The Greatest from Nicaragua: Roman Gonzalez or Alexis Arguello?
On March 5, multi-division champ Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KOs) defeated current WBC world flyweight champion, Julio Cesar Martinez (18-2, 14 KOs) in a twelve-round junior bantamweight contest. Faced with a fighter six years his junior and viewed as a legit threat, the 33-year-old Nicaraguan took Martinez to school in what turned out to be a dominant win. It was the kind of performance that further stamped Gonzalez as one of the great fighters of this current generation.
When “Chocolatito” finally decides to hang up the gloves, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But how great of a fighter is he in an all-time sense? Has Roman Gonzalez now exceeded his countryman and current Hall of Famer, the late Alexis Arguello (77-8, 62 KOs), as the greatest fighter from Nicaragua?
Gonzalez has often said Arguello was his idol growing up. The two shared an almost father-son type relationship. For years, the fighter known as “El Flaco Explosivo” (“The Explosive Thin Man”) has held the mantle of the best to ever lace on a pair of gloves from Nicaragua.
To those unfamiliar with Arguello, he was a three-division champion, winning world titles at 126, 130, and 135 pounds. He is considered one of the best fighters of the 1970s, which is considered one of the elite boxing decades in history.
Gonzalez has won world titles at 105, 108, 112, and 115 pounds. Having at one time held the mantle as the best pound for pound fighter in the sport, “Chocolatito” is one of the very few men south of featherweight to have who gained mainstream appeal.
In comparing the two, their approaches in the ring could not be any more different. At 5’10”, Arguello was a boxer-puncher who preferred opponents to come to him. Yes, he was a quality inside fighter. But at his best, the thin man was deadly at range. He had a terrific jab, threw accurate combinations, and carried one-punch power with either hand. He could hurt with any shot at any time.
Conversely, Gonzalez is more of a seek-and-destroy warrior. But labeling the 5’3” dynamo simply as a pressure fighter is a mistake. His mastery of the craft is quite underrated. Chocolatito is very adept at making fighters miss while on the attack. He fights with no wasted motion and cuts off the ring better than his idol. When you add punching power plus being one of the best combination punchers of all time, they equal the ingredients of a great fighter.
Arguello has stoppage wins over Hall of Famers Ruben Olivares and Bobby Chacon. He twice stopped Alfredo Escalera, who was a terrific champion at 130 pounds. His losses against former WBA junior welterweight champion Aaron Pryor were two of the most memorable fights of the 1980s. Based on that, some pundits would give him the edge.
However, Gonzalez has fought an impressive list of fighters in his own right. He has a win over, and a hotly disputed split decision draw with, Juan Francisco Estrada. He also ranks number eight on 3Kings Boxing current Top Ten fighter rankings. He’s also stopped former two-division champion Brian Viloria and Akira Yaegashi, who is a three-division world champ.
THE DECIDING FACTOR
The thing that distinguishes Gonzalez from Arguello is longevity. Arguello’s best years lasted from the time he won the featherweight title in November 1974 to his wars with Pryor in November 1982 and September 1983. In his prime, Arguello was a legit pound for pound fighter. However, by age 30, his days as an elite fighter were over.
When he lost back-to-back fights to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017, many in the boxing world thought he was over as an elite fighter. But he rebounded, winning a world title in 2020. His loss to Estrada was the 3Kings Boxing’s 2021 Fight of the Year. He looked better than ever in his recent win over Martinez. On the verge of turning 34, it seems that the little man has found the fountain of youth.
So, who do you take? Aesthetically, Arguello was a better fighter to watch. Gonzalez has a more physical and punishing style. In the end, it is Chocolatito’s greater staying power that gives him the nod. After all these years, he has surpassed his idol. It’s now time to consider Roman Gonzalez the GOAT of Nicaraguan boxing.
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By: Michael Wilson Jr.