LOS ANGELES -- Flyweight contender McWilliams Arroyo got a world title opportunity in 2014, traveled to hostile territory in Thailand and came awfully close to wresting the belt from Amnat Ruenroeng.
Arroyo, a 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian and one of the top contenders in the division, scored a sixth-round knockdown but wound up losing a debatable split decision. Arroyo rebounded with a third-round knockout victory against Victor Ruiz last April and will fight for the first time in a year when he gets his second shot at a world title, this time against an opponent even more highly regarded than Ruenroeng.
Arroyo has the daunting task of facing world champion and pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez on Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET) at The Forum in Inglewood, California, in the co-feature to unified middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin (34-0, 31 KOs) making his 16th title defense, which comes against mandatory challenger Dominic Wade (18-0, 12 KOs).
“It’s an honor for me to have this opportunity. I have been training very hard,” Arroyo said. “I have to give the champion all of the credit. I have been working very hard, and I plan to get that title.”
The fact that Gonzalez (44-0, 38 KOs), 28, of Nicaragua, is regarded by most as the No. 1 fighter in boxing drives Arroyo even more than if he was only a champion.
“That motivates me more because I am in boxing to fight the best,” he said. “It has been my dream since I was a little kid, to fight on HBO and to fight the best in the world. Having thoughts that some think I can’t beat him motivates me even more. At the end of the day the best man will win.”
Arroyo (16-2, 14 KOs), 30, thought he won the fight in Thailand two years ago. It’s understandable. When a boxer loses a split decision in a fight in which he scored a knockdown in the opponent’s backyard, he would typically complain about the judges. But Arroyo accepted his defeat and is just anxious for his second shot.
“I know I had good moments in the ring [against Ruenroeng],” Arroyo said. “If we fought in a different territory, I know that it would have been different because he was holding throughout the fight and I couldn’t do a lot of things. But I don’t have any excuses. It is already by me. I am motivated to get a world title because that has always been my dream.
“I missed out on my first opportunity at a world title, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make it now. I know it’s going to be a hard fight, and the fans are going to be the ones to enjoy it.”
Defeating Gonzalez and winning the title would be a big accomplishment on its own, but there is even more meaning for Arroyo. His twin brother, McJoe Arroyo, holds a junior bantamweight world title, and McWilliams would like nothing more than to join him as owner of a title belt.
“[Winning] will be excellent,” he said. “It’s not only fighting the best in the world, but to be a champion at the same time as my twin brother will be a dream come true.”