Elwin Soto loses his title to Jonathan Gonzalez
At the Chukchansi Park in Fresno, California, Elwin “La Pulga” Soto (19-2, 13 KO’s) sought to make the fifth successful defense of his WBO world junior flyweight title against mandatory challenger Jonathan “Bomba” Gonzalez (25-3-1, 14 KO’s). He failed. Instead, Gonzalez scored a career-changing split decision win. Soto originally won the title when he scored a controversial twelfth round stoppage win over Angel Acosta in June of 2019.
Since winning the title, it’s been feast or famine for Soto. In his prior world title defenses against Edward Heno, Carlos Buitrago, and former world minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama the 24-year-old from Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico has simply not displayed the form he showed against Acosta. The defending champion is a talented, all-around fighter who can punch. However, Soto is inconsistent and spotty. One minute he looks like a world-beater. The next minute he looks ordinary.
Soto went in knowing that Gonzalez was a boxer who liked to move, move, and move some more! He was also aware that the 30-year-old southpaw needed room to operate. Gonzalez is a skillful craftsman. However, he’s also susceptible to body punches. That was evident in his previous world title attempt against then WBO world flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka in August 2018. In that fight, he was hurt badly and ultimately stopped as a result of body punches.
The question ahead of this fight was: can the champ put it all together and have a complete performance, or can the challenger do enough to keep Gonzalez at bay? When it was all said and done, the answer was a resounding NO!
SEEKING BUT NO DESTROYING
The champion initiated the bout by taking the lead and pursuing the constantly circling Gonzalez around the ring. For the first two minutes or so, nothing of real note connected for either fighter. Soto did land a monster right hook in the final minute, but Bomba ate it like the Cookie Monster does soft batch.
The second and third rounds were nearly identical clones of the first. La Pulga gave chase behind a probing jab and high guard, while Bomba evaded behind his high guard. Neither man was in an overly impressive groove. Over the course of the fourth, and particularly the fifth round, Bomba began clicking with his offense. As Gonzalez began to pop the champ in the face, it was clear that Soto was getting irritated. In fact, in the sixth it looked like La Pulga attempted to leap and hit Gonzalez with a shoulder.
Despite continuing to move in reverse, with the coming of the seventh, Gonzalez was in the fight he preferred. He was landing the more meaningful offense for the better part of it. Yet, they ended the period trading vicious body shots. There was a sense of mild anxiety in Soto during the eighth. Both were warned by referee Jack Reiss for infractions and Soto was formally warned against using his shoulder as a weapon.
AND THE NEW!
At the top of the ninth round, La Pulga would employ some UFC tactics in the ring. When caught in a clinch, Rodriguez blatantly twisted Bomba’s arm, causing him to wince in pain. The move led to Reiss stopping the action and warning Soto again. During the tenth, and more so eleventh, Bomba’s movement was more akin to running. Sure he was throwing punches here and there, but he was more concerned with getting out of the way. As a result, Elwin Soto was often seen literally trotting after him to catch up.
The final period would see Gonzalez inject more vigor in his attack but he remained very mobile. It was as if he felt he was safely up on the scorecards. When the cards were read, his casual twelfth was justified as Jonathan Gonzalez was crowned the new WBO world junior flyweight champion by way of split decision. It will be interesting to see what the fleetfooted fighter does next now that he is a new champion.
By: Bakari Simpson