By Frank Lotierzo
“Gonzalez is relentless. He just won’t stop,” Cuadras said. “He never gets tired all night long. I felt I did enough to win the fight. I’m sure he’s never been hit like I hit him, but you have to respect him. He kept coming, and his defense was better than expected. He stopped shots with his arms and threw punches with those same arms.”
I hate to start a column with a quote, but former two-weight division title holder and undefeated prior to the bout Carlos Cuadras 35-1-1 (27) confirmed pretty much what I was watching from Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez 46-0 (38) this past September 10th. Gonzalez won a unanimous decision over Cuadras and was unrelenting as he attacked in waves throughout the bout. Although after moving up in weight for the fourth time to capture a title, it looks as if he’s hitting the wall regarding his punching power. (I know it’s only 10 pounds, but that’s a lot for the ultra-light fighters.)
Things weren’t easy for Gonzalez. His face was marked up pretty good after the fight, and quite honestly, I don’t think he ever really shook Cuadras to the point to where Cuadras was close to being in trouble. Part of what makes Gonzalez such a handful is that he’s great at cutting off the ring. His positioning, mostly on his lead leg, sets up his defense and ability to block and then get off successive combinations with a diverse shot selection. He’s extremely efficient and there’s a purpose for every move he makes. Today, Gonzalez is thought by many to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing.
Gonzalez has a pristine record of 16-0 (9) in title bouts and is regarded by many sophisticated observers as the second greatest fighter from Nicaragua behind Alexis Arguello 77-8 (62). Today, the ring terror who is best known as “Chocolatito” feels that his win over Cuadras avenges the two losses that the late Arguello, his mentor and friend, suffered at the hands of Aaron Pryor in Arguello’s quest for a fourth world title. This is no doubt a sincere gesture on Gonzalez’s part, however, anyone who knows anything worth knowing about boxing history, doesn’t hold the successive losses to Pryor against Alexis.
What has been lost over the years is that during the era when Arguello was in the hunt for the junior welterweight title, Sauol Mamby and LeRoy Haley held versions of it and were the next two best fighters after WBA title holder Aaron Pryor. Had Alexis fought either Mamby or Haley, he surely would’ve won a fourth title.
Mamby was a fundamentally good boxer with a terrific chin and if you weren’t anything close to being a special fighter, he’d win going away. That said, Sauol didn’t possess the legs or boxing skill to out-box Arguello. It’s plausible he might have gone the distance, but I don’t see him getting the edge in many rounds. As for Haley, he would’ve fought like hell, in much the same manner as Arguello victim Cornelius “Boza” Edwards, but due to his lack of big punch and his terrific chin, he would’ve endured a terrible beating before the referee intervened and stopped the one-sided shellacking. In the nicest way possible, Mamby and Haley would’ve been good tune-ups for Arguello.
Unfortunately for Alexis, he wanted to beat the best fighter at 140 the division has ever seen, and that was undoubtedly Aaron Pryor 31-0 (29). Having to fight Pryor is hard enough, but Arguello had the misfortune of confronting him on perhaps the best night of Pryor’s life the first time they crossed paths at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. Further compounding things for Alexis, who was clearly one of the most sound, proficient and efficient fighters ever, it was Aaron who held the style advantage.
Alexis was a classic boxer-puncher; hands high, elbows in and chin down. He threw perfectly placed straight punches and owned a devastating left hook. He was highly adept at cutting off the ring on boxer-movers, although that was the style that most troubled him. Pryor had very good and unpredictable lateral movement. He also had dynamite in his fast hands and threw punches in bunches. He was vulnerable to being knocked down because of his balance, but don’t mistake that for his chin being suspect because he took some of the best punches Arguello ever landed on any fighter and he roared back.
Aaron Pryor was one of the least conventional fighters you’ll ever see. Unlike Arguello, he did nothing by the book. And it was the style conundrum and Pryor’s physicality that was slightly too much for Alexis. Instead of fighting Mamby and taking the path of least resistance to win a fourth title, Arguello fought the best guy in the division who was also an all-time great, and was stopped in the 14th round when he was leading by three points on two of the three judges’ cards. The bout was declared Fight of the Decade (1980s) by The Ring magazine in 1990. Ten months later Arguello went at Pryor again and the rematch turned out to be an epic rerun of the first bout, only ending in the 10th round.
Looking back three decades later, Pryor just happened to be a little too big and strong for Arguello. Couple that with his style being the most troublesome for Alexis, and it just wasn’t meant to be. Lest we forget, had he fought Sauol Mamby or Leroy Haley he would have bagged that fourth title.
Again, Gonzalez’s gracious words for Arguello and wanting to avenge where Alexis hit the wall are no doubt heartfelt. However, with the proliferation of all the weight classes and titles today, had those same things been in play during the early 1980s, Alexis Arguello would’ve no doubt been the first four crown champ from Nicaragua! Gonzalez might turn out to be even greater than Arguello, but his fourth title doesn’t mean much in comparison to Alexis’s resume.
To Roman’s credit, he is always quick to point out that he will never be as good as Arguello. That’s something I’ll reserve an opinion on until “Chocolatito” has fought for the last time and is retired.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com