Ali or George Foreman or what went wrong with Joe Frazier Junior for our discussions but instead might talk to him about El Guerrero Azteca. Segura is a fucking crazy person, you see.

He don’t take backwards steps. He don’t make provision for the opponent. He’s not interested in what’s coming back at him unless it starts to slow him down appreciably. He’s an iron-train running on a swarmer’s rail straight out of hell and into the ring to do one thing: seek and destroy.

He shouldn’t work and sometimes he doesn’t, he didn’t against a peaking Brian Viloria, he didn’t against Edgar Sosa, and that’s because he does too much that’s wrong; he’s open, he’s square, he follows a guy around the ring, his footwork is just a function to get him in range, but he’s also destructive, and rough, superbly conditioned, powered by a heart that is three parts titanium and one part hate. He’s also the only flyweight in action this weekend that doesn’t make my personal pound-for-pound top ten, but keep in mind – he was, once upon a time, almost universally recognized much as Gonzalez is today. He earned that status by twice blasting out the living legend that was Ivan Calderon. Sometimes Segura does work.

He worked against Hernan “Tyson” Marquez, and Marquez frankly looks to have been finished by the experience. Theirs was an exalted violence, the type that does tend to finish fighters, but not Segura; never Segura. While Marquez was hurt, Segura was just punching his card; he was at work – doing his thing. After stopping Marquez in the last round of last year’s fight of the year, he did take a bit of an easy one this April against Felipe Salguero who mixes in the world class but tends to come out on the wrong end when he does. Segura won almost every round and blasted him out in ten. He lives. He might even be bored. Because Segura has elected to take on countryman Juan Francisco Estrada (26-2), the nicest surprise the best division in boxing has had since Segura put Calderon out for glue.

Brian Viloria beat Segura as a part of one of this decade’s most underappreciated runs at the top, beating up Julio Cesar Miranda, Segura, settling his differences with the world-class Omar Nino Romero and then cracking Hernan Marquez in what seemed nothing less than a one-man demolition of what even then was one of boxing’s best divisions. Then he ran smack-bang into Estrada who just kicked the hell out of him. I mean it was a clear, concise, brilliant victory over a man I was rooting for with all my heart. The split decision flatters Viloria; Estrada all but outclassed him. 

This wasn’t a complete surprise to some because on the cards of many Estrada had run none other than Roman Gonzalez extremely close in his previous fight. I was not one of those people – my card read for Gonzalez, clear. But it was a superb fight, Estrada had seemed to legitimately extend the smaller Gonzalez and whispers began that the Nicaraguan might not have carried his best up to fly. Those whispers have stopped now that Estrada has gone on to hammer not only Viloria but also 29-0 Milan Melindo and 27-3-1 Richie Mepranum.

The feeling among boxing people is that Gonzalez and Estrada are the division’s two best, despite Yaegashi’s position as legitimate, lineal Champion. Both men face enormous tests this week and both men could fail. Gonzalez, Estrada and Yaegashi all reside on my own pound-for-pound top ten and if Segura gets his evil right he could upset any one of them. These are the four men who are going to be tearing up two boxing rings on opposite sides of the planet this weekend with the winners likely to meet for either some new and distinct flyweight voodoo or for a rematch of a fight considered by many to be a modern classic.

Note: those who want to tell you that “boxing is dying” and those that want to tell you “the best don’t fight the best no more” are both talking out of the same orifice.  And it’s not their mouths.

Who will emerge from these two huge confrontations with the win? The smart money is going to be on Estrada to outgun his older, slower, shorter opponent but Segura works with black magic. It wouldn’t be at all unlike him to unknot Estrada’s knees just enough times to claw together seven rounds on two cards – that being said, Estrada looks every inch the consummate professional. With home advantage I think he’ll probably tattoo himself a close to comfortable decision beating out a rhythm on Segura’s body down the back straight to put himself in the box-seat for the winner of the Japanese showdown. A knockout would be a sensation. I think Segura is too tough.

