Mar 18, 2017
Dan RafaelESPN Senior Writer
- 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism
- ESPN.com boxing writer since 2005
- Five years at USA Today
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NEW YORK -- Blood poured down the face of junior bantamweight titlist Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez from cuts suffered because of head butts as he engaged in a brutal fight with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Although Gonzalez appeared to do enough to win a tremendous action fight, Sor Rungvisai reclaimed the title he once held by upset majority decision in the co-feature of the Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs middleweight world title fight.
Judges Glenn Feldman and Julie Lederman each scored the fight 114-113 for Sor Rungvisai and judge Waleska Roldan had it 113-113. ESPN.com scored the fight 117-109 for Gonzalez, who not only lost his belt in his first defense but surely will lose his wide recognition as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
"I'm a little dinged up," Gonzalez said through a translator. "I thought I won the fight. I want an immediate rematch. I want to get my title back."
Gonzalez (46-1, 38 KOs), who has won titles in four weight classes, was hoping to set up a rematch for later this year against mandatory challenger Carlos Cuadras, whom he defeated to win the title in September in one of the best fights of 2016. But that is also down the drain.
"I want to thank the fans in Thailand for sending me encouragement and I was able to do it because of all of their encouragement," an elated Sor Rungvisai said through a translator. "At this point, after winning this fight, I believe I can take on anyone, including a rematch with him. I have to admit he is a very good fighter and he would not give up."
The CompuBox punch statistics were heavily in favor of Gonzalez, who landed 441 of 1,013 punches (44 percent) while Sor Rungvisai connected on 284 of 940 (30 percent).
They began to slug midway through the first round, during which Sor Rungvisai landed a right hand to the body that dropped Gonzalez, a surprising development. It had been many years since the last time he had been knocked down.
The fight was a bruising battle as they continued to land hard punches on each other in the second round as the crowd cheered. Both fighters appeared rattled at times as they hurt each other to the head and body.
An accidental head butt in the third round opened a cut over Gonzalez's right eye. When the fight resumed Gonzalez, fighting without longtime trainer Arnulfo Obando, who died in November, dabbed at the cut with his glove as they continued to battle toe-to-toe in a violent fight. The blazing action continued in the fourth round as they rocked each other around the ring.
Gonzalez was rattled by another accidental head clash in the sixth round and Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 38 KOs), who won his 15th fight in a row since losing the belt by technical decision to Cuadras in 2014, was warned by referee Steve Willis to be careful. But Gonzalez had a huge seventh round as he blasted Sor Rungvisai, 30, repeatedly. But when Sor Rungvisai, who was boxing in the United States for the first time, head butted him again, Willis docked a point from him as Gonzalez, 29, stood in the neutral corner with blood streaming down his face from the cut he had suffered over his right eye.
By the late rounds, Gonzalez, despite the bright red blood flowing down his face, was rocking Sor Rungvisai with every shot. But he showed a tremendous chin as he sopped up every last blow.
They let it all hang out in a brutal 12th round in which they continued to try to destroy each other as the crowd went wild.
Cuadras outpoints Carmona
Former junior bantamweight world titleholder Cuadras, a mandatory challenger, maintained his position as he claimed a unanimous decision against Mexico City crosstown rival David Carmona in a snoozer. Two judges scored the fight 97-93 and one had it 96-94.
"He didn't want to fight," Cuadras said. "I had to force all of the action. I was dictating the fight and felt I gave the best punches. He didn't want to fight, didn't want to engage, it was very frustrating. I give myself a 6 out of 10. I want Chocolatito to win, I want to fight next, I want my belt back."
Cuadras (36-1-1, 27 KOs), 28, lost his 115-pound world title Gonzalez in September in one of the best fights of 2016 and will get another shot at the title later this year, but against Sor Rungvisai rather than Gonzalez because of the upset in the co-feature.
Cuadras didn't look sharp but moved in and out and fired jabs to the head and body to keep Carmona at bay for most of the fight. His speed advantage was evident as he put combinations together and deftly countered Carmona (20-4-5, 8 KOs).
In the seventh round, Cuadras was rattled by a low blow but given time to recover by referee Ron Lipton. Cuadras also emerged from the round with a small cut over his left eye.
Carmona, 25, who had twice lost junior bantamweight world title fights, came on a bit in the later rounds but had a hard time consistently finding the cagier Cuadras with clean punches.
"I won the fight," Carmona said. "I hurt him three or four times and he never hurt me. Cuadras was clowning around and I was fighting. The audience saw me as the winner and that is the most important result."
Cuadras, who initially won the belt from Sor Rungvisai in 2014, hoped to get an immediate rematch with Gonzalez, but when Gonzalez opted to instead face Sor Rungvisai first, he settled for a fight with Carmona and a chance to fight on the same card as Gonzalez.
Lightweight Ryan "Blue Chip" Martin (18-0, 11 KOs), who is considered a blue-chip prospect by many, took a step up in competition against Bryant "Pee Wee" Cruz (17-2, 8 KOs) and looked very good in a one-sided eighth-round knockout victory. He had spent the first five weeks of his training camp working with trainer Abel Sanchez in camp with Golovkin.
Martin, 24, who was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and fights out of Cleveland, spent most of the fight landing sharp punches with both hands against the smaller, slower Cruz, who showed resolve but had little to offer.
"He came out a little different than I expected so it took me a while to figure him out, but I'm very happy with my performance," Martin said. "I give myself an 8 out of 10. I'm ready for a top-10 fighter in the lightweight division. I want to be back in the ring as soon as possible, whenever my team tells me."
Martin had a big fifth round, nearly knocking Cruz, 27, of Port Chester, New York, down with a hard right hand and teeing off with a series of punches. It was a similar scene in the sixth round and seventh round when he trapped him on the ropes at times and unloaded. Finally, in the eighth round, with Cruz taking a beating and trapped in a corner referee Harvey Dock stepped in and waved it off 45 seconds into the round.
Hoping to set up a title shot against the winner of the Golovkin-Jacobs main event, former middleweight world titleholder Andy Lee returned from a 15-month layoff and easily outpointed KeAndrae Leatherwood.
Lee (35-3-1, 24 KOs) looked rusty but won easily against a Leatherwood (19-4-1, 12 KOs), 28, of Birmingham, Alabama, who threw very few punches. The judges had Lee winning 80-72, 79-73 and 78-74.
Lee, a 32-year-old southpaw from Ireland, was fighting for the first time since losing his 160-pound title by majority decision to England's Billy Joe Saunders in December 2015.
Lee purposely sat out all of 2016 in an effort to recharge his batteries and get over nagging injuries, hoping to return in 2017 to make another title run.
Heavyweight Matt McKinney (4-2-2, 1 KO), 35, of Oceanside, California, pulled the upset as he scored a majority decision win against Jay Carrigan-McFarlane (2-1, 2 KOs), 19, of Scotland. McKinney won the fight 39-37 on two scorecards and one judge had the fight 38-38.
Welterweight Sergey Bohachuk (3-0, 3 KOs), a 21-year-old from Ukraine, knocked out Yasmani Pedroso (1-2, 1 KO), 28, a Miami-based Cuba native, in the third round. Bohachuk, who is trained by Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez, dropped Pedroso twice in the third round, causing referee Ron Lipton to call off the bout after the second knockdown at 2 minutes 28 seconds.