Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez Now Carries the Pound-For-Pound Torch
There are looks fighters get when they realize what they’re in for. Sometimes, the look is pure frustration. Frustrated looks generally belong to guys who simply can’t hit the target in front of them. Floyd Mayweather’s opponents invariably ended up with this expression, the one that says “I can’t hit this guy, no matter what I do.”
It has to be maddening for someone trained to land punches to hit nothing but air, and as the crowd tenses up while thirsting for action, the helpless fighter does the same thing.
Then there’s the expression plastered on the face of every fighter who steps into the ring with Roman Gonzalez. This look is specific to those who are in with a brutal opponent whose punches just won’t stop coming. It is the look of one who is utterly overwhelmed. You could use several adjectives to describe the diminutive Gonzalez–relentless, dangerous, and vicious quickly come to mind. But probably the most accurate word is overwhelming.
And that’s the beauty of it; there isn’t one particular thing that makes him that way, it’s a combination of everything. Speed. Skill. Power. Footwork. While Mayweather, the former pound-for-pound king, dominated fights with his punching accuracy and out-of-this-world defense, Gonzalez might be the perfect offensive machine. Like a shark, this man is built to maim.
He throws every punch in the book, and he throws them all brilliantly. And all the while, he’s never out of place. His exquisite footwork allows him to land shots with brain-rattling power at any time. That’s why when Mayweather announced his retirement, most publications immediately anointed him as boxing’s best.
Gonzalez had the chance to add an exclamation point to his new position this past October, when he faced the always-tough Brian Viloria on the Golovkin vs. Lemieux co-feature. He added several. Viloria has long been a dangerous fighter, a guy with remarkable power who could change things in a hurry, something rarely seen in the 112 pound division. But he’s also been known for faltering at the worst possible times, never quite being able to put together a signature performance.
Until that night.
Viloria fought incredibly well–firing hard, crisp punches and looking sharper than he had in years, maybe in his entire career. They fought the first two rounds on even terms. In the third, Viloria attempted a missile of a right hand, but Gonzalez threw a blink-and-you-missed-it right of his own, from about two inches away. The force dropped Viloria to the canvas. He got up, but that moment changed the fight permanently.
Remember the look Miguel Cotto had when Manny Pacquiao dropped him for the second time? Or how about the face Curtis Stevens made when Gennady Golovkin dumped him like a bag of peat moss? Viloria wore the same face. Things were not going to end well.
Of course, he fought on. In fact, he fought his ass off, trying desperately to stave off what everyone could see coming. Gonzalez landed uppercuts, hooks, straight rights, jabs, and horrific body shots, sometimes all in the same blistering flurry. By the time the fight was stopped in the ninth round, Viloria was a battered mess. Gonzalez modestly thanked the crowd, as he always does, and secured his spot as the best fighter in the world.
So what’s next for “Chocolatito?” Probably the ideal choice would be a rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada, who gave Gonzalez his toughest challenge when they first clashed in 2012. Although Gonzalez won the fight by unanimous decision, Estrada has ripped off seven consecutive wins since that fight and he’s looked spectacular.
And Gonzalez has been so completely dominant that it’s hard to envision anyone else around him putting up much of a fight, except for maybe Japanese slugger Naoya Inoue. If a battle between Gonzalez and Inoue ever came off, every hardcore nerd that stays up at night to watch grainy footage of Indonesian flyweights would sprout wood at the same time…
Floyd Mayweather ruled the sport for years, building a brand by combining an ostentatious personality with a defensive wizardry in the ring that placed him among the sport’s greatest of all time. Gonzalez doesn’t provide TMZ with headlines. He isn’t exactly flashy outside the ring. But in the ring? He’s all entertainment, all the time.
Lately he’s been paired with Gennady Golovkin, another highlight-reel fighter who packs the pain along with entertainment value to spare. It wise a wise decision–Golovkin has been on the fast track to fame for a couple of years now, and fans tuning in to watch the Kazakh beast destroy whatever is in front of him have been treated to a Gonzalez beat down. And you don’t have to be a hardcore fan to see the skill he displays.
The HBO team doesn’t need to lay the hyperbole on nice and thick, as they do with some fighters. We don’t have to be told how awesome he is while he bores people out of their seats. He shows us by systematically beating the hell out of his opponents.
At 28 years old, Gonzalez will be a wrecking-ball force for years to come. Watch as Gonzalez takes on all comers, backing away from no one. Be prepared to see his opponents break while he fires off an impossibly-accurate 10 punch combination. That look I talked about earlier? Be prepared to see that a lot too, along with Gonzalez’s arm raised in victory.
And then he’ll smile, thank his fans, and go back to work.
This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of RBRBoxing Magazine.