Boxing: Milan Melindo

'12 Days' wish list: Gonzalez-Estrada II

December, 16, 2013
Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco EstradaMarlene Marquez/www.Pound4Pound.comWho wouldn't want to watch Roman Gonzalez, right, battle Juan Francisco Estrada again?
In the spirit of the holidays, ESPN is celebrating the season with our own "12 Days" wish list of the fights we want to see most, regardless of promotional or other entanglements. Keep checking back over the coming days to see new fights revealed, discuss our choices or even suggest some of your own in the comments section or via Twitter using #ESPN12Days.

For the past two years, junior flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez has toiled below the radar as boxing's best-kept secret.

Despite being one of the sport's most devastating punchers and a fringe member on many pound-for-pound lists, Gonzalez (37-0, 31 KOs), 26, a native of Nicaragua, has had trouble crossing over. Competing in the second-smallest weight division hasn't helped matters. Neither has the pint-sized power puncher's inability to get time on American cable.

For many fight fans, their lone exposure to "El Chocolatito" on television -- despite airing on the somewhat obscure AWE Network (then known as Wealth TV) -- was a November 2012 slugfest against Mexico's Juan Francisco Estrada in Los Angeles. It marked just the third time in Gonzalez's career he had fought on American soil, but it was a fight those who stumbled across won't soon forget.

Not only has Gonzalez owned the junior flyweight division in recent years, he has scored knockouts in all four appearances during a recent run moonlighting at 112 pounds. But it was the exciting and ultra-aggressive Estrada, then just 22, who walked through the kind of punches that have finished nearly 84 percent of the fighters Gonzalez has faced.

The two sluggers combined for a fight of the year candidate, with Gonzalez hanging on to defend his 108-pound title by unanimous decision. Estrada, who was just the second fighter since 2009 to go the distance with Gonzalez, put forth a performance so enthralling that hard-core fans have been screaming for a rematch ever since.

Estrada, who had moved down in weight to challenge Gonzalez, returned to flyweight in April to take a pair of titles from Brian Viloria in an exciting split decision. He later defended his titles in July by cruising past unbeaten Milan Melindo in Macau.

With Estrada having clearly proved himself in 2013 as the class of the flyweight division and, at 23, a star in the making, there's no better time than now for Gonzalez, who has difficulty making 108 pounds, to move up and seek a rematch.

Considering the fighters' class, Estrada's exciting style and Gonzalez's rarefied punching power, a rematch would not only be intriguing, it's one that deserves to get prime-time placement on a major network.

Few fighters have had more of a roller-coaster career of late than Brian Viloria. In August 2006, Viloria -- a Hawaiian of Filipino descent -- had a 108-pound belt, an undefeated record through 19 fights, a strong and growing fan base, an exciting style in the ring and, in the form of the old "Hawaii Five-0" theme, the catchiest ring entrance music in the business.

Then he ran into Omar Nino Romero. Looking surprisingly flat and uninspired, Viloria struggled with his Mexican opponent, dropping a unanimous decision and losing his belt. Three months later, he and Romero fought to a majority draw that was later called a no-contest after Romero flunked a drug test. Viloria's old title was declared vacant, but in his third consecutive disappointing outing, he failed to win it back when he dropped a majority decision to Edgar Sosa in April 2007.

Two years later, "Hawaiian Punch" seemed reborn, capturing a belt with a late stoppage of Ulises Solis; and then just like that, it all looked over again after a 12th-round TKO loss to unheralded Carlos Tamara.

But now Viloria's career has entered a third act. He moved up to 112 pounds, won another title and, in his most recent outing, defended his belt in an impressive eighth-round stoppage of Giovani Segura. On Saturday, he will meet Romero for the third time, this time in Manila, in a bout that will be shown in the United States on Integrated Sports PPV. Should he finally dispatch his nemesis, plenty of interesting opponents await Viloria. Here are five:

Edgar Sosa (45-7, 27 KOs). Two years after defeating Viloria to annex a junior flyweight title, Sosa lost it inside two rounds to Rodel Mayol and was outpointed in his only subsequent title tilt by longtime champ Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. But Sosa remains a credible contender, and if Viloria can avenge his first defeat, what better way to show that this time he's for real than by reversing his second loss?

Hernan Marquez (33-2, 25 KOs). In's divisional rankings, Viloria is ranked No. 2 while fellow titlist Marquez is No. 1. Marquez's 2011 war with Luis Concepcion was fight of the year stuff. A unification clash with Viloria would almost guarantee action.

Sonny Boy Jaro (34-10-5, 24 KOs). Normally, Jaro wouldn't belong anywhere near this conversation, but after sending Wonjongkam to his first defeat since 1996, the journeyman suddenly finds himself holding a title belt. This could be a natural in the Philippines, and even though Viloria would be a big favorite, his habit of dropping fights he shouldn't could lend this an intriguing air.

Milan Melindo (26-0, 10 KOs). Another potentially attractive all-Filipino clash could see Viloria taking on the undefeated rising youngster. Melindo is the No. 1 ranked contender for Viloria's belt, so this match could be the most likely to be made.

Roman Gonzalez (32-0, 27 KOs). This is probably the least likely of Viloria's potential fights, with Gonzalez still campaigning at 108 pounds. But what a mouth-watering challenge it would be. "El Chocolatito" is one of boxing's best-kept secrets, a terrific young fighter with outstanding knockout power. A fight with the veteran Viloria could raise Gonzalez's profile in the United States overnight.