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Roman Gonzalez vs. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on Golovkin-Jacobs card

By Dan Ambrose: WBC super flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez (46-0, 38 KOs) will be making his first defense of his title against #2 WBC Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (41-4-1, 38 KOs) on March 18 on the undercard of the middleweight title fight between Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs on HBO pay-per-view at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Gonzalez vs. Rungvisai will be the co-feature bout on the Golovkin-Jacobs card. This is not nearly as interesting a fight than a rematch between Gonzalez and Carlos Cuadras. I think more boxing fans want to see a second fight between those two guys than seeing Gonzalez fight the 30-year-old Rungvisai, who has an inflated resume of mostly weak opposition.

Rungvisai, who comes from Thailand, has only had three significant fights in his entire eight-year pro career. The only quality fighters that Rungvisai has faced thus far were Jose Salgado, Carlos Cuadras and Yota Sato. Cuadras had an easy time in beating Rungvisai by an eighth round technical decision in May 2014.

This fight will give Gonzalez, 29, a chance to recover from his grueling war with WBC World super flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras from last September. Gonzalez beat Cuadras by a 12 round unanimous decision to take his title, but it was a really tough match for “Chocolatito” in beating the younger, bigger and stronger fighter. Gonzalez might have had an easier time in beating Cuadras if he had focused more on boxing him instead of beating him with combination punching.

Cuadras didn’t have the engine to fight hard for the full three minutes of every round, which he lost the fight. While Cuadras tried to steal rounds with throwing flurries once or twice per round, Gonzalez was steadily bombing him with combinations. Cuadras got tired in the later rounds from being forced to fight hard, and Gonzalez was able to win the fight going away. Cuadras looked like he wasn’t accustomed to fighting hard. One reason for that is all of the many knockouts on Cuadras’ resume. He’s knocked most of his opponents out, which has kept him from developing the stamina that he needed for him to battle with Gonzalez for 12 hard rounds.

Rungvisai had a busy year in 2016 in fighting four times. However, two of his opponents were fighters making their pro debut and another one had a record of 3-5. The best fighter that Rungvisai fought in 2016 was journeyman Ical Tobida (12-19). For a fighter as accomplished as Rungvisai, it’s odd that he would be facing that level of opposition at his stage in his career. It’s hard to imagine one of the state athletic commissions sanctioning mismatches like these if they were to be held in the U.S.

It’s nice that Rungvisai has been busy fighting frequently, but it’s shocking that he’s been fighting guys that are making their pro debut. What does Rungvisai hope to get out of fighting guys with a 0-0 record? I don’t think it’s going to help Rungvisai when he gets inside the ring with Roman Gonzalez on March 18.

Also on the Golovkin vs. Jacobs card is World Boxing Organization cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (11-0, 10 KOs) making a defense against a still to be determined opponent. Usyk, 29, defeated Thabiso Mchunu by a 9th round knockout in his last fight on December 17 at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Usyk’s promoters want to turn him into a big star in the U.S the way that Golovkin has been turned into a star. Usyk has enough youth and time to become a big name in the U.S, but he just needs to stay busy and fight often so that the boxing public can see him. Usyk won his WBO title in 2016 in beating champion Krzysztof Glowacki by a 12 round unanimous decision. Usyk made it look easy in winning a one-sided fight.

Cotto’s promoter says Kirkland fight will be pure entertainment

Many of the fans in the boxing world are less than thrilled at the news of Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) fighting what is arguably a high level journeyman James Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs) in a catchweight fight at 153 pounds on February 25 on HBO pay-per-view at the Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, Texas. Cotto’s promoter Michael Yormark, the president of Roc Nation Sports, defends the choice of him facing the 32-year-old Kirkland by saying that it’s a fight that promises entertainment from start to finish. It’s true.

Kirkland will make the fight entertaining while it lasts, but it might not last more than two or three rounds before Cotto finishes him off. With boxing fans being asked to pay $49.95 for the Cotto-Kirkland fight on HBO pay-per-view, they want value for their money. In other words, they want top level fighters to face other top level guys when it comes to PPV. Kirkland is not ranked in the top 15 by any of the sanctioning bodies, and he’s been out of the ring for year and a half since being knocked out in the 3rd round by Saul Canelo Alvarez in May 2015.

