CARSON, Calif. — When Srisaket Sor Rungvisai edged Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez by majority decision March 18 in New York, it was a very controversial decision, with most believing Gonzalez was the rightful winner.
But Sor Rungvisai got the nod, claimed a junior bantamweight world title and took Gonzalez’s undefeated record and status as boxing’s pound-for-pound king in a bloody fight of the year contender.
Junior bantamweight world titleholder Naoya Inoue had an impressive U.S. debut, stopping Antonio Nieves at the end of Round 6 in a dominant performance Saturday night.
When they met in a rematch Saturday night, however, Sor Rungvisai left zero doubt as he scored a massive one-punch knockout in the fourth round to retain the title before a sellout crowd of 7,418 at the StubHub Center.
“I trained very hard for four months,” Sor Rungvisai said through an interpreter. “I fought for Thailand, and this is what I dedicate this fight to, Thailand. For the first fight I only trained for two months. For this fight I trained for four months. I knew I was going to knock him out.”
Gonzalez, who was taken to the hospital as a precaution after the fight, had been down earlier in the round on a huge right hand and then was knocked out cold with another right moments later.
In the first encounter, Sor Rungvisai knocked Gonzalez down in the first round and went on to win by majority decision on scores of 114-112, 114-112 and 113-113 in a fight in which Gonzalez was cut severely by two accidental head butts and bled badly for most of the bout. But Gonzalez landed several powerful punches and nearly had Sor Rungvisai out in the 12th round.
In the rematch, however, Gonzalez never looked comfortable and did not show much.
Midway through the first round there was an accidental head butt, as had happened so often in the first fight. Gonzalez complained, and referee Tom Taylor warned Sor Rungvisai.
Sor Rungvisai and Gonzalez began to exchange, but it was Sor Rungvisai who was getting the better of the action. Gonzalez looked a little sloppy with his punches and also was clearly concerned about head butts, as he looked to Taylor again in the second round when he might have been grazed by a head butt.
In the third round, the action really picked up as they began to trade with abandon, harkening back to the wild action of the first fight, but again Sor Rungvisai appeared to be doing more damage.
In the fourth round, Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1, 39 KOs), 30, a one-time trash collector in Thailand, connected with a right hand that dropped Gonzalez hard, but he beat the count. Moments later, however, Sor Rungvisai, a southpaw, turned out the lights with another heavy right hand that flattened Gonzalez (46-2, 38 KOs), 30, a national hero in Nicaragua. Gonzalez appeared to be out cold in the center of the ring and was down for several minutes while receiving medical attention.
“We were both trading punches, but his were harder, and they landed harder,” said Gonzalez, who earned $600,000 to Sor Rungvisai’s $170,000. “I was very hurt the second time when I was knocked down, but I think I’ll be OK.”
At age 30, however, and having lost two fights in a row — and having engaged in several grueling slugfests — Gonzalez’s best days appear behind him. He won world titles in four weight divisions, from strawweight to junior bantamweight, and became the pound-for-pound No. 1. But Gonzalez, a disciple of the late, great Hall of Famer and Nicaraguan legend Alexis Arguello, appeared undersized in the 115-pound division. That, along with age, appeared to have caught up with him.
Promoter Tom Loeffler, however, said he thinks Gonzalez still has a future.
“I don’t think he’s done,” Loeffler said. “When you fight a guy like Srisaket, he took the opp of winning the lottery. He beat the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter and beat him in New York, and then he beat him more convincingly the second time. Now he has to be considered one of the best in the world. You saw Roman really packed the house, and Srisaket came into a hostile environment and proved he is a true champion. He has tremendous punching power.”
On the undercard, Juan Francisco Estrada narrowly outpointed Carlos Cuadras to become Sor Rungvisai’s mandatory challenger. In the co-feature, fellow junior bantamweight titlist Naoya Inoue retained his belt by dominant sixth-round knockout of Antonio Nieves. Both line up as high-profile opponents for Sor Rungvisai in bouts HBO would certainly be interested. Sor Rungvisai faced Gonzalez twice and said he has no concern about facing either of them.
“I will fight whoever,” Sor Rungvisai said. “I am not scared of anyone.”