Nearly 34 years ago, Nicaraguan Alexis Arguello chased a then-unprecedented fourth divisional championship by challenging an outstanding champion in Aaron Pryor. The pair fought twice with Arguello losing twice by TKO, the first bout a classic and the second a lesser but still excellent scrap. On Saturday, Arguello's countryman Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez seeks to succeed where Arguello failed; if he dethrones WBC super flyweight titlist Carlos Cuadras, the second-best fighter in the division behind WBO king Naoya Inoue, Gonzalez could be on his way to dethroning Arguello as his nation's greatest fighter.
Mystery Man: So who is Carlos Cuadras? He's the longest-tenured champion at 115 pounds and is making the seventh defense of the belt he won from Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in May 2014. At 27, he's at his physical peak. In the ring, he's a dual-directional mover who picks opponents apart with an excellent jab (33 thrown/8.8 connects per round and 27% accuracy in his last four fights) who has achieved 10 or more connects 20 times in his last 37 rounds. His work rate is excellent (a four-fight average of 74.5 per round and eight rounds of 100 or more blows in that span), his body attack robust (334 of 892 total connects in his last four) and his defense hard to penetrate (17% overall, 8% jabs, 24% power in his last four). His jab to the body is a softening-up weapon (it accounted for 77 of his 124 jab connects against Koki Eto and 14 of 31 landed jabs against Dixon Flores).
A potential weakness for Cuadras may be stamina; two fights ago, against Eto, he dominated the first eight rounds (197-60 overall, 93-13 jabs, 104-47 power) but in rounds 9-12 Cuadras' work rate dropped from 64.8 per round to 47.3 while Eto's accelerated from 75.6 to 79.8. Cuadras' leads shrunk to 69-62 in overall punches and 31-10 jabs but Eto prevailed 52-38 in power connects. In the final round alone, Cuadras (who went 6 of 37 to Eto's 9 of 72) was out-landed for the only time in the fight and was clearly running out the clock. To be fair, Cuadras' stamina issues were answered positively against Richie Mepranum as he averaged 102.1 punches per round to Mepranum's 39 and fired 99 punches in the eighth and final round. Finally, Gonzalez must watch out for Cuadras' head. The Mexican's only blemish was a head butt-induced technical draw and a butt opened a small cut over Cuadras' left eye against Mepranum.
Master Blaster: Gonzalez's offensive mastery is extraordinary. In his last 14 fights, he averaged 90.3 total punches thrown and 34.9 landed (No. 1 on CompuBox Categorical Leaders list in both categories). He's also No. 1 in both power punches thrown (69) and landed (29.8). He landed 38.6% of his total punches (No. 4, which is amazing considering how busy he is in the ring) and 43.2% of his power shots. Further, 85.4% of his landed punches are power shots. Due to his output, Chocolatito can be touched: opponents landed 20 punches per round, slightly above the weight class average of of 17.7, and 17 power shots per round (weight average: 13.3).
Against Arroyo, Gonzalez had some issues with weight but his only concession was his modest 11-of-58 start in round one. Otherwise, it was all systems go as he unleashed 1,132 punches -- an all-time record for CompuBox-tracked fights at flyweight -- and record the third-most overall connects (360) and landed power shots (311). His accuracy was down somewhat (32% overall, 12% jabs, 42% power) while Arroyo landed 27% overall and 31% power, but the result for Gonzalez was the same: a win.
Prediction: Cuadras is no joke and he's better than the 7-to-1 odds against him suggest. He jabs excellently (85% of Chocolato's landed punches are power shots, while Cuadras averages 8.8 landed jabs per round), fights intelligently, throws combinations fluidly and has largely dominated his competition. It will take a great fighter to dethrone him. Fortunately for Chocolatito, the Nicaraguan is a great fighter. He does everything Cuadras does and does it better, plus he's a genuine puncher who, like Arguello, has carried his power up the scale. Cuadras will force Gonzalez to extend himself but he'll have enough in the tool box to become Nicaragua's first four-division champion.