ROMAN GONZALEZ APPROACHES AN ICONIC MILESTONE — Many forget but there was a time when the great Julio Cesar Chavez fought on Mike Tyson undercards to get exposure. At the time Tyson was the biggest draw in boxing. Conversely Chavez was one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport but wasn’t a household name or that widely recognized in street clothes. Chavez, because of his pressure style, body punching, granite chin and work rate was never in a bad fight. Due to his style it was nearly impossible for his opponents not to confront him at some point, and that was exactly what he wanted.
Fighting beneath Tyson gave him the exposure that he needed. Due to Chavez not speaking English, there was a barrier that even greats like him never seem to break. Thus they never really become the superstar that their skill and style dictate. Roberto Duran was another great, even greater than Chavez, but also never became a star outside of the boxing community until nearly the end of his career. Roberto didn’t speak English and was overshadowed by Muhammad Ali during the 1970s and his rival Sugar Ray Leonard during the 1980s. However, despite those barriers he eventually became a worldwide superstar.
Today, Manny Pacquiao is the biggest non-American boxing star fighting under the junior middleweight limit. Pacquiao is a multi-division title holder, has an exciting style, and speaks good English. (If Anthony Joshua beats Wladimir Klitschko next month in their heavyweight unification bout, I expect Joshua to eclipse Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez and become the premier non-American star in boxing. In fact, if Joshua lives up to all that he’s been projected to be, he will be the biggest star in combat sports.)
This Saturday night middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin defends his WBA/WBC/IBF/IBO title belts against Daniel Jacobs at Madison Square Garden on HBO PPV. About an hour before Golovkin enters the ring, WBC super flyweight champ Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez 46-0 (28) will defend his title against Wisaksil Wangek 41-4-1 (38), marking the fifth time that Gonzalez will fight underneath Golovkin on HBO in a title bout. Gonzalez is a four division title holder, has defeated 10 world titlists, and boasts a 16-0 (9) record in championship bouts. And yet, in order for him to be seen by a national audience, he must fight the co-main event under another surging star in Golovkin.
Chocolatito is an all-out attacker with great footwork, often pivoting side to side to manipulate his opponents to where he wants them. He attacks with tremendous upper-body and head movement while at the same time transitioning his offensive attack from high to low and back to high and then off to one side or the other as he closes the distance and punches his way in. The net effect of his offense is that it forces his opponents to react to him. Either they try and move to create distance and find some breathing space or they rush their offense with the hope of impeding his aggression. It’s sort of a catch-22 for them because if they move to get away they can’t really get off good and score, and if they stand their ground they’re playing into what he wants them to do.
He has a fan-friendly style to which there’s no blueprint available for his opponent to overcome unless the said opponent has the natural physicality and carries enough pop in his guns to give Roman slight trepidation. So far no fighter has been able to successfully hold him off. That said, as he’s moving up in weight his power is having less effect on his opponents. In his last bout against the tough and formidable Carlos Cuadras, I don’t think Chocolatito ever really hurt him. On the other hand I thought Gonzalez was shook once or twice by Cuadras with the bout turning Gonzalez’s way due to his unrelenting attack.
Gonzalez has flown under the radar for a majority of his career, and that’s too bad. Due to his diminutive size he didn’t fight in the United States until 2011 and wasn’t really given ample exposure until 2015. Unlike Pacquiao, he doesn’t speak English so he’s been unable to attract much of a following outside of the hardcore boxing community.
Now that he’s nearing the 49-0 mark held by Rocky Marciano and Floyd Mayweather…some are beginning to take notice of him. He’s expected to defeat Wangek this weekend which will bring him to 47-0.
Carlos Cuadras is also on the card and is also favored to win. He’s been adamant about wanting a rematch with Roman, and with the closeness of their first fight a Gonzalez win in a rematch certainly isn’t automatic. And if he were to beat Cuadras again, making it to 48-0, he’d be one win shy of equaling and then eclipsing Rocky and Floyd.
Unfortunately, I’m not so sure Gonzalez is going to make it to 49-0. He may be forced to move up in weight, and based on his performance at 115 pounds it very well may be that 118 is a bridge too far. Both Cuadras and emerging Japanese star Naoya Inoue 12-0 (10) said they’ll follow Gonzalez up to 118 if that’s what it takes to fight him. And why wouldn’t they? He’s the prize to seek if you’re fighting between 115-118.
Gonzalez has been terrific to follow and watch. Now that his name will be linked with Marciano and Mayweather, he’ll be getting more attention. It would be too bad if he got to within a fight or two of breaking the record and then lost.
Sadly, due to him possibly moving up and fighting bigger men, there’s at least a 50-50 shot he won’t quite make it to 49-0, let alone 50-0.
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com