Something very special is happening on Saturday night in Carson, California…
Thanks to the collaboration of Salita Promotions, K2 Promotions, Teiken Promotions and Promociones Zanfer, the StubHub Center is hosting a triple-header of super flyweight action, involving two world championship fights and a WBC final eliminator.
With HBO airing this card the week before Golovkin vs Canelo, this mouth-watering spectacle acts as the perfect hors d’oeuvre for their showpiece event next Saturday as the two middleweights collide.
The Executive VP of HBO Sports, Peter Nelson, showed his delight in bringing these fights to the public on Saturday, in a weight class that rarely gets the attention it deserves. He told BoxingScene.com –
“I was thrilled to see it come together because they’re fights I’m excited to see and Tom Loeffler did an exceptional job in working hand-in-hand with a lot of different folks, in particular Fernando Beltran, Mr. Honda and other promoters involved on the show.”
With promotional conflicts and boxing politics often stunting the growth of such cards too often in boxing, Saturday’s card is a breath of fresh air in a sport which constantly needs re-vamping and fresh ideas being brought to the table.
Let’s take a closer look at the three headline fights on Saturday night’s card…
Wisaksil Wangek (aka Srisaket Sor Rungvisai) vs Roman Gonzalez – WBC world super flyweight title
After losing his strap and heralded ‘0’ in March to the busy, vicious and head-butt heavy Wisaksil Wangek, Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez gets the chance to avenge the solitary defeat on his record. Now standing at 46-1, the Nicaraguan pound-for-pound contender was upset by a controversial majority decision in Madison Square Garden, as the dream of eclipsing Rocky Marciano’s (now Floyd Mayweather’s) unbeaten record went up in smoke.
Although Gonzalez appeared to have done enough to get the decision in New York, the Thai 30-year-old reclaimed the belt he won back in 2015 in when he knocked out Jose Salgado in home territory.
With scorecards of 114-113, 114-113 and 113-113, there were immediate calls for a rematch in what turned out to be a bonafide ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate for 2017.
Now, fighting on the west coast, Gonzalez is looking to reclaim what he feels is rightfully his, as he looks to strengthen his footing within boxing’s pound-for-pound lists.
Talking at the press conference in June, Gonzalez made his intentions clear –
“I come here with a lot of hunger, a lot of hope to come back to Nicaragua with my championship. With my team, we’re going to work very hard and be ready to come back.”
After ‘Chocolatito’s’ father/trainer passed away suddenly before his last fight with Wangek, Sendai Tanaka of the Teiken Gym in Tokyo has been introduced as the 30-year-old’s new trainer, with an emphasis being placed on strength conditioning for the camp leading up to the rematch.
With this being Gonzalez’s fourth weight division after starting out at minimumweight in 2005, it has been widely speculated that the Nicaraguan has needed more time than expected to grow into this weight, with his loss to Wangek being only his second outing at 115lbs.
With a new trainer and more time at the weight, ‘Chocolatito’ should be able to put right the wrongs that hampered him in March, however with 47 fights under his belt Wangek will be relying on it being one step too far for the Nicaraguan.
The first meeting between these two was a firecracker, and with Gonzalez coming to California looking to make a statement, expect the former-champion to put the onus on Wangek earlier in the fight than he did in New York. Both of these guys can bang, but at 115lbs Gonzalez may need a couple of knockdowns to make sure of a victory, with his power not carrying the same bite as it did at the lower weights.
Juan Francisco Estrada vs Carlos Cuadras – WBC world super flyweight final eliminator
Two of Roman Gonzalez’s scalps (and one of Wangek’s) clash on the chief support to determine who is next in line to challenge for the ever-changing WBC strap.
Juan Francisco Estrada (35-2) and Carlos Cuadras (36-1-1) are both throwing their respective hats into the 115lbs ring and are looking to avenge their losses in the same breath.