When fans are asked to purchase a fight on PPV, they want to get value for their money. I think the fans would have preferred if Cotto and his Roc Nation Sports promoters had chosen a champion like IBF belt holder Jermall Charlo for HBO PPV rather than a guy that hasn’t won a fight in four years since 2013 in Kirkland. You have to hope that Cotto’s mismatch against Kirkland doesn’t hurt the pay-per-view industry for boxing, because it seems to have taken a hit since the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao dud from 2015.

“This fight is going to be all about entertainment,”> Yormark said. “We all know that this fight, with these two fighters, these guys are going come, and it’s going to be a brawl. It’s going to be action packed. People want to watch that, people want to see that live. Over 50 percent of the inventory in Dallas has already been sold for this fight with seven weeks left. That’s a real strong indication that people are excited about this match-up. We’ve got a great promoter and partner in Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. They are promoting this fight very aggressively, and again, to have over 50 percent of our inventory sold during the holidays is absolutely tremendous, and quite frankly, it’s exceeded our expectations.”

The Ford Center venue seats 12,000 boxing fans, so what Yormark appears to be saying is that 6,000 tickets have been sold for the fight. Even if the Cotto-Kirkland fight sells out the venue, it still doesn’t make it a great fight. It’s still essentially a match-up between an unranked fighter in Kirkland, who lost his last fight 1 ½ years ago, and who hasn’t won a fight since 2013. How do you justify putting a match like that on HBO PPV as the main event? That’s what is hard to understand.

Ultimately, the market will show whether Roc Nation Sports and Cotto made the right decision in choosing Kirkland as the opponent rather than a younger more relevant fighter like Jermall Charlo. If Cotto vs. Kirkland does good numbers on HBO PPV, then this could send a message to other promoters and to Roc Nation that they can continue to make matches like this in the future, and the boxing public will faithfully purchase the fights on PPV. But if it does poorly like a lot of fans think it will, then there needs to be some adjustments from the boxing promoters to make sure they’re making good fights for the main events of PPV cards. The undercards are usually a mixed bag for PPV events with some good matches, but many of them being poor mismatches.

Cotto has talked about wanting to fight three times in 2017. One of his fights will be a rematch against Saul Canelo Alvarez in 2017. It’s unclear who the other opponent will be before Cotto faces Canelo. Given the amount of money Cotto can make in the rematch with Canelo, it’s not likely that the opponent will be a good one. I think one of the reasons why Cotto is facing a lower level guy like Kirkland is because he doesn’t want to risk getting beaten and screw up his rematch against Canelo. If Cotto loses to someone, then Canelo will likely not bother fighting him again, because the interest from the boxing fans won’t be there.

Cotto’s trainer Freddie Roach appears to be still hung up on his loss to Canelo in his last fight in November 2015, because he’s still talking about that fight rather than letting it go and living with the loss. Roach thinks that Cotto should have won the Canelo fight.

Unfortunately, the three judges didn’t see it that way and neither did most of the boxing public. Moreover, Roach thinks that he would have made the difference if he’d been working the corner for Cotto in his 12 round decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2012. Cotto got tired in the last four rounds against Mayweather and ended up losing the fight. Roach wouldn’t have changed the outcome of that fight, because Mayweather had the better stamina. Mayweather was staying in the pocket a lot of the time in the first eight rounds against Cotto. However, from round 9, Mayweather started moving and boxing Cotto. Once Mayweather did that, Cotto was helpless and the fight became really one-sided. Roach wouldn’t have been able to change anything if he’d been in Cotto’s corner that night, because he was never going to beat Mayweather once he started moving.

“Obviously, I thought Miguel won his last fight,” said Roach. “A rematch would be great there. Miguel always tells me if I was in his corner when he fought Mayweather, we would have won. What’s next? Who knows? But right now we have a tough fight in front of us. And we’re getting ready for that fight. I did send my guys out a couple of times to work with Miguel in Puerto Rico just to keep him fresh. Miguel in just the past two days has been great. We dusted off the body bag. Body punches are hard. Yes, I peed blood last night. It’s good to be back to work and I am happy to have him back in the gym.”

Cotto lost to Mayweather and Canelo. The sooner Roach accepts that the better. Cotto is down to two to three fights in his career. I expect him to beat Kirkland, but then lose to Canelo a second time. Roach won’t be able to change the outcome of the second Canelo fight, because the fight will likely be lost with the huge weight advantage Canelo will have the night of the fight. Without a rehydration clause to keep Canelo from rehydrating to the mid-170s or even the 180s, Cotto has no chance of winning.

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