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Sharing Stage With Jake Paul, Jonathan Gonzalez Title Defense In Puerto Rico

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Sharing Stage With Jake Paul, Jonathan Gonzalez Title Defense In Puerto Rico

The attention of the boxing world will be on the island of Puerto Rico this weekend. Most of the headlines will be focused on the current unified women's featherweight champion and pound-for-pound star, Amanda Serrano, and her promoter, social media darling turned boxer Jake Paul.

On the undercard will be one of the island's few world champions, Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs), defending his WBO 108-pound title against fellow Puerto Rican Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs).

“Bomba” Gonzalez will be making his first title defense in Puerto Rico and fighting in his homeland for the first time since 2017.

Jake and Bomba are together on the Saturday, March 2 card

The Last Time Jonathan Gonzalez Fought In Puerto Rico

When he last fought in Puerto Rico, he was a contender attempting to get noticed.

Years later, he is one of the top junior flyweights and the island's current longest-reigning men's world champion.

The opportunity to be featured on a card with Serrano, who has now crossed over from a small section of hardcore boxing fans to mandatory viewing for all fight fans, looms large for Gonzalez.

“For me, it's big,” Gonzalez said to NY Fights in an exclusive interview. “For me, it's something that I always dreamed of, being a world champion and then defending my title in my hometown and my island.

“think it's very big for my career and being on the undercard of Amanda (Serrano) and Jake Paul. I think it was one of the biggest things that happened in my career.”

For the majority of his career, Gonzalez moonlighted as his own manager. That is until recently.

In late 2023, Gonzalez signed with Serrano and her trainer, Jordan Maldonado, to co-manage his career.

While there are a few examples in the past decade, such as Roman Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue, who have found broader recognition leading to higher paydays, the vast amount of fighters who fight below featherweight often get lost in the shuffle with only the most dedicated boxing fans viewing their fights on a regular basis.

The signing with Serrano, along with the association with Jake Paul's Most Valuable Promotions, will put Gonzalez in a position to be seen by more people than ever before.

“I began talking to her (Serrano) when she invited me to her historic fight for the undisputed title against (Erika) Cruz,” Gonzalez said of his relationship with Serrano.

“She reached out to me. I remember we were the only two champions in Puerto Rico, and she just reached out to me, and said, ‘Yo, hey, I would like you to come to my historic fight. I know we're the only two world champions.' When I got that message, I was excited. I told them what had happened in my career and that I thought I needed a manager.”

Other than being managed by Serrano, Gonzalez is currently promoted by Felix “Tuto” Zabala Jr. under All-Star boxing.

With only two more fights under his contract with All-Star, the likelihood is that Gonzalez will end up under the MVP promotional umbrella.

For Serrano, her signing to MVP provided her more exposure than ever, along with the biggest paydays of her career.

As of this writing, Puerto Rico has five world boxing champions, including Gonzalez, Serrano, Subriel Matias, Oscar Collazo, and Emmanuel Rodriguez.

Despite Puerto Rico's astounding legacy within the sweet science, the island nation has had few significant fights take place on the island in many years.

With the exception of Serrano, since the retirement of Miguel Cotto in 2017, the island has yet to produce a major star, and the sport's popularity on the island has been fluctuating.

Gonzalez believes that Paul's involvement with Serrano and choosing to promote fights on the island will be a catalyst to springboard Puerto Rico back as a destination for promoters to want to hold events.

“I truly think that's going to happen,” Gonzalez said when asked if Paul will positively impact boxing in Puerto Rico.

“This is a big event. Everybody knows it'll be sold out, and we have to wait for what happens in the future. But I truly think MVP will stay in Puerto Rico, they'll be promoted here, and they'll keep on doing their own thing here in Puerto Rico. That's what Puerto Rico needs; they need more events like this. I think Puerto Rico is one of the best positions.”

For the lower weight classes, Japan is where the divisions are given the most prominent platforms, usually performing in front of large audiences in sold-out arenas.

With fighters like the Inoue Brothers, Kosei Tanaka, Junto Nakatani, Kazuto Ioka, and Kenshiro Teraji, Japan has emerged as the premier destination for the smaller divisions, including some of the best fighters in the world at the elite level.

Gonzalez, who has fought twice in Japan, is 1-1 in the country.

He was stopped in seven rounds by Kosei Tanaka in 2019, and in his previous fight, he won a unanimous decision over Shokichi Iwata in October 2022.

Gonzalez has been linked to unified WBA and WBC junior flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji for a possible meeting in the future, and in today's landscape, the match would likely take place in Japan.

The two were supposed to meet in April 2022 before Gonzalez pulled out of the fight due to falling ill with pneumonia.

“You have to understand Japan has the lower weight classes,” stated Gonzalez.

“I'm thinking fight by fight. If I want to unify, it's to have a good payday. Let's tell the truth. The first thing is a good payday. I truly think I could beat Kenshiro Teraji. In his last fight, he demonstrated a lot of weakness.

“I think once I come out of this fight, my team, Amanda Serrano, my manager if they can make that fight happen, they will do it. I'm not going to fight a pound-for-pound fighter like Teraji just for two bucks; you know what I mean? You got to pay me well, make a good business. I have a great IQ, and that will be the key to my success in the fight against Kenshiro.

While Gonzalez changed his managerial situation, he has also changed trainers, going from Luis Espada, best known for training two-division titleholder Jose Pedraza, to his father.

In addition to changes on his team, Gonzalez will be dealing with one of the longest layoffs in between fights of his career, having last fought in October 2022.

In Gonzalez's previously scheduled bout, he was going to defend his WBO title against Gerardo Zapata in Nicaragua in October 2023.

Controversy arose when Gonzalez fell ill and was forced to withdraw from the match just days before it was set to take place.

With the fight being his second that same year, he had to exit; many fans felt that he pulled out because of issues making weight.

Gonzalez's opponent, Santiago, would earn the interim WBO 108-pound title, stopping Kevin Vivas on that same card in Nicaragua. Santiago and his team have brought up Gonzalez's ability to make weight.

“Everybody was talking about my weight, talking about I can't make weight,” Gonzalez said in response to the accusations about making weight. “I think that people are talking about things that I've never had problems with before. People are just talking. I don't have any weight problems, but I'm going to demonstrate on March 1 at the weigh-in.”

According to Gonzalez, Santiago and his team stated that if he didn't make the 108-pound weight limit, they would not fight and would walk away with the WBO title.

“One of the biggest things for this fight was that his team said that if I don't make weight, they're not going to sit down and negotiate for nothing,” said Gonzalez. “They're just going to go and get in their car and be the world champion. That's what I think Santiago is waiting for, that I don't make weight.”

Gonzalez continued that the time out of the ring won't have any impact on his performance against Santiago.

“The ring rust will not happen,” said Gonzalez. “I'm always in the gym, I'm always doing something, I'm always running, always sparring. But I had two training camps, very hard. I rested when I had to rest. I was sick, but I'm ready to bounce back and demonstrate that.”

Gonzalez has entered a new chapter in his career—one where he could find himself encountering the most success he has seen.

With Serrano's guidance, he could follow in her footsteps to greater notoriety with bigger paydays. But at the heart, what fuels Gonzalez is competition and the need to prove he is the best.

“I think I'm the best at 108 pounds in the world,” Gonzalez emphatically stated. Against Santiago, he can showcase where he stands and move into the next stage of his journey.