Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Between them, the four fighters who will be appearing on HBO’s World Championship Boxing on Saturday night boast an incredible record of 114-2. Both of those losses appear on the ledger of McWilliams Arroyo, who is making a bid for the flyweight title of Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, and one of those was on points in just his fourth pro bout while the second was a highly disputed, and arguably hometown, decision against Thai flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng.
It is, in other words, at least on paper an immensely accomplished field, and one that might reasonably be expected to produce fireworks. Yet the considerable bulk of those wins are in the 78-0 combined record of Gonzalez and headliner Gennady Golovkin, many of them achieved against foes of greater distinction than Arroyo or Golovkin’s middleweight challenger Dominic Wade have faced. While it is possible that by the end of Saturday’s broadcast from The Forum in Inglewood, California, either Golovkin or Gonzalez – or both – will have suffered his first loss, it is not the most likely outcome.
This is not because either Arroyo or Wade are undeserving of their place in their spotlight. Arroyo, in particular, had an accomplished amateur career and is a more than capable contender; at this point in their respective careers, he might arguably be favored against Chocolatito’s most recent victim, the highly creditable Brian Viloria. Of Wade, a more recent arrival, there is less footage on which to base a judgment, but he did recently defeat an experienced and legendarily awkward former champ in Sam Soliman, and he is the mandatory challenger for one of Golovkin’s alphabet belts, however much that is worth.
Arroyo and Wade, in other words, would be perfectly acceptable title challengers – for other champions. Wade would probably lose to the likes of William Joppy and Keith Holmes - previous middleweight beltholders who, like him, hail from the nation’s capital – but he’d almost certainly give them a good fight. Arroyo, as mentioned, might beat Viloria and arguably already did defeat Ruenroeng.
But Golovkin and Gonzalez are made of special stuff. They are not mere beltholders; they are head and shoulders above others in their weight class (although Canelo Alvarez might have something to say about that in Golovkin’s case). Gonzalez is almost universally regarded, with the ostensible retirements of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, as the number one fighter in the world, pound-for-pound, right now, and such is his skill set he might well have seized that crown for himself by now even if they remained active. Golovkin is, by many counts, right behind him at number two; and as much as there are obvious differences between men whose fighting weights are 48 pounds apart, there are also commonalities among the reasons why both are so dominant, not least the fact that they both possess exquisite footwork that ensures they are frequently in the perfect position to torque devastating punches while preventing their wounded foe from escaping to a safer part of the ring.
Before a remarkable night in Tokyo in 1990 (and even for many years thereafter), boxing fans tuned into Mike Tyson fights, not in anticipation that he would lose, but with the expectation that he would not – that he would in fact win in devastating fashion. Much the same is now starting to happen with Golovkin – and, as his fame and reputation grows after two fights on HBO, Gonzalez. That is unlikely to be anything but enhanced by the time the two men have finished business on Saturday night. No matter how competitive, their outings are certain to be compelling.
Weights from Inglewood:
Gennady Golovkin: 159 lbs.
Dominic Wade: 159.6 lbs.
“Chocolatito” Gonzalez: 111.4 lbs.
McWilliams Arroyo: 111.6 lbs.