Saturday, September 30, 2023  |



Preview: Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Jonathan Oquendo

Fighters Network
Photo credit: Esther Lin/Showtime

Photo credit: Esther Lin/Showtime


If a ‘crossroads fight’ is defined as a make-or-break chance for two fighters to set their careers in the right direction, we can remove that label from this one.

With their two precious ‘0’s long gone and after being written off more than one time in each of their careers, Jonathan Oquendo (25-4, 16 knockouts) and Jhonny Gonz├ílez (58-9, 49 knockouts) will fight in the televised opener of the Showtime Pay-Per-View card headlined by the underwhelming Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Andre Berto matchup from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. With this opportunity comes the reassuring knowledge that their careers are not necessarily at risk in the event of a loss and an implied guarantee to their fans that their willingness to take risks will likely produce the fireworks the main event will almost certainly fail to deliver.

Assumptions and hypothesis aside, the fighters seem ready to attempt a coup and upstage the bland main event with a true war befitting the bitter boxing rivalry between their native countries.

“I want to put on exciting fights,” said Mexico’s Gonzalez, a veteran of more than a few exciting bouts, in a recent press conference. “I feel that the fact that I’m back with my father will make me better than ever. I feel better at 130 instead of at 126 and my mindset is more to focus on boxing and that ability to focus on boxing is going to allow me to land harder shots against Jonathan Oquendo.”

Puerto Rico’s Oquendo knows what it is like to fight at the MGM Grand, having fought there five times already, and is excited to do it again. And all while trying to spoil a Mexican holiday, to boot.

“I feel like this is a great opportunity. I want to be a great champion,” said Oquendo ahead of this scheduled 10-rounder in the junior lightweight division. “I want to showcase my talents on the card that Floyd Mayweather is headlining because there is a lot of attention when he fights.”

For Oquendo, however, this will be easier said than done. After all, he has tried and failed almost every time he went up against the biggest names of the division, having lost to Abner Mares in his most recent defeat one year ago and to his countrymen, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Juan Manuel Lopez, the latter earlier in his career. But the chance of facing a fighter of the caliber of Jhonny Gonzalez at a slightly more ‘beatable’ stage of his career goes a long way to get Oquendo riled up for the occasion.

“I feel that the training and what we’ve been doing in camp has been fantastic and I do believe that I have enough to defeat somebody of the caliber of Jhonny Gonzalez,” said Oquendo, fully aware that he’ll be facing an opponent who will be looking to celebrate not only one but two special occasions on the same day.

“I understand how important this is for all the Mexicans to be able to celebrate during this time on September 12 and during the month of September,” said Gonzalez. “At the end of the day, I want to come out with my hand raised on September 12.”

So much for his first reason to be excited. The second one, albeit more personal, serves also as a chance to score a personal milestone in a career that has known shadows and light but never lost sight of a final goal of personal and professional growth.

“It’s very important for me to fight during this time of the year. I have had the opportunity to compete during this time of the year on various occasions and also more than anything I’ve learned from my defeats,” said Gonzalez, who celebrates his birthday on Sept. 15, which happens to be the eve of which his native Mexico celebrates its Independence Day and the reason for big boxing events to be scheduled as closely as possible to this date. “Sometimes I’ve came up short but I have looked back and figured out the reasons why. And at the end of the day, most importantly, I want to go out and I want to fight for one more world title.”

Although they will have a little bit of competition for the night’s best fight between a Puerto Rican and a Mexican fighter when their countrymen Orlando Salido and Roman Martinez meet in the final bout of the undercard with a 130-pound title on the line, both Oquendo and Gonzalez feel confident that their clash will become the one to remember in what critics and fans alike believe to be an utterly forgettable night, in spite of the biggest boxing draw in history retiring from boxing after his assignment in the main event.

Gonzalez, for one, believes he’s ready to make the most out of this opportunity, just like he did when he scored one of 2013’s biggest upsets as he stopped Abner Mares to regain the featherweight belt he had lost to Daniel Ponce De Leon.

“I’m very happy for this opportunity. I’m extremely excited for the chance to fight on such a big stage that is important to fans around the world and I’ve really picked up my training and I’m extremely focused,” said Gonzalez, who has held title belts at 118 and 126 pounds. “[Oquendo] is very complicated and difficult to fight. I know that, for Jonathan, it’s a great opportunity. I’m awaiting a very stiff and strong challenge and I believe that Jonathan will bring his best.”


Diego Morilla, a bilingual boxing writer since 1995, is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He served as boxing writer for and, and is now a regular contributor to and, as well as the resident boxing writer for Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing.