I have a creed that I live by when watching and scoring a professional boxing bout. And that is, the only score that counts is the one tabulated while watching the fight live and in the moment when you have no idea how it will end. I feel if I’m going to be critical of the judges scoring the fight — and I have been on occasion over the years — then I better hold myself to the same criteria they are….one shot to get it right. The reason I say that is because I haven’t a doubt that if judges watched the same fight Sunday afternoon that they scored live Saturday night, it wouldn’t be an oddity that they’d alter their score on a few rounds.
Then there’s the case when you watch a fight live and are floored by the decision rendered at its conclusion — which drives you to go back and watch it over just to see if what you thought you saw as it was unfolding is close to the same the next day. And that is exactly what happened when I went back and watched the WBC super flyweight title bout between defending champ Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Thai challenger Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
On the night of the fight I thought Gonzalez clearly won and thought he was screwed when the decision was read. Two of the judges saw it 114-112 in favor of Rungvisai and the third had it 113-113. On the night of the fight I saw it 114-112 Gonzalez. So I went back and watched it again. This time I would give Rungvisai the benefit of every doubt just to be fair. And to my surprise I saw the same fight, only Chocolatito looked even better from a boxing purist perspective.
Gonzalez exhibited extreme boxing skill throughout. Even the knockdown wasn’t that big of a deal. It was partially a balance shot – it’s not like Gonzalez was even hurt. For a majority of the fight Gonzalez exhibited elite ring generalship with his transitioning from offense to defense, moving in and out of position to both defend and attack….reloading and landing two and three clean punches in succession. In addition — aside from the “accidental on purpose” head butts from Rungvisai in round six, an attempt to stabilize the tide that was getting away from him — Gonzalez made him miss quite a bit and parried and blocked many of his shots with his arms, before getting head butted again.
The blood that streamed down Gonzalez’s face during the fight must have weighed heavily on the judges. Yes, Rungvisai landed some nice body shots, but they were usually met with crisp clean counters by Gonzalez who had success working both the head and body. There were patches in which Rungvisai was the aggressor and moving Gonzalez back. What it seems the judges missed was how Gonzalez was leading him to do that so he could set him up for his counter assault, while catching him flush on the way in. Gonzalez’s blend of aggression and countering, once he found how strong Rungvisai was, worked nicely with only a few bumps here and there.
When breaking the fight down, nothing happened in the first round until Gonzalez was knocked down with a body shot as he was partially off balance. Clearly Rungvisai’s round, but not a typical 10-8 round due to the fact that neither fighter held an edge until the knockdown and Gonzalez wasn’t hurt a bit by the blow. The second round was close. Gonzalez owned the first two-thirds of the round, with Rungvisai making a little comeback during the last minute. I didn’t think it was enough then to seal the round for him nor did I think so when re-watching it. From rounds three through six, Gonzalez wins every aspect one fighter can over another without dropping him. During these rounds, aside from the attempted bullying tactics courtesy of Rungvisai, Gonzalez boxed smartly and clearly won those rounds.
Rungvisai won the seventh round which was devoid of action until he flurried down the stretch to seal it in his column. In the eighth round, Gonzalez clearly owned the first minute to minute and a half. Rungvisai made a little run but wasn’t nearly effective enough to win it. With two thirds of the fight in the rear view mirror, Gonzalez, as I thought on the night of the bout and again watching the tape, had a commanding 6-2 lead in rounds, and with the knockdown erased by the point deduction in the sixth, it translated into a four point lead.
Round nine is a tough round to score, not much happens but due to his work-rate, there’s a stronger case for Rungivsai. In rounds 10 and 11,Rungvisai fights with more urgency and it’s apparent that the strain of fighting the bigger and stronger opponent has sapped a little from Gonzalez. However, again, the blood flowing down the right side of Chocolatito’s face during the 11th round makes it look like he’s losing much worse than he is. In fact he stages a big rally during the last minute of the round but it’s not quite enough to offset the first two minutes of it. Going into the last round, giving Rungvisai the benefit of every close call, it’s 6-5 in rounds in favor of Gonzalez. In round 12, Gonzalez did what champions do; he closed the show by completely outworking and outboxing Rungvisai from start to finish and won it on all three judges’ cards.
The final tabulation while looking to make the case for Rungvisai is 7-5 in rounds or 114-112 on points. Granted, a two round difference doesn’t translate into a robbery in the mind of most, but Gonzalez clearly won at least seven of 12-rounds via his sophisticated boxing and landed the cleaner punches even in some of the rounds he lost.
I’m not one to put much credence in punch stats, but in addition to Gonzalez being the more effective puncher and technician, he was credited with out-landing Rungvisai 441-284 and held an edge in power punches 372-277. Power punches are every punch that isn’t a jab. Someone please make the case against a fighter who landed more punches and the harder punches throughout the bout – who also exhibited better form, landed his punches more cleanly, battled back from a knockdown along with fouling by his opponent, not winning the decision?
As stated, judges only get one shot to get it right. Sometimes a close bout looks different on tape the next day. But that’s not nearly the case regarding the Gonzalez-Rungvisai bout last month. It was the same fight on tape that I saw watching it live. Roman Gonzalez clearly won a closely contested toe-to-toe war with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. There’s no other way to slice it. Other than his blood from a head butt, Gonzalez bettered Rungvisai at almost every turn.
The only thing that stunk about such an action-packed fight was the decision. That was my sense on the night of the fight and confirmed when I re-watched it with the mindset of giving Rungvisai every benefit of the doubt.
As Thomas Hauser wrote, “Most members of the media (including this writer) thought that Gonzalez won the fight, many by a comfortable margin. The judges saw things differently, giving the nod to Rungvisai that elicited vociferous boos from the crowd.”
Was the decision favoring Rungvisai the worst decision in recent memory? It’s not on the level of the judge who scored Mayweather-Alvarez a draw, nor is it quite as bad as the decision favoring Timothy Bradley over Manny Pacquiao the first time they fought. But the wrong fighter won.
What a terrible injustice to a great fighter like Roman Gonzalez losing his undefeated record in a fight nearly everyone other than the judges felt he clearly won! And now the WBC has ordered a rematch, which tells us that the honchos of that organization also feel that Gonzalez was robbed. Chocolatito will have to beat Rungvisai twice to earn a win over him.
Photo credit: Tom Hogan / K2 Promotions
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail