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Chocolatito refuses to look past Israel Gonzalez, hopes to secure more big fights

Roman Gonzalez. Photo by Naoki Fukuda
21
Oct

Boxing’s holy warrior returns to action this weekend.

Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez defends his WBA junior bantamweight title against Israel Gonzalez at the Gimnasio TV Azteca in Mexico City on Friday. The bout will be broadcast by DAZN in the U.S. beginning at 9.00 p.m. PT/ 6.00 p.m. ET.

Gonzalez, who is rated No. 2 by The Ring at 115 pounds, is coming off a ninth-round stoppage of the previously unbeaten Kal Yafai in February. The Nicaraguan icon was on excellent form; his accuracy and power reminiscent of the days when was acclaimed as one of the finest pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been detrimental to the momentum Gonzalez acquired following the Yafai bout, so the 33-year-old is eager to get back to work. He is a strong favorite to overcome Friday’s challenge and has prepared diligently.



“We’re very close to the fight and I hope that everything comes out good,” Gonzalez (49-2, 41 knockouts) told The Ring through head trainer Marcos Caballero. “Thank God that all the sparring partners in this training camp have been able to take care of themselves. They’ve got me in great condition to put up a good fight.

“[During my time off], I’ve spent time with the family, and I’ve thanked God despite everything that’s been happening in the world. It’s been a very difficult time because this [pandemic] was completely unexpected, but I’ve continued to train hard.”

June 2020 issue

Israel Gonzalez (26-3, 11 KOs) is no stranger to fights at the top level. The 23-year-old Mexican has twice challenged for world titles, losing by 10th-round knockout to Filipino southpaw Jerwin Ancajas in February 2018 and by decision to Yafai nine months later.

“We know he likes to come forward, and he fights the way he says he’s going to fight,” said Gonzalez. “We always give respect to every opponent. This is going to be a great fight, he’s coming into this in great condition, so we’re not underestimating anybody.

“The most important thing is my conditioning because that’s what will win me this fight. I’m very focused, and afterwards we’ll see what happens. I plan to keep on going with my career and I want to have bigger fights.”

On the same card, former Gonzalez rivals Juan Francisco Estrada, The Ring Magazine junior bantamweight champion, and Carlos Cuadras face off in a rematch of their 2017 clash, which Estrada won by close decision. Gonzalez outpointed Estrada in a classic junior flyweight battle in 2012 and held off a spirited challenge from Cuadras to claim the WBC junior bantamweight title four years later.

“That’s a very tough fight,” Gonzalez acknowledged. “I hope that it’s a good fight for the fans and that the best man wins.”

An Estrada-Gonzalez rematch has been mooted ever since both men secured world titles at 115 pounds. When I asked Gonzalez if his preference was an Estrada victory, the great champion was unwilling to break character. Not only did Gonzalez pick up the technique and fighting heart of his former mentor Alexis Arguello, he also inherited the Hall of Famer’s flair for diplomacy.

“I just hope that whoever does the better job inside the ring wins the fight,” repeated Gonzalez. “We don’t know what lies ahead, and we’re only focused on our fight.”

A focused “Chocolatito” is bad news for Israel Gonzalez.

Also on the card, Julio Cesar Martinez defends his WBC flyweight title against Moises Calleros.

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Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Gray_Boxing

 

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