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Roman Gonzalez: ‘I never imagined becoming the best pound-for-pound’

Fighters Network
18
Sep
Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

As much as Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s rise to the top of the world’s pound-for-pound rankings seems natural in retrospect, the rise of Nicaragua’s Roman Gonzalez has been quite the opposite.

But if even an American Olympian from an illustrious boxing lineage has to struggle to reach the top of the sport, the likelihood of an unknown, diminutive flyweight from a war-torn Central American country reaching that same level seems nearly impossible.

But lo and behold, it is happening. And judging by the way he has looked in his last few outings, the prediction is that “Chocolatito” is here to stay, even though his humble, soft-spoken nature doesn’t allow him to express his commitment to greatness with the same intensity that he displays in a boxing ring.

I am very happy. Thank God and my team, today we’re at the top of the pound-for-pound lists in the world,” said Gonzalez (43-0, 37 knockouts), in a telephone interview during a pause in his training in Costa Rica as he gets ready to face Brian Viloria (36-4, 22 KOs) in defense of his RING and WBC flyweight belts as the co-feature to the Gennady Golovkin-David Lemieux middleweight bout in New York City on Oct. 17. “It is one more blessing, and I am thankful to God, because now my effort has been worth it.”



The three-division champion previously occupied the No. 2 spot in THE RING’s pound-for-pound ratings, but Mayweather’s retirement opened up the possibility for him to become the first Nicaraguan and the first 112-pounder to be considered the best fighter in the world during his active career. It’s a distinction that perhaps even surpasses his former trainer, mentor and fellow multi-division champion, the late, great Alexis Arguello.

I never imagined becoming the best pound-for-pound, but the struggles I had to face with my family and with Alexis inspired me. They never abandoned me during this process,” said Gonzalez, who was trained by Arguello as an amateur and who remained close to the legendary champion until his death in 2009. “I never imagined being three times world champion and now being named the best in the world. All this inspires me to continue fighting with all my strength.”

His duty to carry on the legacy of Arguello means that he’ll be regarded as the face of Nicaraguan boxing at least at the same level as his illustrious predecessor, a task that Gonzalez claims to cherish.

Today I am the only champion that Nicaragua has, and I hope to motivate young people to believe and fight, and become a motivation for them,” said Gonzalez. “In Nicaragua everything is harder, and I want to be their motivation. Today, more than ever, we have to be in the gym working as hard as possible.”

The only reward he would hope to have for all his troubles, unfortunately, is the one wish that destiny could not fulfill for him. But keeping his mentor and friend in his heart in this special moment in life is something that not even death can take away from him.

One of the things that I would love to do is to have Alexis by my side,” said Gonzalez, his voice softening and breaking even more than usual. “He was a great man and a great champion, who left me his humility and his legacy. And I want to continue with Arguello’s legacy. I wish he was alive right now to see this.”

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Nicaraguan press flocking to New York for Gonzalez-Viloria

The news of THE RING’s appointment of Gonzalez as the new pound-for-pound king created a social media frenzy in the small Central American nation, and the few remaining doubters of “Chocolatito” have all but disappeared.

People have been slowly giving Roman his true value for his talent, his potential and for the fighter he has become today,” said Levi Luna, sports editor of Channel TN8 in Nicaragua, who covered Gonzalez’s entire career. “They used to refuse to give him credit for not facing the best out there, but as his career progressed they have finally acknowledged the kind of fighter that he is.”

The fact that Gonzalez’s fights are seen on free network TV has contributed to his rise in popularity, and his upcoming bout against Viloria has increased the mainstream interest in his career. At the same time, it has set the bar higher for him in his quest to become the nation’s next sports hero.

For all of his success so far, and after being named the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world by THE RING, people expect a big win against Viloria,” said Luna. “The press, just like everyone in Nicaragua, is eagerly waiting to see what we perceive to be Roman’s biggest fight to date, or at least that’s how I see it,” said Luna, who predicted that there will be a record number of media from Nicaragua in New York for this fight, either traveling from Managua or already working in the US.

Whether at ringside from press row or in standing behind the sofa or at a bar somewhere in Nicaragua, it is certain that the entire country will be watching, with a desire in their hearts and a prediction in their minds. Luna’s prediction, bias and optimism aside, echoes that of many boxing observers who believe Gonzalez will prevail and further his claim as the world’s best pure practitioner of “the sweet science of bruising” to add yet another gem to his newly acquired crown.

I expect a terrific fight in the first six rounds, with Roman adjusting to Viloria’s style first and then with Viloria trying to figure out Roman’s style,” said the veteran scribe. “Viloria will need to stay away from the infighting, while Roman will press for that kind of action. He will have to take him to that zone in which Roman becomes a beast. Viloria will start to break down after the sixth round, and I believe Roman could be finishing the fight in the 11th round.”

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 ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com, and is now a regular contributor to RingTV.com and HBO.com, as well as the resident boxing writer for XNSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing.

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