From the time he first pulled on a pair of gloves as an 8-year-old boy in Mexico City, Jhonny Gonzalez was different from the rest of the kids.
He'd throw a punch and it had a force that belied his tiny size and skinny frame. From his earliest days, he punched harder than anyone his age and racked up scores of knockouts.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, little has changed. Gonzalez is one of boxing's top knockout artists, and has racked up 46 victories by stoppage heading into his bout Saturday against WBC featherweight champion Abner Maresat the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
Gonzalez is 54-8 in his 62 pro bouts, with 46 knockouts. That uncanny punching power has led him to world titles at bantamweight and featherweight and, he hopes, an upset of Mares in their title bout in the main event of the Showtime-televised card.
His 46 knockouts are more than notable power punchers such as WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko (41 knockouts in 47 fights), Manny Pacquiao (38 knockouts in 61 fights) and Shane Mosley (39 knockouts in 57 fights) among active boxers.
He was mentored as a young pro by Hall of Famer Humberto Gonzalez, an ex-light flyweight champion, and ex-welterweight champion Pipino Cuevas. Both of them were known for their power, and Gonzalez has followed in their footsteps in that regard.
He may lack Mayweather-esque defense, and he's been knocked down and out himself more times than he cares to mention, but it's the rare bout when Gonzalez isn't the hardest hitter in the ring.
[Watch: Watch: Mares-Gonzalez media workout]
It's something that has made him one of the better boxers of his time, but it's not something he learned after hours working on technique in the gym.
"Power is not something I think you can be taught," Gonzalez said. "You either have it or you don't. It's a natural thing."
He won his first world title in 2005 when he stopped the legendary Thai champion, Ratanachai Sor Vorapin, to win the WBO bantamweight title.
It was Gonzalez's most memorable win, and he has never forgotten the thrill of landing the decisive blow.
He caught Vorapin with a right uppercut, badly hurting him, and quickly finished the bout just 22 seconds into the seventh round.
"I just remember that punch and it just had that good feel to it," Gonzalez said. "I knew I got him with it. You can feel it sometimes, and that was one I knew that I hit him good. He was there for me to hit him and I felt I could hurt him if I caught him. Fortunately for me, I did."
Gonzalez, 31, will have his hands full with Mares on Saturday. They sparred briefly in 2006 as Gonzalez was preparing for a title bout against Israel Vazquez.
Mares was just 20 then, but Gonzalez was already impressed. He's been impressed even more as Mares has matured into one of the game's finest all-round fighters.
"He is the best guy out there at featherweight, for sure," Gonzalez said. "He does so many things well, and he's very smart. It's a great motivation for me to fight Abner at this stage of my career. I know if I beat him, people aren't going to think I'm done. I have been fighting a long time, but I'm not old.
"My power is a big weapon, but against Mares, I have to be the total boxer, not just a big puncher. If I have an opportunity to hit him with a [hard punch], of course, I will, but he's smart and I just can't look for the knockout."
But Gonzalez is one of those kinds of fighters who doesn't have to load up and swing for the fences in order to generate power. It comes from his core and he's hurt plenty of fighters with an otherwise innocuous seeming punch.
He's got nearly twice as many knockouts as Mares (26-0-1, 14 KOs) has fights, and he'd love to add one more to his total because of the significance of the opponent.
"Knockouts are good and I know the fans love to see them," Gonzalez said. "If I can give a knockout, I will, but in this fight, just beating Mares is all I am focused on."
It's a long shot for him to pull it off, but if he does, don't be shocked if it's Gonzalez's power that leads him to the win.
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