Naoya Inoue vs Roman Gonzalez: The Fight That Never Was

The Story of Why We Never Saw Inoue vs Gonzalez

Boxing never got to see Naoya Inoue vs Roman Gonzalez
Boxing never got to see Naoya Inoue vs Roman Gonzalez | credit: Kaz Nagatsuka, Jorge Torres

Why Did Naoya Inoue vs Roman Gonzalez Never Materialize?


Two of the best fighters in the history of boxing’s lower-weight divisions have been Naoya “Monster” Inoue (25-0 22 KOs) and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (51-4, 41 KOs). For years, boxing enthusiasts have wondered why a fight never occurred between the future Hall of Famers. Did Inoue duck a fight with Gonzalez, or vice versa?

TAKING A LOOK BACK

Inoue has been a force of nature since his amateur days. He won his first world title in May 2014 when he stopped Adrian Hernandez in five to claim the WBC junior flyweight title. At the time Inoue became a world champion, Gonzalez was a two-division world champion at 105 and 108 pounds and was considered one of the elite fighters in the game. In September 2014, Gonzalez moved up to 112 and won the WBC flyweight strap.

The chatter started about a fight between Inoue and Gonzalez at the beginning of 2015. After making one defense of the junior flyweight title, Team Inoue vacated the belt and decided to go up in weight. But instead of moving up to 112, Inoue skipped the flyweight division and won the world title at junior bantamweight.

Some in the boxing community viewed Inoue’s decision to bypass flyweight as a sign that he was avoiding a fight with Chocolatito. But that may not foretell the entire story.

CONTEXT IS CRUCIAL

Gonzalez eventually moved up in weight and won the WBC title at 115 in September 2016 with a unanimous decision victory over Carlos Cuadras. In attendance and at ringside for that fight was Inoue.

Shortly after Gonzalez’s win over Cuadras, representatives of Inoue sent a formal offer to Gonzalez for what would’ve been a unification showdown. Unhappy with the money offered, Gonzalez turned down the fight. At the time, Gonzalez felt he would have received more money for a potential rematch with Cuadras on HBO.

The rematch against Cuadras didn’t happen. Instead, Gonzalez lost the WBC junior bantamweight title by a split decision to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in March 2017.

September 2017 saw Inoue and Gonzalez appear on the same card in Carson, California. Making his United States debut with a six-round stoppage over Antonio Nieves, Inoue was looking to set up a match with Gonzalez in 2018. But Chocolatito didn’t live up to his end of the bargain, as he got knocked out in four rounds in a rematch with Sor Rungvisai. At that moment, any future talk of a fight between Inoue and Gonzalez was dead in the water.

Gonzalez rose from the ashes, captured another world title, and showed he still had something in the tank. Inoue vaulted to become an international sensation. He won the undisputed bantamweight title in December 2022. In December 2023, Inoue will face Marlon Tapales for the opportunity to become an undisputed champion at 122.

A fight between Inoue and Gonzalez had the makings of a spectacular battle. But when both men had the chance to make it happen, they didn’t pull the trigger, and that’s a real shame. As a result, there will always be an asterisk on both of their careers.

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About Mike W.2040 Articles
Mike is the host of boxing podcast "Pound 4 Pound Boxing Report" and is a Senior Writer for 3kingsboxing.com.