On March 5th, DAZN and Matchroom Boxing return to Southern California, specifically the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, where they will host a stacked card. Super flyweight Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (50-3) will be facing WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez (18-1). Martinez is moving up in weight to face Gonzalez as a late replacement for unified super flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada (42-3), who contracted COVID a few weeks ago.
Although this is not the fight that many were looking forward to, Julio Cesar Martinez is a world champion and someone who produces fireworks in the ring. While it’s only three pounds difference between the two weight classes, the jump from flyweight to super flyweight is significant. Regardless, Julio Cesar Martinez is coming to fight and potentially can pose more of a threat to Chocolatito than Estrada.
Speaking of Chocolatito and Estrada, almost a year ago, they waged war at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, TX. It was billed as one of the most anticipated rematches in recent years, and the boxing world was buzzing heavily for this fight. And rightfully so, as both men are legends in their own right and are considered kings within the division. The fight did not disappoint as both men displayed next-level skills, and everyone was in awe as they couldn’t believe what they were watching.
The term “Master Class” is a buzzword in the current world of pop culture, and these two produced just that. It was chess at the highest level, and both men had their moments which led to a very close but controversial decision. Juan Francisco Estrada won the fight, but many thought that the nod should have gone to the fighter from Nicaragua, who is a future hall of famer. When I asked Roman about that night, he told NYF, “It was a great fight, and obviously, it demonstrated that we are complete fighters.” A classy response from a man who is as humble as they come.
After the fight, Chocolatito received a hero’s welcome in the form of a parade back in his home country of Nicaragua. The thirty-four-year-old Gonzalez was honored as if he won the fight, but he is and will always be their champion to the people. He is loved by his country regardless of his status in boxing, which is rare in these times. It reminds me of how Manny Pacquiao is loved by the people of the Philippines or the way Felix Trinidad is idolized on the island of Puerto Rico. It takes a particular person to attract that type of love. Roman told NYF, “It’s humbling, and it also makes me feel good. I appreciate that the people still love me and all praises to God for that.”
After the parade, everyone in the boxing world eagerly anticipated the third fight as the rumors swirled about a potential target date of the fall. As the summer passed and we got into the fall, it looked as though the fight kept getting pushed back. Around November, Gonzalez left his native country and started his camp in the familiar grounds of Indio, CA. While getting ready, it looked as though the fight would happen, and it was billed for March 5th in San Diego, CA. Knowing he had some time and keeping his priorities in check, Chocolatito flew back to Nicaragua for Christmas so that he could spend the holiday with his kids. A day or two after, he was back in Coachella Valley, hitting the bag and running through the mountains of Indio.
After finding out weeks later that Estrada contracted COVID and was out of the fight, Gonzalez was adamant about keeping the date, so it was up to Matchroom & DAZN to find a suitable opponent. Why was Gonzalez stuck on keeping the date? Roman said, “I was in camp and didn’t want to waste.” I get that, and most would, too, when the time away from the family has already happened.
DAZN & Matchroom present WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez and Team Chocolatito accepts the challenge. On the surface, it is a bold move by Gonzalez as he is fighting someone that is considerably younger and has a quarter of the experience Chocolatito has. So why take the risk? Chocolatito said, “We are motivated to face a young fighter who is the champ at 112 lbs. He is a good fighter, and the challenge motivates me.” When I heard that, it brought a smile to my face because too many times, we see established fighters take soft touch after soft touch without taking any risk. Gonzalez knows Martinez is a buzz saw, and he still welcomed the challenge; you have to love that.
As he prepares for Martinez, familiar faces show up to camp as Gonzalez always brings in younger, bigger sparring partners. In this specific instance, he brought in featherweight contender Joet Gonzalez who is battle-tested and brings the type of style that Gonzalez is preparing for. While Joet is multiple weight classes above Gonzalez, there is still plenty to learn from the former champion, and Chocolatito uses that time to give back to the sport that has loved him for so many years.
Training camp is winding down, and with a little under two weeks to go, the blade has been sharpened, and Gonzalez gets ready to go to war on March 5th. With only one fight last year, will Chocolatito return to the ring once more before the end of the year? Gonzalez told NYF, “We don’t know as of yet. I want to fight more, but I don’t know what the future holds.” Gonzalez ended the call by speaking to his fans and saying, “I am ready, and we had a good camp. I just want to give a fight that the fans can enjoy.”
My Three Cents:
Whether Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez wins or loses on March 5th, that result isn’t going to change the fact that the fans of the sport love him. He has already cemented his legacy and will be a first-ballot hall of famer. But as competitive as he is, there is still more to accomplish in his eyes, so we should expect the best version of Gonzalez that night against a young bull.
Will Julio Cesar Martinez prove that he is ready for the next level by defeating Gonzalez? Are we going to see Roman Gonzalez put on another master class performance? To find out, you will have to tune into DAZN on Saturday, March 5th.