Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez steps inside the ring again today at Morongo Casino and this time faces Colombia’s Mauricio Pastrana.

Both are former world champions.

Gonzalez (37-6, 31 KOs) recently appeared in April and scored a quick knockout. But this time he faces bull-neck Pastrana (34-8-2, 22 KOs), who may be small, but he’s sturdy inside the ring. The first fight begins at 4:30 p.m. and is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Tecate.

The two former champions are at a crossroad. Since moving up several weight divisions the knockouts don’t come easy for Pastrana. Gonzalez wants another world title crack.

Last summer Gonzalez was the WBO bantamweight titleholder but lost to Filipino veteran Gerry Penalosa. He hasn’t recovered emotionally since that loss.

With those long arms, the Mexico City fighter carries tremendous wallop in both hands. He’s technically a good fighter but in his losses to Penalosa and to current WBC junior featherweight titleholder Israel Vazquez, he just got comfortable and ended up looking up at his conquerors when it was all over.

Man, he’s upset.

Pastrana, a former junior flyweight and flyweight world champion, now weighs 122 and gives up five inches in height to Gonzalez. Though he’s surely the underdog, he keeps surprising people. His last victim was Antonio Escalante, who is also on the same fight card.

Squat like a fireplug, Pastrana has the  power and experience to beat anyone who underestimates him. The first guy to underestimate him was Michael Carbajal, who lost the IBF junior flyweight title to Pastrana back in 1997. It was on the Oscar De La Hoya-Miguel Angel Gonzalez undercard and it was a shocker.

Pastrana, 35, keeps shocking people.

If Gonzalez doesn’t  keep his hands up and maintain a distance against the cagey Pastrana, he could end up like he did against Penalosa who knocked him out with a body shot in the seventh round.

The fight card also features several talented young local fighters at Morongo.

Riverside’s Michael Franco (10-0, 7 KOs) engages in a six-round bantamweight fight against Arizona’s left-handed Jaime Gutierrez (3-1). People are beginning to talk about Franco as the next Inland area fighter to crack onto the television fight cards. Gutierrez is a slick southpaw and that always means trouble for anyone.

In a heavyweight bout, Mira Loma’s undefeated Hildo Silva has a tough challenge against San Francisco’s Ashanti Jordan who is also without a loss. Don’t expect this fight to be like the normal heavyweight slowdown. Both guys like to crack. It might be the fight of the night.

Riverside’s Anthony Villareal meets Las Vegas fighter Cesar Grajeda in a flyweight bout set for four rounds. Too bad it’s only four. This fight pits the quick hands of Villareal and the no-nonsense fighting Grajeda who refuses to take a step backwards.

The fight card begins early at 4:30 p.m. For ticket information (800) 252-4499. One added note: former IBF lightweight champ Julio “The Kidd” Diaz will stop by. He lives nearby in Coachella.

Saturday fights

A strong middleweight fight card features James Kirkland against Eromosele Albert and Alfredo Angulo versus Richard Gutierrez at the Buffalo Bill’s Hotel in Primm, Nevada. That’s located on Stateline on your way to Las Vegas.

The fight card will be shown on HBO, but you may want to get a look at these guys in person.

Kirkland, a muscular and heavy-punching fighter from Texas, can box if necessary and is trained by female world champion Ann Wolfe. He knocks guys silly but faces a tough guy in Albert, who hasn’t lost in three years. That one loss was by decision.

Angulo doesn’t have the finesse or the patter, but he’s Mexican tough and used to serve as a sparring partner for IBF welterweight titleholder Antonio Margarito. They would have tremendous wars. It was during one of these sessions that Margarito injured his ankle that almost led to a loss to Joshua Clottey. Angulo’s opponent Gutierrez of Colombia only has one loss and that came against Clottey by split-decision.

Both Angulo and Kirkland are in for some heavy action, but if they survive, then they’ll probably face each other.

Middleweight contender Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora sparred with both knockout punchers and says they’re different, but dangerous. “You always have to be on your toes with those guys,” Mora said.

Also on the fight card will be New York’s talented Darling Jimenez (23-2-2, 14 KOs) facing off against Cuba’s undefeated Yuriorkis Gamboa (9-0, 8 KOs) in a lightweight contest. That should be an electric battle.

Pay-per-view battle

Two pay-per-view boxing cards are taking place on Saturday and both feature prominent Mexican boxers.

On one card WBC junior bantamweight titleholder Cristian Mijares of Mexico faces WBA junior bantamweight titleholder Alexander Munoz of Venezuela to unify the titles in Durango, Mexico.

Mijares (34-3-2) has displayed a willingness to meet the very best in the weight division and is not afraid to travel. In his last fight he narrowly defeated L.A.-based Jose Navarro in Las Vegas. He’s an exceptional boxer who fights as a southpaw.

Munoz (32-2) hits hard, boxes well, and stays aggressive unless you can hurt him. It should be an entertaining fight.


On a separate pay-per-view fight card promoted by Top Rank, it’s popular former world champion Jorge Arce (48-4-1, 37 KOs) facing Thailand’s Devid Lookmahanak (19-1, 9 KOs) in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Ironically, it was Mijares who put a serious one-sided beating on Arce, but the Mexican reality television star wants another chance at Mijares.

Arce, a former junior flyweight and flyweight world titleholder, sells tickets.

Another guy who sells tickets is Omar Chavez (8-0), the younger brother to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and the son of the great Julio Cesar Chavez. The Chavez name alone guarantees interest, but in his last fight, many felt the younger Chavez boy lost his fight. He’s out to prove that was a fluke.

Fights on television

Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Chris Byrd (42-4-1) vs. Shaun George (16-2-2).

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Jhonny Gonzalez (37-6) vs. Mauricio Pastrana (34-8-2).

Fri. Telemundo, 11 p.m., Jose Reyes (22-4) vs. Noe Bolanos (20-2).

Sat. pay-per-view, 6 p.m., Cristian Mijares (34-3-2) vs. Alexander Munoz (32-2).

Sat. pay-per-view, 6 p.m., Jorge Arce (48-4-1) vs. Devid Lookmahanak (18-1).

Sat. HBO, 9:45 p.m., Alfredo Angulo (12-0) vs. Richard Gutierrez (24-1).