The return of 'Chocolatito': Roman Gonzalez is eager to chase another belt

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Nicaraguan boxer Roman Gonzalez, once considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, fights on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez vs. Genaddy Golovkin bout. (Getty Images)
Nicaraguan boxer Roman Gonzalez, once considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, fights on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez vs. Genaddy Golovkin bout. (Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – If this were 18 months ago, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to say the most talented and accomplished fighter on Saturday’s card would have been Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.

On a pay-per-view show headlined by a rematch for the middleweight title between WBA-WBC champion Gennady Golovkin against linear champion Canelo Alvarez, with rising star Jaime Munguia on the undercard, Gonzalez still would have stood alone in terms of talent, accomplishment and stature within the industry.

When Floyd Mayweather Jr. retired following his 2015 victory over Andre Berto, it was Gonzalez who succeeded him as boxing’s pound-for-pound champion.

On Saturday, when Gonzalez fights Moises Fuentes in a 10-round super flyweight bout on the Alvarez-Golovkin II undercard, he’ll be at a crossroads of sorts.

After winning each of his first 46 bouts, 38 of them by knockout, Gonzalez enters Saturday’s bout having lost his last two bouts to Sor Rungvisai. He admitted that after having been knocked out in the second of those fights, he briefly considered retirement.

Those thoughts quickly subsided and Gonzalez is eager to chase another world championship

“During my inactivity and during the break, I thought in a certain moment right after the fight, with the sadness I felt, that I was ready to retire,” Gonzalez said. “But after spending time with my family and going back to Nicaragua and thinking about it again, and helping some kids in the gym, it started to motivate me and make me think I still had it in me.

“I believe I have the chance to be a world champion again and that I shouldn’t retire and instead go the extra mile to try to reach that goal.”

Gonzalez’s first loss was a riveting battle with Rungvisai that many at ringside believed he won. The official verdict was a majority decision for Rungvisai. He was knocked cold by Rungvisai in the rematch that might have been better off being a bit later.

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (R) hits Roman Gonzalez during their WBC super flyweight championship boxing match Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo)
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (R) hits Roman Gonzalez during their WBC super flyweight championship boxing match Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo)

After a physical, rough first bout, Gonzalez could have used extra time off to let his body heal. He’s fighting up in weight and when he’s at super flyweight, he is often giving up as much as 15 pounds in the ring.

He rehydrates to about 125 pounds after the weigh-in, but said he’s had opponents go as high as 140.

His gift during his 46 consecutive wins was fighting an exciting style and not taking a tremendous amount of punishment. He gave – and gave and gave and gave – and didn’t take much back in return. Oh, because he fought such a high level of opposition, he got hit occasionally, but it was nothing compared to what he was doling out.

Gonzalez believes he has plenty left and wants to show that to the crowd at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday. More significantly, he wants to send a message to children that it’s OK to make a mistake but it’s not right to give up.

“All of the greatest boxers have fallen once or twice inside the ring,” Gonzalez said. “The biggest legacy I could leave to any kid or anyone who has followed me is showing that when you get knocked down, it’s OK, but you have to get back up. That motivation is the biggest legacy I could leave.”

He’s got a legacy as one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history, and as a guy who has almost single-handedly helped flyweights and super flyweights gain mainstream attention.

He’s a cinch to be elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame when he’s first eligible, but he wants that to wait a while.

“I still have things left I want to do in the ring,” Gonzalez said. “I have a lot left I can do and I want to show that to everybody.”

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