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Cuadras vs Gonzalez: Fight preview and analysis

Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez looks to win a world title in a fourth weight class when he faces Carlos Cuadras on HBO.

Chris Farina/K2 Promotions
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

A fight flying somewhat under the radar this week -- and in general, really — is coming up this Saturday night on HBO (10 pm ET), and features the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport stepping up in weight to try and win a world title in a third weight class.

Here’s a look at the fight.

Carlos Cuadras vs Roman Gonzalez

Carlos Cuadras

HUBLOT And Floyd Mayweather Jr.: The Perfect Combination For The Fight Of The Century Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images for HUBLOT

Record: 35-0-1 (27 KO) ... Streak: W5 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-0-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’4" / 66" ... Age: 28

Thoughts: Carlos Cuadras may not be the most well-known fighter, but the Méxican super flyweight titleholder is no slouch, and is not, on paper, any pushover for his highly-regarded opponent.

It’s not hard to make an argument that Cuadras is the best super flyweight in boxing today. I personally would go with Japan’s Naoya Inoue, but Cuadras is the only other choice that really makes sense. He’s held the WBC 115-pound title since May 31, 2014, when he beat Wikasil Wangek. His first defense four months later was the only blemish on his pro record, a technical draw with Jose Salgado in a fight that was cut short in the fourth round. Cuadras was up on each card when the fight was stopped, but that’s not a “go to the scorecards” situation in México.

The best win of Cuadras’ eight-year came in 2015, when he routed Panama’s Luis Concepcion over 12 rounds in a successful title defense. Concepcion, it’s worth noting, just beat Kohei Kono in Tokyo to win the WBA title.

Now, look, Gonzalez is a big step up in talent of opposition, but Cuadras is the defending titleholder here, the slightly bigger man, and has never lost a professional fight. He’s a young veteran and has been in world title fights for a couple years now. This is his biggest exposure, certainly, but another way of looking at that is it’s his biggest chance.

Roman Gonzalez

Roman Gonzalez v McWilliams Arroyo Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Record: 45-0 (38 KO) ... Streak: W45 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'3" / 64" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: “Chocolatito” is generally regarded as the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer right now, and I’m in the camp that agrees with that notion, even considering some of the other great fighters out there at the moment. In all reality, even if Floyd Mayweather were still active, I think I’d have Gonzalez ahead of him at this stage, but that would be a more controversial pick. “But Floyd hasn’t lost!” some might say. Yeah, well, Gonzalez hasn’t struggled with a Marcos Maidana, either.

But that’s a whole other discussion, and mostly one inside my own head with imaginary naysayers. And it’s irrelevant, anyway. Even Mayweather has said he thinks Gonzalez has to be considered the best in the sport now that he’s stepped away.

At 29, Gonzalez is still in what should be his prime, and though the smaller weight classes don’t age well, he’s not taken a ton of punishment in his career or anything, and there’s been no sign whatsoever that he’s slowing down. This will also be his first-ever HBO main event — he’s been featured on the network twice, and once on pay-per-view, every time paired with Gennady Golovkin. Folks started calling them Big Drama Show and Little Drama Show. They were a great TV pairing. Even though they both pretty much dominated opponents, they did so in entertaining fashion, and to date, still do.

Golovkin does fight on Saturday, but in London. So it’s on Gonzalez to draw the crowd at The Forum in Inglewood, California, where he has been easily accepted by the crowds for his fights in May 2015 and April of this year.

The danger for Gonzalez here is simple: every fighter, no matter how good, has a limit in how far up they can move in weight. Gonzalez wasn’t really big for 108 and wasn’t big for 112, and he’s not going to be big at 115. Trying to imagine him, at 5’3” with a 64-inch reach, potentially competing at bantamweight is tough. Next to the 5’7” Shinsuke Yamanaka, Gonzalez is tiny, and would be giving up six inches in reach.

This isn’t bantamweight, though, and the good news is that Cuadras is only slightly bigger physically than Gonzalez — an inch of height, two in reach. Gonzalez, despite not being the defending titleholder, will be the favorite in this fight, and he’s earned that. Even considering how bogus most boxing titles are in modern times, to win a world title in four weight classes is a big, big deal.

In fact, here’s a list of fighters who have done it: Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Durán, Pernell Whitaker, Oscar de la Hoya, Leo Gamez, Roy Jones Jr, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Erik Morales, Jorge Arce, Nonito Donaire, Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto, and Adrien Broner. Not all 15 of those guys are/were truly great fighters, but the majority of them, absolutely. Gonzalez is certainly closing in on being more in the “truly great” discussion than in the “Adrien Broner, Jorge Arce, etc.” discussion.

Matchup Grade: A-. There’s nothing I don’t like about this fight, really, and it deserves to be praised. It’s a challenge for Gonzalez, who could easily have stayed at 112 and fought someone else, or found a softer touch going up to 115. It’s a big chance for Cuadras, who’s going to want to prove that HE is one of the best in the world. It’s a must-see fight. Tune in on Saturday.

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