Dan Rafael: Roman Gonzalez
Over the course of two meetings, one on Dec. 1 in New York on the day the Austin Trout-Miguel Cotto fight and one on Dec. 8 in Las Vegas on the day of the Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao IV, members of the Boxing Writers Association of America met to finalize the ballot for the organization’s annual awards.
Over the next week or so, members will begin to receive their ballots, which are due back by Jan. 19. The winners will be honored at the annual BWAA awards dinner (public can purchase tickets). The date and location is not set, but it likely will take place around a major fight in the spring.
Here’s a look at who is on the ballot in each category:
• Fighter of the year: Nonito Donaire, Danny Garcia, Robert Guerrero, Juan Manuel Marquez and Brian Viloria.
• Fight of the year: Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado, Roman Gonzalez-Juan Francisco Estrada, Guerrero-Andre Berto, Orlando Salido-Juan Manuel Lopez II, Viloria-Hernan Marquez and Marquez-Manny Pacquiao IV.
• Trainer of the year: Nacho Beristain, Eric Brown, Robert Garcia, Ruben Guerrero, Virgil Hunter.
• Manager of the year: Luis DeCubas Jr., Cameron Dunkin, Frank Espinoza, Gary Gittelsohn, Al Haymon.
• Long and meritorious service to boxing: Bob Canobbio (CompuBox), promoter Lou DiBella, promoter Kathy Duva, referee Steve Smoger, Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler.
• Excellent in broadcast journalism: Bruce Beck (my broadcast partner at Epix), Max Kellerman (HBO), Tony Paige (WFAN radio), Bob Papa (HBO), Travis Pomposello (Epix executive producer), Dan Rafael (ESPN and Epix -- and honored to be nominated). Nominees in this category can only win once and it’s open to broadcasters, TV executives and production people.
• Good guy: Don Chargin (Hall of Fame promoter), Steve Farhood (Showtime), Norm Frauenheim (writer), Scott Ghertner (MGM and Mandalay Bay media relations), Wladimir Klitschko (heavyweight champ).
• Courage in overcoming adversity: Alfredo Angulo, Johnathon Banks, Danny Jacobs, Peter Quillin, Paul Williams.
That would be the flyweight unification bout between Brian Viloria and Hernan "Tyson" Marquez, who throw down on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
"It will be a great fight, a war," Marquez said. "Both of us come forward, so the results should be explosive. That is what we want to give: a great fight to the fans."
I couldn't agree with him more.
Thankfully, new boxing broadcaster WealthTV bought the rights to the fight and will air live coverage of the card beginning at 9 p.m. ET. It can also be seen on a live stream at www.wealthtv.com, which charges 99 cents per month to watch its fights.
WealthTV isn't widely available, but the network has been showing some good cards of late, including those headlined by Lucian Bute-Denis Grachev, Adonis Stevenson-Donovan George, David Price-Audley Harrison and others. The network also has a slew of upcoming shows, including the Dec. 14 card headlined by the return of former light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal, who will face Aleksy Kuziemsky.
Hawaii's Viloria (31-3, 18 KOs), who is Filipino, and Marquez (34-2, 25 KOs), of Mexico, will battle for 112-pound supremacy. I'm confident it will be an exciting fight and, as a bonus, Philippines versus Mexico has emerged as one of the best rivalries in boxing.
Viloria will be making the third defense of his belt, and Marquez, who is now trained by the red-hot Robert Garcia, will be defending his title for the third time.
"I feel physically and mentally like never before," Marquez said. "I'm desperate to stand before Viloria, give it all in the ring, and the victory will be mine. I have dreamed of confronting Viloria, and this fight will open new roads and big fights."
In the co-feature, junior flyweight titlist Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez (33-0, 28 KOs) of Nicaragua -- one of the best pure punchers in boxing -- will make his fifth defense, against Juan Francisco Estrada (22-1, 18 KOs) of Mexico. If Gonzalez wins, there is a good chance he'll move up in weight to challenge the winner of the main event.
"I would like Marquez to win, and I'm sure that I can knock him out, if that fight came to be," Gonzalez said. "I have the perfect style for him, but now is not the time to think about that. I'm focused on this Saturday night's fight."
Andre Ward's dominant knockout victory against Chad Dawson prompted major changes in the September pound-for-pound rankings.
I saw many comments -- good and bad -- from folks on Twitter and my Facebook page. Many asked why this guy or that guy wasn't in the top 20. The main reason certain fighters were excluded was quite simple -- they are talented but haven't yet had the kind of significant win to earn a spot, or haven't had any sort of longevity yet to make it.
It got me thinking about the future of the P4P list and who is on the cusp of breaking into the top 20. There are many fine fighters out there, but I came up with a list of 10 who, with the right fights and/or some more experience against better opponents, could soon find themselves ranked on the monthly list.
Here they are, listed in alphabetical order:
• Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs): Alvarez has massive star potential. The question is, can his résumé catch up to his current level of attraction? He has made five defenses of his junior middleweight belt, but they've all been against B- and C-level opponents, the shadow of Shane Mosley and the much-smaller Josesito Lopez. Alvarez has shined against them, but he needs to step up against a better grade of opponent to warrant inclusion.
