53 weeks have passed since Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-2-0, 38KOs) was heavily knocked out by Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on the original Superfly card.
Bidding to avenge a controversial points loss to the same opponent in March 2017, Gonzalez looked short of his best on that evening in California last September. The man from Nicaragua was undone conclusively by a right hook from the southpaw Rungvisai in the fourth round. It was clear to see Gonzalez was hurt, physically and mentally, by what happened in that fight. What was not clear was whether or not he would return to the sport.
The four weight world champion and one time pound-for-pound number one for many observers had plenty to consider. He has taken his time and will return to action on Saturday night in Las Vegas on the Golovkin vs. Alvarez undercard.
Gonzalez revealed what he has been going through with regards to his career during a recent media call: “I really wanted to retire. I wanted to spend time with my children. But at the same time I spoke to my family and they encouraged me to be able to fight. I feel it wasn't my time to retire and now I'm ready to fight once again on September 15th.”
As a fan of “Chocolatito” I am pleased to have the chance to see him in the ring again, however I fear that at 31-years-old his career may have caught up with him. Never one to side-step a challenge, Gonzalez took on all comers as he campaigned from 105lbs to 115lbs. 115 is definitely his limit weight wise but is his tank empty? Is he now vulnerable and in the dangerous position of becoming a name on other fighter's records?
Looking to hand Gonzalez a third straight loss on Saturday is another veteran fighter who has also had a successful career in the lower weight classes.
Moises Fuentes (25-5-1, 14KOs) of Mexico debuted in 2007 and formerly held the WBO 105lb title. Now 30-years-old, Fuentes also boxed for world honours in the 108 and 112lb divisions but has yet to get his hands on another belt. While Saturday's ten round clash won't have any trinket at stake, a win for the Mexican would secure him a title shot in his next bout.
The same is true for Gonzalez. If Roman looks good and has his hand raised at the weekend then a fight with one of the other belt holders not named Rungvisai would be highly probable.
So what can we expect when the two seasoned campaigners meet under the lights at T-Mobile Arena?
Despite moving up to 115lbs for this fight Fuentes will have a handy height and reach advantage over the diminutive Gonzalez. Both men fight orthodox and are returning after being knocked out in their previous outings. Gonzalez as mentioned earlier in this piece at the hands of Rungvisai, and Fuentes was a first round casualty when he journeyed to Japan to face Daigo Higa in February.
If Gonzalez is at, or near his best, and confident, we can expect a return to the offensive buzzsaw style that most boxing fans love. Using educated footwork prime Gonzalez was always on the attack, opening up angles to deliver his lightning fast combinations. A return to this level and style would be too much for Fuentes. On the other hand, if the slow footed version of Gonzalez that we saw in California last year shows up then Fuentes would have a chance at causing the upset.
Fuentes is more conventional. In full flow he is less spectacular than Gonzalez but his style is effective. It all starts with the jab for the Mexican as he tries to work openings for his right hand. Fighting tall out of a very upright stance, Fuentes' most dangerous punch may be his sweeping right hand to the body.
This is an ideal matchup for “Chocolatito” at this stage. Instead of going in with a soft touch he is facing an opponent with a bit of pedigree which means that he will be able to make a fair assessment of where he stands when it is over. A good win over Fuentes will justify continuing – defeat or struggling to get the job done will indicate his days at the top are over and may convince Gonzalez to follow through with those retirement plans.
While the majority of column inches and other coverage will be devoted to the important middleweight rematch that tops the bill, Gonzalez deserves a warm welcome back to the spotlight. He is a modern era legend and what he has done to lift the lower weight classes up and into the thoughts of more boxing fans and TV executives shouldn't be forgotten.
This Gonzalez fan certainly hopes he looks good on Saturday but I am fully aware that Fuentes poses danger. The Mexican will have many of his compatriots in the arena offering their support on Mexican Independence weekend.
It promises to be an interesting fight between two respected veterans. On only his second appearance in Las Vegas “Chocolatito” will be looking to produce some old magic, some magic that will make delaying his retirement a wise choice.