Wednesday, June 07, 2023  |



Roman Gonzalez tames Julio Cesar Martinez in 12-round masterclass of pressure fighting

Roman Gonzalez is still the king. Photo by German Villasenor
Fighters Network

SAN DIEGO – Fans can usually expect to witness elite-level pressure fighting and an exciting fight whenever Roman Gonzalez is in the ring.

His 12-round taming of Julio Cesar Martinez on Saturday at Pechanga Arena was no exception, as Chocolatito patiently and purposefully walked down the wild and game flyweight standout to a unanimous decision victory by scores of 118-110, 117-11 and 116-112.

What some had feared could be the aging veteran’s last stand turned into another masterclass of controlled aggression and creative combination punching. Martinez (18-2, 14 KOs) had the advantages of youth, fast and unpredictable hands, and the extra stamina from coming in heavy (having not made the contracted 115 pounds for this DAZN-streamed main event). However, after “feeling out” what the Mexico City native had to offer in the opening round, Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KOs) began to impose his trademark pressure and surgical punch accuracy upon Martinez, avoiding most return fire behind a high guard.

Chocolatito goes to work on El Rey. Photo by German Villasenor

In a battle between an old bull and a young bull, experience overcame exuberance. Timing and reflexes trumped speed and explosiveness. Technique and professionalism outclassed sheer machismo.

Martinez, The Ring’s No. 1-rated flyweight and WBC titleholder, made the fight fun and compelling with his flamboyant attitude and his sporadic go-for-broke offense, but he was backing up by Round 3 and getting staggered by Round 6. By Round 7, the majority Mexican crowd that filled out the lower bowl of the arena had gone from chanting “Mex-i-co!” to “Cho-co-late!”

Although the future hall of famer was in firm command over the second half of the fight, he still had to dig deep to keep his 27-year-old adversary in check. Martinez tried to rally in Rounds 9, 11 and 12, only to be overwhelmed by Gonzalez’s relentless attacks to the body and head.

“I’m thankful to God because He gave me another victory,” the 34-year-old Gonzalez, who miraculously remains world-class 13 and half years after winning his first world title, said during his post-fight interview. “I came in really good condition for this fight.

Many observers believe Gonzalez won at least 10 rounds vs. Martinez, some thought the future hall of fame pitched a shutout. Photo by German Villasenor

“I wanted to feel his power (in the first round), I wanted to work with him little by little. My corner told me not to give him any ground, so I didn’t.

“(Martinez) is very courageous. He can take a lot of punishment.”

Martinez was a substitute for Juan Francisco Estrada, The Ring/WBA junior bantamweight champ that has split two sensational fights with Gonzalez. Estrada, who pulled out of the rubbermatch in late January after contracting COVID, is still an option for Gonzalez’s next fight, although the Nicaraguan believes he’s 2-0 against his rival.

“Everyone knows I won the last fight I had with Estrada,” Gonzalez said. “The only opponent who ever really beat me is (Srisaket) Sor Rungvisai (with the rematch KO). I won the rest of my fights.”

A third bout with Sor Rungvisai, The Ring’s No. 1-rated junior bantamweight, is also an option for Chocolatito, who is No. 2 at 115 pounds.

Gonzalez’s manager Carlos Blandon told The Ring that September is the target month for his next fight, with Estrada III the most likely fight. He also mentioned that Gonzalez might test the waters at bantamweight (118 pounds) soon.

“Whatever comes,” Gonzalez said. “The boss (Eddie Hearn) is right here. (I’ll fight anyone) as long as they pay me.”

Whoever he fights next, be sure to tune in. It will be a good fight. Gonzalez’s style will force even a reluctant foe to stand and trade just to survive his onslaught. But most of the top fighters in the 115-pound division are warriors, and some – such as Estrada, Sor Rungvisai and WBO titleholder Kazuto Ioka – are almost as experienced and decorated as he is. If he faces a fellow veteran, they’ll deliver a classic. Count on it.

Fans should also tune in because we never know if it will be Chocolatito’s final bout. He’s gone to the well so many times. At some point the bucket is going to come up dry.

But for now, Chocolatito is still the king.

“We’re still here,” Gonzalez said.

And boxing is blessed to have him.