And a showdown is what we are getting in Tokyo. Yaegashi was been disrespected in comparison to certain Japanese prospects and it’s only lately he’s come to be truly appreciated, to step out of the shadow of those anointed his betters without their having proved it – and it’s on now. Here is a man with reasons to win. Also, he’s got the grit and the guts to get right in Gonzalez’s face but his problem is that his favored stage – inside, the body, you take a step out I hit you in the head – is one that Gonzalez can dominate him on by my reckoning. Gonzalez, in his way, is every bit the master-technician that Guillermo Rigondeaux is – it’s just that there aren’t articles being churned out about what an injustice his underappreciation by fans is all week every week all over the internet because everyone just accepts that because he’s a flyweight, Gonzalez is going to make real money or claim real fame. 

Alright; if that’s the way it is, that’s the way it has to be. But those who miss out on that technical ability are missing out on a legitimate box-puncher who is comfortable at all ranges with all styles. I think he might be about to make a statement against Yaegashi, and I think it might be brutal. The Japanese has the discipline and mortal courage to put his body in harm’s way to execute whatever plan he and his people come up with but I just don’t think it will be enough. He’ll muscle his way to some rounds but box his way to none. That isn’t sustainable against a fighter of Roman Gonzalez’s quality. A stoppage win may become possible. It would be his sixth consecutive stoppage win since moving from light-flyweight late in 2012.

And if Yaegashi casts off the odds, it is hard to imagine a better fight than Yaegashi-Segura, unless it’s Yaegashi-Estrada. There’s just no way for the fans to lose.

Unless they don’t bother to watch.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Roman Gonzalez vs Juan Francisco Estrada, 17 noviembre 2012. Los Angeles, California, USA.

Akira Yaegashi - Liempetch Sor Veerapol

Giovani Segura vs. Hernán "Tyson" Márquez

Juan Francisco Gallito Estrada vs Brian Viloria TV Azteca Pelea Completa

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  1. Matt Mosley 05:52am, 09/06/2014

    Don, here is the link to the Gonzalez v Yaegashi fight:

  2. Koolz 01:51pm, 09/05/2014

    Oh man Gonzalez is a monster!  I am getting a GGG vibe!

  3. Koolz 03:15pm, 09/03/2014

    Roman Gonzalez I hope he get’s Knocked Out!
    I have been waiting all summer for this fight!
    Akira Yaegashi WAR!!!

  4. nicolas 10:31am, 09/03/2014

    If Gonzalez does win it will end one amazing run, and perhaps another one later. Since October 8 1984, the WBC FLYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP, has been held by a Asiatic fighter I use the term Asiatic because of Yuri Abachakov, The Russian fighter, was more Asian than European, who also held that title. in 1984, Sot Chitalad of Thailand defeated Gabriel Bernal of Mexico to win the WBC flyweight title. Bernal, ironically and sadly died this year at the all too young age of 58. Now hear is something more amazing, and I believe it is a record. On August 5th 1973, Betulio Gonzalez of Venezuela captured the vacant WBC flyweight title with a win over future WBC flyweight champ, and hall of fear Miguel Canto. From one Gonzalez to another Gonzalez some 41 years later. The Venezuelan Gonzalez captured the vacant WBC flyweight title, The Gonzalez who will fight tin Japan, if he wilns, may very likely later vacate that title. In between these two fighter, there has never been a fight for the vacant flyweight title, a remarkable run of now some 41 years, a record I believe. One could make the case of a run of greater run without a vacant title fight from Tony Canzoneri to Roberto Duran in the light weight division, but then officially not because of Sammy Angott. Some sport people might even suggest there was one from Floyd Patterson to Lennox Lewis, and that because of Muhammed Ali and his legendary status but of course, that is far more out of the question. the greatest fighter ever to hold a flyweight title, but not really the best flyweight of all time, Manny Pacquiao held the WBC title, but got stopped, and Yuri Arbachikov, remarkably beat every man he ever fought, but would lose his last fight, and title, and retire, Charchai Saskul of Thailand I believe.

  5. Don from Prov 06:04am, 09/03/2014

    Well, where can the fights be found????

    Are they PPV or only available through some obscure package?

  6. Jarrett 06:08pm, 09/02/2014

    Awesome!! I’ve been a lurking Chocolatito fan as I’ve seen his record climb and watch his recaps in awe. Beautiful boxing, BUT Yaegashi! His body shots give me such satisfaction! Thank you for this article, I needed the extra hype!

  7. Magoon 05:52am, 09/02/2014

    Too garbled.

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