The small Central American country of Nicaragua sits in the neck of the Americas between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It has a population of roughly 6.5 million and for much of the 1970’s and 80’s had world notoriety for revolution, being ravaged by a civil war and, the resultant US intervention.
From amidst the chaos of the country at the time emerged one of the greatest fighters in boxing history Alexis Arguello. ‘El Flaco Explosivo’ (the Explosive Thin Man) is the benchmark against which all Nicaraguan fighters are measured, and to a degree all Hispanic fighters. He was that good and a gentleman to boot.
Alexis narrowly failed in his attempt to become a four-weight world champion in 1982 in his epic loss to Aaron Pryor. Their first fight in the Orange Bowl, Miami being voted the fight of the 1980’s. Some achievement given this was the era of the Four Kings – Hagler, Leonard, Duran and Hearns.
On Saturday night in San Diego we witnessed the heir apparent and someone who can rightly claim to be in the hearts and minds of all Nicaraguans of this generation. Though much smaller in physical stature Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (51-3-0, 41 KO’s) is an exceptional fighter. Where Arguello fell short, albeit in a stacked era, ‘Chocolatito’ has eclipsed the great man’s achievement.
Gonzalez is the first, and only fighter, to gain versions of the world title in the four lightest weight classes – strawweight, light-flyweight, flyweight and junior-bantamweight. This reads from 105lbs – 115lbs (7st,7lbs to 8st,3lbs). He stands a mere 5ft,3in (1.60m) and is now 34 years old. Following his unanimous points victory over Julio Cesar Martinez on Saturday he spoke of possibly moving up to 118lbs (bantamweight) and having another 3-4 fights before retiring.
He is quite simply a living boxing legend already and will be a first ballot hall-of-famer when he does finally hang up his gloves. He’s been The Ring magazine #1 pound-for-pounder (recognised as the best in boxing) and although no longer holds that title, will likely re-enter the top ten again after Saturday’s victory.
Gonzalez’ performance on the Matchroom show was a boxing masterclass against a 27 year old who currently holds the WBC world flyweight title. He systematically schooled his younger foe, breaking him down from the opening bell with balance, precision and the superior punch output.
Martinez tried to pressure Gonzalez and stand toe to toe winging wide right hands and left hooks, but the Nicaraguan legend simply stood in the pocket firing in straight right hands that repeatedly exploded on the Mexican’s chin and landed murderous left hooks to his body.
The fight should arguably have been stopped in the ninth, tenth, eleventh or twelfth but Martinez somehow managed to see the final bell. The Mexican’s corner were massaging his legs inbetween rounds and attempted to galvanise him as he somehow summoned the energy to last the championship rounds.
‘Chocolatito’ by contrast was a picture of composure and control as the final bell approached. The returned scores of 118-110 and 117-111 were a true reflection of his dominance, 116-112 being generous to Martinez. Comparisons were made by the DAZN network commentary team to the third and fourth coming of Roberto Duran when he defeated Davey Moore and Iran Barkley after repeatedly being written off in the 1980’s.
Gonzalez continues to silence those who wrote him off in 2017 after losing twice to Thai Sor Rungvisai (the second a shocking KO loss) and last year narrowly to Ring magazine junior-bantamweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada. A third fight with the excellent ‘Gallo’ Estrada beckons with the scores currently 1-1.
Try to catch ‘Chocolatito’ while you can, this is a special fighter who despite what he says may not reach his four fights before retirement. The Estrada trilogy fight will be one for the ages.
In a London luncheon yesterday (Sunday) organised by the British Boxing Board of Control the current unified world junior-welterweight champion Josh Taylor was awarded the 2021 British boxer of the year for the second time. This followed his standout year capped by defeating Jose Ramirez in Las Vegas to become the undisputed champion. Taylor’s trainer Ben Davison was voted British trainer of the year.
Jose Ramirez (27-1, 17 KO’s) returned Saturday night in California with a unanimous points victory against Jose Pedraza and all post-fight talk was of him regaining his titles. Ramirez won 116-112 on all cards but laboured to victory against the slick Pedraza, a former two-times world champion. A Josh Taylor rematch at 140lbs (10st) would be another potential fight of the year should that be mandated by the WBC. This is assuming that England’s Jack Catterall does not receive an immediate rematch after his standout performance against Taylor last weekend. There’s plenty to ponder in the ten stone division in the coming weeks.
Tokyo Olympic super-heavyweight silver medallist Richard Torres Jr. had a successful professional debut at heavyweight stopping Allen Melson in the second round on the Top Rank show from California.
Finally, tickets for the WBC world heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte went on sale last week selling out within hours. A extension to raise the gate from 90,000 to 100,000 at Wembley Stadium, London has been applied for by co-promoters Queensberry and Top Rank. The bout is due to take place on April 23, St. George’s Day in England.