Chocolatito Gonzalez Delivers Boxing Master Class Saturday



Chocolatito Gonzalez Delivers Boxing Master Class Saturday

Classical music has Yo-Yo Ma. Acting has Meryl Streep. Boxing has Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.

Super flyweight Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua produced perhaps his best performance ever at 115 pounds, winning an impressive unanimous decision over world flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez of Mexico (18-2, 14 KOs).

The 34-year-old Gonzalez, the only person to win championships in boxing’s four smallest weight divisions, was too skilled, too fast, and too nimble for the 27-year-old Martinez. There was no doubt about the winner when the final bell sounded. Scorecards read 118-110, 117-111, and 116-112. had it scored 119-109.

Julio Cesar Martinez displayed grit and a great chin, but he wasn’t enough. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Martinez took the fight on short notice when the original opponent, Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico, bowed out due to falling ill with COVID-19. The crowd's support, including boxing’s biggest star, Mexican countryman Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who lives and trains in San Diego, may have kept Martinez going. Still, it couldn’t compensate for Martinez’s inexperience compared to the veteran champion Gonzalez.

“Salutations to everyone. I hope you had a great night,” Gonzalez said to the crowd after the fight. “My corner told me not to give him any rounds. When I felt that I had him, that’s when I needed to pressure him, and that’s what I did.

“He took a lot of punches. I’m very surprised, that indicates he comes in really great condition,” said Gonzalez of his opponent.

Canel Alvarez reacts while watching Roman Gonzalez and Julio Cesar Martinez during their March 5, 2022 fight at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Martinez initially missed making weight Friday but fell within the rehydration limit on Saturday. It fueled concerns Martinez might have done so deliberately to give him an edge on the older Gonzalez despite being the naturally smaller fighter. He had a solid first round, the only round gave to the challenger.

But from the second round forward, Gonzalez controlled the fight with nonstop volume power punching, impressive accuracy, and the most power Gonzalez has shown in the 115-pound division, not considered his strongest division.

Roman Gonzalez found a home for the left hook to the body throughout the bout. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Gonzalez picked Martinez apart, with repeated hard right and left hooks, hard pops from body shots, and quality uppercuts when Gonzalez came within range. Martinez marshaled what offense he could, but Gonzalez evaded many punches and caught others with his gloves. Martinez isn’t quite as fast as he once was, but he was fast enough to catch Martinez with counterpunches while avoiding the worst of the blowback.

Credit to Martinez for displaying great heart, a solid chin, and a lot of determination. He would have gone out on his shield if necessary.

Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said he was pleased with the results of the organization’s first event in San Diego. “I want to thank everyone in San Diego for the incredible atmosphere.

That was just an incredible performance of a pound-for-pound legend,” said Hearn of Gonzalez. “He just seems to be getting better and better.”

Who’s next for Roman Gonzalez? Estrada, Sor Rungvisai, Franco, Rodriguez? Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Gonzalez says he isn’t sure when he will retire or who he’ll fight next. “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,” said the Nicaraguan.

He believes the only fighter he’s ever truly lost to is Srisikat Sor Rungvisai of Thailand. The trilogy bout with Juan Francisco Estrada is even juicier now after Saturday’s performance. Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez is the bright young thing in the division but may want to take more fights at 108 and 112 pounds. Brother Joshua Franco has a belt, too.

Martinez can return to his natural division at 112 pounds, where he still holds a world title. And he can always tell his children and grandchildren years from now that he once shared a ring with the great Hall of Fame fighter Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.

Gayle Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist and the only woman journalist who is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). She is West Coast Bureau Chief based in San Diego, California.