In what has already been a fan-friendly 2017 boxing season, the very best show of the year has just been finalized and it takes place entirely in the 115-pound division.
A trio of super flyweight bouts floods a loaded September 9 HBO Boxing After Dark, with the aptly named "Superfly" show formally announced by the network and event handlers on Saturday. A venue has yet to be named, but the show will be topped by the anticipated rematch to the leading Fight of the Year candidate between recently crowned titlist Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and former four-division champ and pound-for-pound king Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez.
In supporting capacity come two bouts that can serve as headliners on their own separate shows. Unbeaten Japanese wunderkind Naoya Inoue makes his long-awaited U.S. debut as he faces Cleveland's Antonio Nieves, while former titlists Carlos Cuadras and Juan Francisco Estrada meet in a battle to determine the mandatory challenger for whomever prevails in the evening's main event between Sor Rungvisai and Gonzalez.
“We’re very excited to present this fantastic triple header featuring the top five super flyweights in the world,” said Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2 Promotions whom guides Gonzalez' amazing career. “With the great history of memorable bouts in the super flyweight combined with the extraordinary talents of these six fighters in these two world championship fights along with the world title eliminator, the fans will truly be the winners of this event.”
Gonzalez (46-1, 38KOs) began the year as the top-rated super flyweight in the world—the fourth division in which he obtained alphabet hardware—and atop most respectable pound-for-pound lists. However, he lost such lofty placements as well as his unbeaten record in a highly questionable 12-round decision defeat to Thailand's Sor Rungvisai this past March at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The night also marked the first time in his already amazing career in which Gonzalez hit the deck, as a body shot put him on the canvas in the opening round. It was part of 12 of the most furious rounds in recent memory, and a bout that remains alongside the 11-round heavyweight firefight between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko as very high among the best moments of already loaded year in boxing.
With the competitive nature and debatable outcome, came an easy decision to be made by the World Boxing Council (WBC) to sanction a rematch.
“I would like to thank WBC, HBO, and K2 promotion for this opportunity,” said Sor Rungvisai, who appears live on HBO's flagship network for the first time in his lengthy career. “I'm honored to share the ring again and defend the WBC Super Flyweight Title against Roman Gonzalez. He is a legend and the best fighter I have faced.
“I'm training hard to be the winner of this rematch. Boxing fans around the world will get to see another great fight between us, and I will win and take the WBC World Championship title back for everyone in Thailand."
Naturally, his highly motivated opponent has other ideas.
"I'm ready to go back into battle and reclaim by WBC Super Flyweight Championship from Sor Rungvisai on September 9,” said Gonzalez. “I know what I have to do to become victorious and with God's help I will be champion once again."
While both boxers were eager to enter a rematch, nothing in boxing is ever as easy in making a fight just because it makes sense.
In the WBC allowing the two to enter an immediate sequel, there came the agreement that the winner would be mandated to next face whomever claims the interim title between Cuadras and Estrada, both of whom are former champs who suffered competitive losses to Gonzalez.
Cuadras (36-1, 27KOs) served as a super flyweight titlist for more than three years, beginning with a technical decision win over Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 38KOs) in May '14. He made six successful defenses before running into Gonzalez last September, falling miserably behind early before rallying late only to come up short on the scorecards.
He's since returned to the win column, albeit in rare lackluster fashion as he surprisingly struggled in a 10-round decision victory over David Carmona in support of Sor Rungvisai-Gonzalez I this past March.
“I can't wait to get back in the ring on September 9 against Juan Estrada," states Cuadras. "He's a very tough fighter but I will be victorious and put on a show for the fans, then I want a fight with whoever is the champion 'Chocolatito' or Sor Rungvisai to get my belt back."
In order to return to the title picture, however, he will have to get past Estrada (34-2, 24KOs)—a former flyweight champ who is now keen on reclaiming his place among the very best boxers in the world.
It's been a strange rise to and fall from the elite level for Estrada, who landed on the radar in his competitive and gory loss to Gonzalez in their Nov. '12 thriller. The fight hardly defines his legacy, as he proved his full worth just one fight later in upending Brian Viioria to become a two-belt flyweight titlist. Five successful defenses followed, only for injuries and other out-of-the-ring issues to slow his career to a grind.
A triumphant ring return came last October, scoring a 10-round decision over Raymond Tabugon in firmly announcing his arrival as a super flyweight contender after having severed all ties with the flyweight division.
"Carlos Cuadras is a great Champion and we will have a great fight but he is just the first step towards me becoming the best super flyweight in the world," insists Estrada. "See you September 9."
Whereas he rated among the very best flyweights in the world, Estrada finds himself on the outside looking in given the top-heavy talent at super flyweight. Chief among them is Inoue, a world champion in two weight divisions after just eight pro fights and regarded as among the most gifted boxers in the world today.
Inoue (13-0, 11KOs) devoured two world titles in the span of three fights, all taking place in a brilliant 2014 that landed him top honors in the Fighter of the Year race according to BoxingScene.com (a decision in which this scribe was intimately involved during his time spent at that website). Unfortunately with such glory came hand injuries that resulted in a year-long ring absence but with his career firmly back on track as he heads into the sixth defense of his version of the 115-pound crown while appearing in the U.S. for the first time in his prodigious career.
"It's been my dream to fight in the United States and I'm very excited to be defending my title against Antonio Nieves on September 9," said Inoue. "I look forward to putting on a great performance for the fans."
A series of firsts also comes for his opponent, as Nieves makes his debut as an HBO fighter and title hopeful.
"I'm very excited to face Naoya Inoue for the WBO Super Flyweight Title on September 9,” said Nieves. "This is my first world title opportunity and I'm very grateful to HBO, Tom Loeffler and (manager) Tim VanNewhouse for making this possible."
Little thanks is necessary in the direction of HBO, who couldn't be more thrilled to play host to what on paper suggests is the most loaded show of the year.
"This all-action super flyweight tripleheader will have fight fans eagerly awaiting September 9th," says Peter Nelson, Executive Vice President of HBO Sports. "We applaud all six fighters for their willingness to lace up their gloves to face the very best."