The return of four-weight champion Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez to world title honours has been as heartwarming as it is dramatic.
After the Nicaraguan master craftsman was knocked out by Thai rival Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in September 2017, the obituarists’ pens were poised.
In the aftermath of that defeat, Gonzalez’s desire to redeem himself was frequently frustrated by injury issues. Indeed, the deposed super-flyweight world champion fought just once apiece in 2018 and 2019.
Going into his WBA ‘Super’ 115lbs title fight against Britain’s Kal Yafai in February last year Gonzalez – unforgivably – was something of a forgotten man in some circles. Unbelievably – given his pedigree as one of the finest pound-for-pound talents of recent years – he was also the betting underdog.
However, eight fluidly beautiful and brutal rounds later, Chocolatito was once again a world champion, having clinically dissected and then knocked out Yafai.
In October, Gonzalez was in action again, comfortably outpointing Israel Gonzalez on the same card that two of his old rivals – Mexicans Juan Francisco Estrada and Carlos Cuadras – battled it out for eleven thrilling rounds, ‘El Gallo’ climbing off the floor in round three before winning via TKO in the penultimate stanza.
Now – in perhaps the most eagerly awaited bout of 2021 thus far – Gonzalez is preparing for a rematch with Estrada in Dallas on March 13. The 115lbs contest takes place more than eight long years since the duo first met in a classic tussle for the WBA 108lbs title, Chocolatito winning via unanimous decision.
Demonstrating the customary modesty, warmth and grace for which he is so loved, Gonzalez – now 33 and with 19 world title contests under his belt – spoke to Boxing Social about the joy of having reclaimed world championship honours.
“I’m blessed and grateful to God for such a special gift,” said Gonzalez (50-2, 41 KOs). “It is an enormous responsibility to defend the title once again and to be able to unify with the appreciated and precious green and gold WBC title together with the titles of the WBA and The Ring magazine. It’s a dream come true.”
After an initial period training in Managua, Nicaragua, at the Roger Deshon gym, Gonzalez is now ensconced in Coachella, California, with trainer Marcos Caballero and the rest of his team, consisting of father Luis, manager Carlos Blandon and physical training expert Rafael Rojas.
“I’ve had a very strong training camp,” Gonzalez insisted. “It’s been very demanding and I’ve spent a lot of time studying previous fights. Estrada is a great champion with many qualities and few weaknesses, therefore we are putting everything into training under the hand of God.”
Gonzalez refused to be drawn on a specific prediction for the March showdown. “It will be a magnificent fight with a lot of intensity,” he said. “The one who arrives having had the best preparation will raise his hands at the end.”
When it came to Estrada, however, Gonzalez was unequivocal, speaking about his rival with an endearing mixture of warmth and respect. “He is a very strong fighter. He’s fast and has enviable counter-attacking skills, as well as great intelligence in the ring. He is a very complete fighter.
“His fight against Cuadras was a very strong fight, a fight to remember. Both champions showed what they are made of and how good they are in the ring. My respect and admiration to them both.”
As for his own recent performances, Gonzalez expressed satisfaction with his two appearance in the prize ring during 2020
“They were excellent fights against two gladiators,” he said. “Yafai had Olympic pedigree and a great punch and Gonzalez is a young gladiator who will be a champion in the near future, because he has all the necessary qualities.
“Both fights made me recognise that I have a great team around me and a lot of support from the fans and my family, but above all from God, whose glory this is.”
Although an icon in his native Nicaragua, Gonzalez is a fighter whose popularity seems to transcend national boundaries, and he ended by delivering a graceful message to his fans worldwide.
“Thank you very much for supporting me and motivating me and I wish you all a prosperous and blessed 2021. I love you very much and without you I could not achieve the victories I do and have had such a resurgence after my setbacks. Total thanks.”