For many years and with rare exceptions Boxing’s lower weight divisions received sporadic television exposure here in the United States. Of course, the rare exceptions include fighters like Michael Carbajai, Jorge Arce, and Ricardo Lopez to name three notable exceptions were able to break through what some would call a glass ceiling and receive valuable television exposure due largely to their crowd pleasing styles, which resonated as much here in the U.S. as it did internationally where consistent television exposure for the sport’s lowest weight divisions is more consistent. There is no dispute that all three men had legendary careers and are regarded as three of the best fighters throughout the entire sport’s history.
In more recent years thanks largely to the advent of digital streaming networks and a gradual decrease of Boxing programming on traditional television platforms, fighters in the lower weight divisions have been able to take advantage of the increased exposure that digital streaming television has to offer. No longer are fighters below the 126lb. Featherweight division relegated to sporadic television coverage and/or obscure undercard bouts on overpriced pay-per-view Boxing cards, but rather fighters in the lower weight classes have been moved into main event positions. One such fighter who has been able to take advantage of this is former four-division world champion Roman Gonzalez, a fighter known to his fans by one simple name “Chocolatito.”
As has been the case for several lower weight fighters, Gonzalez has had a long career that began at an early age as a professional and at the age of thirty-four after fifty-three professional fights, many of which have been grueling wars, it was logical to at least ask how much more Gonzalez might have left, especially when one keeps in mind that when it comes to Boxing’s lower weight divisions it is not uncommon to see a fighter’s career end by their mid-30’s. While that can be attributed to both the fact that many fighters in lower weight classes begin their pro careers as teenagers as well as the quick and often grueling pace in which many fights in those divisions are fought, there are exceptions where fighters are able to extend their careers beyond their mid-30’s and in some cases be able to compete into their 40’s.
Although this observer can expand on that subject further, for Gonzalez, the only four-division world champion in the history of his native Nicaragua, surpassing the legendary late great Alexis Arguello, at this stage of his career, the goal appears obvious, setting his sights on trying to win a world championship in a fifth weight class. Before he could turn his attention to that goal, Gonzalez would return to the ring on March 5th at the San Diego Sports Arena, now known as Pechanga Arena in San Diego, CA.
Originally, this was to be the much anticipated third encounter between Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada. As some may recall, Estrada earned a twelve round split decision victory in their second encounter in March of last year. A fight that some felt Gonzalez deserved the decision. While Estrada’s win evened the two fights between the two following Gonzalez’ win in November 2012, unfortunately the third encounter between the two is still something that would not occur on March 5th due to Estrada contracting the COVID-19 virus. In stepped WBC Flyweight world champion Julio Cesar Martinez who moved up in weight to the 115lb. Jr. Bantamweight division on limited notice for this bout. Complicating things for Martinez, he failed to make the 115lb. weight limit. Although this did not effect the fight in terms of its taking place, it did remove Martinez from being eligible to win a WBC Diamond belt, which in the overall picture simply means one of the titles that is used both for special occasions as deemed by the World Boxing Council (WBC) or as a means to move fighters into world title contention.
The politics that be in the sport notwithstanding, this figured to be an all action fight as both fighters have crowd pleasing styles. Even though it did not disappoint in terms of entertainment value, the main story of this fight was Gonzalez and his ability to use angles and strategically place his punches to the body and head of Martinez. Although Martinez had periods of effectiveness in which he was able to use his aggression to his advantage, Gonzalez’ punch placement and ability to both set up as well as execute his offense was simply too much for Martinez to overcome on that evening. Despite appearing as though he may have been on the verge of being stopped by Gonzalez late in the fight however, Martinez showed his mettle and made it to the final bell in losing a hard fought twelve round unanimous decision.
For Gonzalez, the fifty-first victory of his career in fifty-four fights puts him right back in line for another world title shot. For a fighter who has won world championships from the 105lb. Minimumweight division to the 115lb. Jr. Bantamweight division, the question seems obvious. At this stage of his career, will Gonzalez attempt to become Nicaragua’s first five-division world champion by attempting to move up to the 118lb. Bantamweight division to challenge for a world title?
This observer cannot answer that question for his readers. Perhaps before we see Roman Gonzalez test the waters at Bantamweight, I personally would like to see the third encounter between Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, who is the current WBC/WBA Jr. Bantamweight world champion. After two very competitive fights over the last decade, each that could have been scored either way, as well as the fact that the third encounter would have taken place if Estrada did not contract COVID-19, it is unfinished business between the two. Whether or not a third fight does take place later this year or if Gonzalez will move up to Bantamweight will likely come down to how quickly Estrada will be able to be cleared to resume competition.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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