As we saw Roman Gonzalez prone on the canvas with referee Thomas Taylor looking over him as he waved off his second bout versus Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, all the boxing obits were written for the noted Nicaraguan. It was September of 2017 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, where 'Chocolatito' was melted in four rounds by the Thai fighter.
It was not only his second consecutive loss to Sor Rungvisai, but unlike their first encounter several months earlier which was a highly disputed decision, this time around he was knocked flat.
It felt like the end of a distinguished Hall-of-Fame career.
Well, like Mark Twain, it turns out the rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated.
And instead of being the end, it ended up being the start of a new glorious chapter of what has become one of the most legendary and storied runs in recent memory. He has risen back to life like 'the Undertaker' the past few years.
This past weekend at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, Gonzalez put forth a masterclass performance in dominating WBC flyweight titlist, Julio Cesar Martinez over 12 one sided rounds. Martinez, was a late replacement for Juan Francisco Estrada. Last year, Gonzalez and Estrada engaged in their memorable rematch in Dallas, Texas, where Estrada won a dubious decision. It's his only blemish in his last six outings since that fateful night in 2017.
Estrada is a spirited and frenetic fighter. It was thought that he would at least trouble 'Chocolatito' with his speed and activity early on. But his passion was simply no match for the technical precision of Gonzalez, who gauged his speed and tempo early on, and then began to pick him apart with almost effortless efficiency.
Some would call this a schooling, well, in that case this was the most brutal lesson plan ever laid out.
Whether he was leading, or catching-and-countering, or just punching in-between the salvos of Martinez, Gonzalez was the very definition of boxer-puncher on this cold night in the 619. If it wasn't straight right hands (which he alternated to the body and head of Martinez), it was his left uppercut downstairs, or a lead uppercut, all thrown in various combinations, but all with proper form.
At age 34, Gonzalez is still a whirlwind offensively, but he's also an example of a boxer with very little wasted motion. Every movement he makes has a purpose to it. Unlike his foe who at times was a whirlwind of activity that amounted to very little.
When Martinez lashed back with his own punches, he found Gonzalez an elusive target as his chin was usually burrowed safely in his front shoulder, and his hands held high in proper defensive position, and subtle moves with his feet had the younger foe swinging at air time and time again.
By the middle rounds, the crowd which was majority Mexican and pro-Martinez, was hushed. Not that they were bored, but because they were left in quiet appreciation of the craftsmanship they were witnessing. As the fight closed to a rousing finish in the 12th round with both men letting it all go, they rose in unison to applaud what they had both seen.
No, their man didn't win. But still, a good night was had by all. They can now say that they had seen one of the great ones.
Who knows how many fights Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KOs) has left, but we should appreciate every time we get to see him ply his trade. The likes of him are rare, and wont be seen again for awhile.
"I'm thankful to God because he gave me another day with a victory,” said Gonzalez, through a translator. “We still don’t know when I’m gonna retire. Maybe a few more fights. I came in really good condition for this fight. That’s why I’m here.”
There was no official announced attendance released to the press on Saturday night, but there was a sizable (and enthusiastic) crowd inside the Pechange Arena. I'll say it again, boxing needs to be less reliant on casino venues and create new markets.
And San Diego should be on the regular rotation.
This old building, which was constructed in 1968 holds about 16,000 for boxing. According to 'Mr KO Tickets' Jim Boone (who had a good weekend of business on his end), ticket sales were brisk, and ringside and lower bowl was sold-out. The upper level of the arena was curtained off.
San Diego is about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles (but try and leave before 11 a.m. on weekends, or that drive becomes longer as I found out this Saturday), and has a population of around 3.4 million. It's close to the Mexican border and if you have someone of Mexican descent headlining, well, it makes sense to have certain cards in this jurisdiction.
It's also a fun and expansive city with plenty of money in it. I certainly wouldn't mind going back a few more times to watch more significant prizefights.
A few weeks ago I wrote about my list of favorite fighters for SNAC.com.
Well, add Mauricio 'Bronco' Lara to that group. He engaged in a memorable three round war with Emilio Sanchez that saw both men get hurt at various times in a bout that heated up quickly. But it was Lara's superior power had Sanchez on the canvas a few times, and the last one came right as the bell sounded to end round three.
Lara, who burst onto the scene last year as he blitzed Josh Warrington in three rounds in the UK is a fighter that has bad intentions on every punch he throws, and he comes out of the gate quickly. He isn't trying to out-box anyone. His goal is to score knockouts.
What's interesting is that the 24 year old Lara lost his pro debut, and his other loss was a first round stoppage to Eliot Chavez in 50 seconds back in 2018. Since then he's come on like gangbusters.
Lara is truly a wild card in the featherweight division.
Jose Ramirez defeated Jose Pedraza by a score of 116-112 on all three scorecards in Fresno on Friday night. It was interesting to hear the contrasting views on this bout from Tim Bradley (who was ringside at the Save Mart Arena) and Andre Ward, who was broadcasting from home....Speaking of which, that ESPN+ card didn't have the main event begin till well after midnight and didn't have the decision read till 1:27 a.m. on the east coast. Do they really need to take that long in-between fights all the time?....Joet Gonzalez is a fun TV fighter.... Really like what I saw from prospect Charlie Sheehy.....On the flip side, Marc Castro hit the deck on Saturday and had to struggle a bit to pick up his sixth professional victory over Julio Madera.... Phil's BBQ in San Diego is now on my pound-for-pound list....So Duke really lost in Coach K's last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium? That's funny.... I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....