[Now UPDATED with video of Nishioka-Gonzalez and Marquez-Mendoza.]
They are two of the more entertaining Mexican fighters of recent years, Rafael Marquez and Jhonny Gonzalez, and if they continued their career rehabilitations with wins Saturday night on TV Azteca, they were on a collision course. Marquez scored an early knockout in his long-awaited ring return, a good if not 100 percent conclusive answer to the questions about whether he remains one of the finest boxers on the planet. But Jhonny Gonzalez was the victim of an early knockout courtesy Toshiaki Nishioka, stunting a comeback that over a few fights had generated some nice momentum.
RAFAEL MARQUEZ – JOSE MENDOZA
TOSHIAKI NISHIOKA – JHONNY GONZALEZ
So that didn’t go well. Gonzalez, after two knockout losses in less than a year, had put together a nice little six-fight winning streak and gotten back to the alphabet title belt level. And it looked like the winning streak would continue early, as Gonzalez decked Nishioka with a straight right in the 1st round. He won the 2nd, too, working his jab, left hook and lead right. But in the 3rd, basically out of nowhere, Nishioka returned the favor with a straight right that sent Gonzalez crashing down hard. He tried to rise, and got to his feet at around 10, but was in no condition to continue, so the referee waved it off.
Nishioka, who’s not ranked in the top 10 by Ring magazine, was nonetheless no joke opponent, it must be said. He’d twice drawn with Veeraphol Sahaprom (and lost to him twice, to be sure) and this being my first look at him, he definitely had some skills — good defense, nice speed. But I wonder if this loss says more about Gonzalez than it does Nishioka. At 27, Gonzalez now has three knockout losses, two that came courtesy a single shot and a third that was the result of an accumulation of punches from Vazquez. He took less total punishment in those three losses than Marquez did in his Vazquez trilogy, but sometimes a boxer’s breaking point is different from another’s. I’d wondered after the Gerry Penalosa knockout whether Gonzalez was done, and I’m wondering even harder now.
As for Nishioka, I hope he doesn’t run off with his belt back to Japan, never to be seen again. Too many Japanese fighters stay at home, and it’s too bad, because it’s a country that has a lot of good ones, especially in the lower weight classes. Nishioka-Marquez makes a lot of sense for both men, because if Nishioka wants to keep fighting in North America, Marquez would be an opponent who could get him on U.S. television, and for Marquez, Nishioka is another good step up and test to see if he’s all the way back to where he was.