• Adrien Broner (24-0, 20 KOs): He has a style similar to Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s, as well as similar potential. What he doesn't have are any wins against a significant opponent or any longevity with a title. He won a vacant junior lightweight belt against a nobody, made one defense (a one-sided blowout of decent opponent Eloy Perez) and then blew weight for a defense against Vicente Escobedo. He's moving up to lightweight and probably will face titlist Antonio DeMarco, whom I have ranked No. 1 at 135 pounds. If the fight happens and Broner beats DeMarco impressively, he's on his way.
• Daniel Geale (28-1, 15 KOs): He's coming off a big win -- albeit a very close one -- to Felix Sturm to unify a pair of alphabet middleweight belts. He won both of his belts by split decision in Germany (the first against Sebastian Sylvester), which had been unheard of until now. I'd say one more win against another titleholder or top-rated contender in the suddenly hot middleweight division ought to do the trick.
• Gennady Golovkin (24-0, 21 KOs): The middleweight titlist already seems likely to crack the list in the near future. He had a monster amateur career (Olympic silver winner to top it off) and has been ferocious as a pro. He has some solid B-level names on his record, such as Grzegorz Proksa and Kassim Ouma, although that's not enough to put him on the P4P list yet. But with a willingness to fight anyone and the skills to match, he should be there soon. Give him maybe three more fights against quality opponents.
• Roman Gonzalez (32-0, 27 KOs): He is already a two-division titlist and still only 25, but although the reigning junior flyweight titleholder has a stellar record and is one of the biggest punchers, pound for pound, he simply needs to fight a better grade of opponent. He has held a belt at either 105 or 108 pounds since 2008, but his competition hasn't matched his ability.
• Yoan Pablo Hernandez (27-1, 13 KOs): Hernandez was a tremendous amateur from the Cuban national team who defected and has won a cruiserweight title. He has all of the skills in the world, although he isn't always exciting to watch. That's got nothing to do with ability, though. With four solid victories in a row -- a Sept. 15 defense against talented Troy Ross, two against Steve Cunningham (although the first one was controversial) and a knockout of Steve Herelius -- Hernandez is right on the cusp of cracking the list.
• Erislandy Lara (17-1-1, 11 KOs): Lara, a former world amateur champion from the powerhouse Cuban national team, is on the verge of big things. His biggest fight was against Paul Williams, who had been a longtime pound-for-pound list stalwart. Lara got ripped off in a majority decision loss so horrible that New Jersey officials suspended the three judges assigned to the bout. Lara has fought twice since, crushing Ronald Hearns in one round and dominating Freddy Hernandez. He has another big test that will go a long way toward showing his pound-for-pound worth when he faces fellow top-10 154-pound contender Vanes Martirosyan Nov. 10 for the right to become Canelo Alvarez's mandatory challenger.
• Lucas Matthysse (32-2, 30 KOs): There are few offensive forces in boxing scarier than Matthysse, who usually blasts out his opponents. His two losses were controversial split decisions in the hometowns of quality opponents Devon Alexander and Zab Judah. Since the loss to Alexander in June 2011, Matthysse has looked superb against quality opponents, crushing Humberto Soto in five rounds in June and stopping Olusegun Ajose in the 10th round to win a vacant interim junior welterweight belt Sept. 8. A couple more showings like those against good opponents and Matthysse will crack the list.
• Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs): The former two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist is already one of the most skilled fighters in the world, and he has good two-fisted power to go with it. He makes everything look so easy in the ring. He crushed Rico Ramos in six rounds to win a belt in January and rolled in two defenses, a fifth-round knockout of Teon Kennedy in June and a lopsided decision against Robert Marroquin on Sept. 15. He is definitely on his way to pound-for-pound status. He just needs a few more similarly solid wins.
• Leo Santa Cruz (21-0-1, 12 KOs): Santa Cruz might be a bit of a long shot, but he has a chance because of his overwhelmingly aggressive style. He won a vacant bantamweight belt in June by throwing well over 1,000 punches in a dominant performance against Vusi Malinga, whom I viewed as a legitimate opponent. On Sept. 15, he crushed veteran former flyweight titlist Eric Morel in five one-sided rounds. With regular activity and a significant win or two, he could be right there. Santa Cruz is likely headed for junior featherweight after a November defense. Golden Boy is obviously positioning him to fight the winner of the Abner Mares-Anselmo Moreno fight. If it happens and Santa Cruz were to win, he'd probably find a place in the top 20.
Gonzalez, a former strawweight titlist and, pound for pound, one of the hardest punchers in boxing, will be making his fourth defense. Top Rank will also feature some of its prospects on the card, including Nigerian welterweight Wale "Lucky Boy" Omotoso (21-0, 18 KOs), Las Vegas junior lightweight Jesse Magdaleno (8-0, 5 KOs) and junior featherweight Gabino Saenz (6-0-1, 5 KOs) of Indio, Calif.