As the end of the year approaches, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on the network and HBO PPV in 2015. Here, they make their selections for the year's Breakthrough HBO Fighter.
Kieran Mulvaney: Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez
It seems almost silly to apply the word "breakthrough" to a three-division world champ, but for all the hollering of those who had seen the Nicaraguan on YouTube and various internet streams, the diminutive destroyer was unknown to many American fight fans until he annihilated Edgar Sosa in his HBO debut in May. One beating of Brian Viloria later, Chocolatito reigns supreme as the consensus number one fighter in the world.
Eric Raskin: Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez
It's not easy to "break through" when you come into the year as a top five pound-for-pounder who has already had more than 40 pro fights. But break through "Chocolatito" did, making his first two appearances on HBO and proving worthy of every last ounce of hype. First Gonzalez obliterated veteran Edgar Sosa in two rounds, and then he dissected the excellent Brian Viloria over nine rounds. And by the time the year was over, there was hardly a pound-for-pound list on the planet that didn't have his name atop it.
Nat Gottlieb: Viktor Postol
Who predicted that the light-hitting Viktor Postol would KO a fighter known as "The Machine?" No one saw this coming, but when Lucas Matthysse chose to stay down after getting dropped by Postol in round 10, it was clear Postol is a fighter to watch. The 140-pound division is brimming with talent and Postol needs to be respected as one of its best.
Oliver Goldstein: Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez
Not a breakthrough fighter, because a pretty damn accomplished fighter before this year, but this was still the year in which Roman Gonzalez announced himself on HBO's airwaves. And what an announcement, from a simply extraordinary fighter. While Gonzalez was a hot favorite against a pretty old Edgar Sosa this past May, his two-round blitzing was still something to see. Billed alongside Gennady Golovkin in October, GGG and Chocolatito should be the hottest ticket in boxing in 2016.
Diego Morilla: Luis Ortiz
Lately, the words "exciting Cuban fighter" are seldom found together in the same sentence, but that's what the hulking Luis Ortiz truly is: a heavyweight who moves like a middleweight and delivers a deadly two-fisted attack from a variety of angles and combinations that are rarely seen in any division. If he indeed was suffering from flu-like symptoms in the days leading to his recent destruction of Bryant Jennings, I cannot imagine how he would perform in his best form against the slow, plodding and vulnerable bunch that make up today's heavyweight top echelon. Victor Postol's unexpected demolition of Lucas Matthysse, and underrated Amnat Ruenroeng's domination of the slightly overhyped Zou Shiming come in at a close second in this category, but they'll both have their chances to take their act to the next level in 2016.
Harold Lederman: Felix Verdejo
Carlos Acevedo: Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez
Already an accomplished professional by the time he made his debut on HBO, Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez was introduced to the boxing mainstream when he steamrolled veteran Edgar Sosa in two rounds on the undercard of Golovkin-Monroe last May. When he battered talented Brian Viloria into defeat over nine bruising rounds a few months later, Gonzalez solidified his standing as one of the most exciting fighters in the world. Contrary to popular (mis)belief, Gonzalez fights nothing like his mentor and idol Alexis Arguello, who worked out of a classic stand-up style during his prime. Gonzalez, by contrast, is a two-fisted puncher who resembles a mini-cyclone in the ring. The 28-year-old Nicaraguan certainly learned two things from Arguello: the importance of an educated left and maintaining balance in the ring as often as possible. The future seems limitless for Gonzalez, who has racked up several electrifying performances since winning his first pro title in 2008. In 2015, his high-voltage style finally got the exposure it deserved.
Bob Canobbio, President and Founder of CompuBox: Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez
Roman Gonzalez, who was widely respected among hardcores but burst into the awareness of the masses with his electrifying knockouts of Edgar Sosa and Brian Viloria, vaulting him into the near-unanimous number one pound-for-pound spot in the wake of Floyd Mayweather's retirement. He's much more widely known now and is considered the first potential flyweight break-out star since the days of Carbajal and Chiquita.
Frank Della Femina: Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez
Can the Fighter of the Year also be the Breakthrough Fighter of the Year? Sure, why the hell not? Gotta give the nod to Chocolatito once again. If 2015 put him on the map then 2016 is going to cement him as a certifiable star. Can't. Wait.
Frank Miller: Luis Ortiz
Ortiz sneaks in here for his TKO victory over Bryant Jennings in late December. Ortiz showed power against Vidondo but the true breadth of his shots was shown after dropping a respected heavyweight in Jennings with a ferocious uppercut. Look out for more of this Cuban's power in 2016.
Michael Gluckstadt: Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez