Monday, March 20, 2023  |



Kal Yafai responds to Chocolatito challenge: ‘I’ve wanted Gonzalez for a long time’

Yafai (left) tags Luis Concepcion. Photo by Peter Byrne/ PA Wire

When Roman Gonzalez was knocked out in four rounds by Wisaksil Wangek last month, it was a result that seemed to trigger the future hall of famer’s sporting obituary.

The boxing world was stunned as the former four-weight world titleholder, and pound-for-pound king, was switched off like a porch light by the Thai power-puncher. The atmosphere inside the StubHub Center in Carson, California, was akin to a wake for a funeral and it looked like the end of the line for Nicaragua’s favorite son.

Gonzalez, who is rated No. 8 by THE RING at 115 pounds, had already lost to Wangek by controversial majority decision in March. He also looked below par outpointing Carlos Cuadras for the WBC junior bantamweight title last September, and the consensus is that the top 115-pounders are just too big for “Chocolatito”.

However, reigning WBA junior bantamweight titleholder Kal Yafai, from Birmingham, England, picked Gonzalez in the rematch with Wangek and was as shocked as everyone else by the result.

“It was a crazy fight and I didn’t expect it to go that way,” Yafai told “By the look of Gonzalez, before the first round, he looked a bit worried. He looked like he didn’t want to be there. From the second he got in the ring, Gonzalez actually looked like he wanted to cry.

“His game plan against Wangek was just nuts. He stood in front of him, got put down and went straight back to trading. I just thought, ‘What is he playing at?’ I think Gonzalez wanted to hurt Wangek but, tactically, that was the wrong decision.”

Now, as Yafai (22-0, 14 knockouts) prepares for a mandatory assignment against unbeaten Japanese contender Sho Ishida on October 28 in Cardiff, Wales, Gonzalez is toying with the idea of a return. And, as BoxingScene reported yesterday, he may be targeting the WBA 115-pound title.

That’s great news for the unbeaten Yafai, although the cerebral boxer-puncher made it clear that he has serious business to take care of first.

“Happy days, I’ve wanted Gonzalez for a long time,” said Yafai (RING No. 5) enthusiastically before changing his tone. “Right now, my eyes are solely on my opponent for October 28. I ain’t overlooking past this guy.

“I’m a huge favorite to win and a lot of people think Ishida has no chance, but I’m always on the ball. I look at every opponent like they’re Mike Tyson. If everything goes well, I can talk to (promoter) Eddie (Hearn) and we can look to make the Gonzalez fight.”

Hearn, Head of Matchroom Boxing, recently signed a deal with American middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs in conjunction with HBO. One would expect to see fighters from Hearn’s stable on the network’s schedule over the coming months.

Yafai has no qualms about travelling but insisted that it must make sense economically. If all goes well against Ishida, the Gonzalez fight does look like a strong possibility. The WBA have already managed to work some governing body “magic,” installing the former champion at No. 2 in their divisional rankings.

“Gonzalez is still a massive name and he probably brings the most money to the table,” Yafai acknowledged. “Out of all the (junior bantamweights) I could fight, I’d probably make more money with him than any of the others.

“I’m not sure where the fight would happen. There’s been talk of me going over to America to fight on HBO after the Ishida fight. That’s something I would really look forward to. But if I could fight a name like Gonzalez in the U.K., that could be even bigger.

“It’s all up to my promoter and my team. It’s a fight I’d really fancy, and a fight that I would be very confident of winning.”

Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing