Roman Gonzalez shows why he is still a major problem in 2020!
Greatness is defined not solely based on ability. It’s not entirely determined by who someone beats. In boxing, what makes a great fighter is how he or she responds to setbacks, trials, and tribulations. When a fighter comes out of the storm and is triumphant, you’re talking about an athlete who is truly special. That is the case with current WBA “Super” Junior Bantamweight champion Roman Gonzalez (50-2, 41 KOs).
After a precipitous fall from grace, the 33 year-old from Managua, Nicaragua, is back on top of the boxing heap. Due to his remarkable resurgence in 2020, the fighter universally known as “Chocolatito” is our 2020 Comeback Fighter Of The Year.
THE MAKING OF A CHOCOLATITO
Gonzalez was reared and cultivated in the gyms of his native Nicaragua. In September 0f 2008, he traveled to Japan for his first world title opportunity against then WBA World Minimumweight champion Yukata Niida. The Japanese champ was a two-time WBA champion in the division and had defended the title seven times going into this bout.
As the underdog, Gonzalez obliterated his Japanese opponent, stopping him in four rounds to win his first world title. This started what would be a rare and unprecedented tear through the lower weight divisions.
After three title defenses at Minimumweight, he moved back up to Light Flyweight; the division he debuted his career at. In March 2011, Gonzalez defeated Manuel Vargas to win the WBA Light Flyweight title. Two and a half years after winning his first title, Chocolatito called himself a two-divsion champion!
He enjoyed four more title defenses at the weight. One of which came against current WBC Super Flyweight champion and arguably top ten pound-4-pound fighter Juan Francisco Estrada. In a very exciting affair, Gonzalez picked up a unanimous decision victory, however, many believed the fight was closer than illustrated by the wide scorecards in his favor. This of course had fans clamoring for a rematch for many years later.
September of 2014 saw another rise in weight. In yet another trek to Japan, Gonzalez became a three-time, three-division world champion when he stopped Akira Yaegashi to win the WBC Flyweight title. He went on to defend the third title in three weight divisions four times. A successful defense over two-division champion and former unified Flyweight champ Brian Viloria arguably stood as the biggest win of his career at the time.
Becoming The Top Dog In Boxing
At this point, he began to draw the interest of boxing bigwigs in the United States. His first world Flyweight title defense was aired on HBO. This brought more fruits from his labor as a co-promotion deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions was in play. Not too much longer later, he shocked fans as took the #1 spot on popular pound-4-pound lists! Many fans disputed the idea, simply because they lacked enough knowledge about the lower weight divisions to know who Gonzalez was.
An elite fighter in the eyes of many that have witnessed his talent, he was not yet satisfied. Intending to match his idol, Alexis Arguello, and become a four-division world champion, Gonzalez stepped up in weight once again.
Rising to 115-pounds, he fought the then-unbeaten WBC Super Flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras in September of 2016. This would clearly be the toughest fight of Gonzalez’ career. Not only was he ten pounds away from the first division he won a title in, he was going up against the best super flyweight at the time. He also held six defenses of the title, beating some of the best names the division had to offer along the way.
In the toughest fight of his career up to that point, Gonzalez defeated Cuadras to capture his fourth world title in four divisions. Many who disregarded his #1 pound-4-pound ranking now started to believe he had an argument to be there.
FALL FROM GRACE
Sometimes when a great athlete achieves so much, the bottom will suddenly drop. That was the case with Chocolatito.
To put it bluntly, the years 2017-2019 were disastrous for him. In March 2017, he stepped into the ring at Madison Square Garden to fight little known Srisaket Sor Rungvisai of Thailand to defend his WBC World belt at 115-pounds. In fact, the only thing many fans watching knew about Rungvisai is that he previously lost to recent Gonzalez victim in Cuadras. This had fans believing the champ would win by a landslide!
Nevertheless in one of the biggest upsets of the year, Gonzalez left the ring no longer an undefeated fighter nor a world champion. Rungvisai used his size advantage to bully the much smaller champ to a majority decision victory. Supporters of Gonzalez screamed “robbery” all over different social media platforms in the aftermath.
Gonzalez was hellbent on getting revenge! He also believed he should have still been a champion that night in Madison Square Garden. An immediate rematch would take place and, well, things didn’t go as expected! Not only did Gonzalez lose. He was beaten up and splattered over the ring like pancake batter as Rungvisai knocked him out in four devastating rounds!
Boxing fans are very fickle. Every fighter can agree that one minute they love you and the next they have written you off! After losing a second time to Rungvisai, it was like nothing Gonzalez did before those two bouts mattered. He was immediately removed from many pound-4-pound lists entirely! Fans also witnessed the many “I told you he was a nobody” or “he was a hype-job” posts among others all over social media. Some even said he should retire.
Overnight, Gonzalez no longer mattered in the sport.
Great athletes always have a way of making one final push in their career. After taking some time off to rest his body, the ascension began. Following a stoppage win in Japan over Diomel Diocos in December 2019, Gonzalez received an opportunity to face WBA Super Flyweight champ Kal Yafai in February of 2020. Yafai had been calling for this fight for some time and many believed he would walk all over Chocolatito.
Now 32-years-old the question was, did Gonzalez still have the sauce? He answered that with an emphatic “yes” as he dominated Yafai en route to a decisive tenth-round stoppage to become a five-time world champion. After all the hell of the previous three years, “Chocolatito” had returned to glory!
Following a successful title defense against the tough Israel Gonzalez in October of 2020, Gonzalez is now set to fight the biggest fight of his career…again!
On March 13, the rematch many had been calling for since 2012 will happen. A unification against WBC Super Flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada! The WBC champ ventured down his own path of obstacles to get to where he is today after losing to Gonzalez. One being a common defeat to Rungvisai in 2018. Although, he would get his revenge in a rematch a year later.
Gonzalez vs Estrada I was a terrific contest and one of the best fights of 2012. Since Gonzalez has returned to form and Estrada is a much better fighter than he was eight years ago, there is no reason to believe the rematch would be any different!
For Gonzalez, this is the culmination of the proverbial rise from the ashes. At one point, he was thought to be spent and dried up. Proving folks wrong, he has now worked himself to the mountain top again. Indeed, the comeback from the depths of despair has helped make him a great fighter and a joy to watch.
By: Michael Wilson Jr. & EJ Will