With a win over David Carmona on the undercard of the last Gonzalez-Wangek card, Cuadras was expected to fight the winner this fall; with many expecting it to be Gonzalez. With Wangek’s upset delaying his chance for revenge, this final eliminator was put in place against the dangerous former WBA and WBO flyweight champion.
A seasoned title holder at 112lbs, Estrada is moving up in weight at the age of 27 and is looking to take advantage of the light being shone on the division by HBO.
At the original press conference, the Mexican has no doubts over his ability at super flyweight –
“I consider myself a real true warrior. A guy who comes to fight, a guy who can box, a guy that can do all things in the ring. I’m happy to be here because I know it’s the best super flyweights of the world. The show is going to be great just because of the quality of the fighters.”
With Gonzalez still the only man to beat Cuadras, ‘The Prince’ is determined to have his second bite (at the second bite) of the cherry after his rematch was delayed once more. Cuadras had this to say about his Mexican compatriot and challenger last month –
“I know it’s a tough fight, but I got his medicine right here with my right hand. When I heard I was going to fight ‘El Gallo’ Estrada, I got very excited because everyone knows I like to fight the best. I’m very excited to fight the best fighters in the world, and without a doubt, Estrada is one of them.”
This fight is all about range. Estrada has proven to be the better fighter in the pocket over his career, so if he can take the middle ground and force shots to the body of Cuadras this could be a long and bruising night for ‘The Prince’.
Cuadras’ jab is his main weapon and if he can keep ‘El Gallo’ at distance throughout the fight moving around the ring and creating sharp counter-angles this fight could go the way of the older man.
Styles make fights, and this Mexican standoff is one not to be missed on Saturday night, with a 12-round duel expected.
Naoya Inoue vs Antonio Nieves – WBO world super flyweight title
Unlike the other two fights on this ‘Superfly’ card, Inoue vs Nieves is more of a platform to showcase of one of boxing’s brightest shining stars, WBO super flyweight champion Naoya Inoue.
At 13-0 with 9 KOs, Japanese phenomenon Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue is making his US debut after claiming world titles at two weights in thirteen fights in Japan.
The Ring Magazine has him ranked as number one at 115lbs, and it is quickly becoming apparent why there is such a buzz around this 24-year-old, and with Inoue getting the television attention off the back of Gonzalez’ ascent up the lower weight classes these two are destined to be dance partners in the not too distant future.
With devastating power, ferocious body shots and quick footwork, Inoue looks comfortable at 115lbs, and with Wangek and Gonzalez reaching their maximum weight category, it is easy to see why the youngster is being tipped to clean up at super flyweight.
His opponent, Nieves, fights out of Cleveland, Ohio and is ranked at number seven by the WBO. Coming off the back of a SD loss to Nikolai Potapov this past March, Nieves is looking to bounce back with a crack at world honours.
With a record of 17-1-2, 9 KOs, ‘Carita’ which translates to ‘little face’ in English, was singing the praises of his Japanese opponent at the press conference –
“This is a great opportunity for me. He’s a great fighter and everyone is ready to see him. But September 9th I’m going to shock the world and upset it. It’s a great time to be on this card with all these fighters, and one day hopefully I get to mix it up with everyone on this stage.”
Inoue is already a huge star in Japan, however with HBO, Sky Sports, Canal Space and other huge broadcasters covering this show, it’s a chance for the 24-year-old to arrive with a bang on the world stage; which he is fully expected to do.
(Check out some of Naoya Inoue's biggest hits so far...)
The little guys rarely get a chance to star on the big screen and without the distraction of a 'bigger fight' nestled into the card to keep the casual fan happy, Saturday night in California is hopefully the start of things to come in the lower divisions.
With Kal Yafai and Jerwin Anzajas holding the WBA and IBF belts respectively, this division has numerous fights to be made in various locations around the world. Maybe the World Boxing Super Series (which also kicks off this weekend) missed a trick in not rooting for the little guy for once...
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