Not many guys under 115 pounds are considered to be the best prizefighter pound for pound. Not many under 147 pounds for that matter. But Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez is not many guys.
Gonzalez (45-0, 38 KOs) returns to the ring to challenge Mexico’s Carlos Cuadras (35-0-1, 27 KOs) for the WBC super flyweight belt wrapped around his waist. It will happen on Saturday Sept. 10, at the Inglewood Forum. HBO will televise the K2 Promotions, Teiken Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions card.
It was in the Pomona Fairgrounds where I first got a glimpse of Nicaragua’s Gonzalez. A place more recognized for the sizzling tires of hyped up dragsters and nitro fuel burning funny cars blistering down the track at 300 miles an hour.
Every year the Pomona Fairgrounds hosts the Los Angeles County Fair where prized livestock is gathered and rewarded at this time of the year. Back in April 2012, it was the staging ground for Gonzalez.
Six months earlier the pint-sized Nicaraguan boxer had easily manhandled a tough Mexican fighter named Omar Soto, the same guy who gave Brian Viloria a tough time when they fought a few months earlier in the Philippines. Gonzalez knocked him out in two.
In Pomona, with folding chairs strewn around the hangar dressed up for a fight card, Gonzalez walked into the boxing ring looking like a normal under-sized guy that I might have seen at the local gas station. Then arriving was Ramon Hirales a Mexican fighter who could handle himself and who had also defeated Omar Soto.
I made an effort to watch this fight because I had watched Gonzalez on video defeat some pretty good characters in Japan and Mexico. If you know boxing that doesn’t happen very often. I had to see Gonzalez in person with my own eyes.
Hirales was a pretty good boxer and had some early moments with Gonzalez that night. The Nicaraguan was deliberate in his attack and allowed the Mexican fighter to fire some combinations, much like a cat playing with a boxed mouse. After the first round Gonzalez began stepping up the tempo and revving up the punch output. They were fierce, straight and sounded like they were fired by a lightweight, not a light flyweight.
Gonzalez was like a tiger shredding papier-mache walls as he pursued Hirales while firing punishing blows. The pain in Hirales eyes was visible especially when the crashing end came in the fourth round. After that fight I was convinced I had seen something special.
Size dictates a lot especially when it comes to success in athletics. But every so often an athlete arrives with extraordinary talent despite a lack of size. Gonzalez is one of those rare small size gifted athletes. As a former athlete I’ve seen it before. Not often, but I have seen it.
Mini Super Stars
Every sport has its smaller sized athletes who do extraordinary things on baseball fields, the gridiron or basketball courts. Guys like Marshall Faulk in football, Tiny Archibald in basketball, and Albie Pearson in baseball. Or more recently Jose Altuve in baseball, Ray Rice in football and Kyle Lowry in basketball. They’re smaller sized superstars.
Boxing has seen a few in the past but to see two at one time is even rarer. In the early 1990s there was Michael Carbajal and Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez. The very last time we saw an extraordinary prizefighter under 115 pounds was Mexico’s Ricardo “Finito” Lopez.
“I really admire Finito,” said Gonzalez, 29, when asked if he felt a kinship with the Mexican star who retired undefeated more than a decade ago. “He is a fighter I try to emulate.”
Mexico’s Lopez had a different style but was a sharpshooting counter-puncher who was more nuclear physicist than mini destroyer. He had a formula for everyone and an answer to every boxing equation. If you blinked you were done. Ironically the guy who nearly defeated him was also from Nicaragua named Rosendo “El Bufalo” Alvarez. They fought twice, the first to a technical draw; the second a split-decision win for Lopez.
Nicaragua’s Gonzalez has great technique but has more in common with Michael Carbajal than Lopez. He’s looking to knock an opponent out rather than leave it to the judges.
A month ago Gonzalez began training in Big Bear alongside Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin, another fighter who prefers knockouts to decisions.
Standing next to each other it’s difficult to compare one to the other because of the size difference. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty both are human punching machines geared toward knocking their opponents senseless.
Abel Sanchez who trains Golovkin and owns the Summit training center in Big Bear says they’re both cut from the same cloth. They both attack heavy bags as if they’re alive.
Regardless of size, each is considered among the very top prizefighters pound for pound in the world alongside Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev who will be fighting each other in November.
It’s rare company in the high elevation of Big Bear.
“When the promoter told us we were going to train here with Abel we felt it was just amazing to be here at this great gym with Triple G and all the 16 world champions that he has made,” said Gonzalez. “It’s just been a great honor to train here. It’s a great opportunity. It’s the first time and we hope not the last that we train in Triple G’s house.”
Golovkin is equally magnanimous about Gonzalez, his pound for pound rival.
On Saturday they will be half a world apart as each looks to conquer an undefeated world champion.
Gonzalez has heard the taunts by his Mexican foe Cuadras. He’s not amused.
“I know Carlos says a lot about my nickname but on Saturday night he will feel the fists of Chocolatito,” said Gonzalez during their media day press conference. “I won’t beat myself and I won’t overlook anyone.”
Cuadras, 28, has no fear and the confidence knowing he has defended the WBC super flyweight world title six times including fights in Japan and Washington D.C. He views Gonzalez as the smaller man invading his turf.
“He throws multiple combinations but I’m too big and strong for him,” said Cuadras of Gonzalez. ““I like being a world champion and I plan on staying that way on Saturday night.”
Is Gonzalez that true little big man that comes once a generation?
“This fight is for all my people in Nicaragua and especially dedicated to my mentor, the great Alexis Arguello,” said Gonzalez who seeks to surpass Arguello’s record of three world titles in three weight divisions. “I love the Forum because in the Forum is where my hero Alexis Arguello won his first world title against Ruben Olivares.”
Olivares was a Mexican star. Will history repeat?
Mexico’s Jesus Soto Karass (28-10-4) faces Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai (26-3-2) in the semi-main event set for 10 rounds in the super welterweight division. This is a rematch of their brutal “Fight of the Year” candidate this past April in downtown L.A. It ended in a draw and no one thought it was a bad decision.
East L.A.’s Seniesa Estrada (7-0) meets former world champion Nancy Franco (15-9-2) of Mexico in a flyweight bout set for eight rounds. It’s Estrada’s first time facing an opponent of Franco’s talent and stature.
Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez / Check out ore boxing news and videos at The Boxing Channel.