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Where to now Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez?

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Where to now Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez?
Photo Credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom

In the third fight of their pitched and increasingly legendary trilogy, Roman “Chocolatito,” Gonzalez found himself for the second straight time suffering a brutally close loss to Juan Francisco Estrada. Like their second fight, the victor came through by splitting just enough hairs for the judges to squeak out a decision victory – this time by majority, last time by split.

The early rounds seemed to betray the advancing age and road wear on Chocolatitio, as his feet seemed heavy, and he struggled to let his hands go. After the sixth round, only the most generous of judges could have scored more than a single round for the Nicaraguan legend. At that point in the fight, I tweeted out:

 “Chocolatito looks slow to me. He is 35. He’s fought 54 times, and maybe he’s not who he was at flyweight. Still, time left, but it feels like Estrada is in control.”

DAZN’s ringside announcing team agreed with that assessment, and while no one was saying Chocolatito had no chance at all, it was clear that it was getting late early. Then, remarkably, Chocolatito summoned up whatever greatness he had in reserve and began to take the fight to Estrada. He was suddenly busier, more accurate, and the snap missing on his punches early on was back in force as he several times knocked Estrada’ noggin’ backwards with the sharpness of his blows.

December 3, 2022; Glendale, Arizona; Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez during their WBC World and Ring Magazine Super-Flyweight fight at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Mandatory Credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

Alas, like Bernard Hopkins in both of his fights with Jermain Taylor, Chocolatito simply gave away too many early rounds, and while I saw a draw, I can’t argue with the card of judge Dennis O’Connell who scored the bout 115-113 for Estrada (now Tim Cheatam’s 116-112 card in favor of Estrada is a whole other matter). Regardless, the decision itself did not seem unfair. If you had the fight a draw or 7-5 for either Estrada or Chocolatito, you were in the realm of reason.

This second victory for Estrada over Chocolatito should elevate Estrada beyond the sure-fire hall of famer he already was and into the conversation of where he ranks among the best small-man fighters ever. Just in the last five years, Estrada has beaten Chocolatito twice, Carlos Cuadras twice, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai once. Those are some quality scalps over a very short period of time. What’s next for the rugged Mexican, in part, depends on what decision Chocolatito makes about his future, but should Chocolatito walk off into the sunset, there will be plenty of quality paydays and opportunities to further burnish Estrada’s growing legend.

As for Chocolatito, he made it clear in the post-fight interview in the ring that this may actually be it. Although it’s fair to say that Chocolatito did express interest in a fourth fight with Estrada (and what fight fan wouldn’t want that?), assuming the money is right, he made it clear that he was receiving pressure from home to hang up the gloves and just be with his family.

If that ends up being the case, the question that will be asked is, where does Chocolatito rate on that small scale that Estrada is currently climbing? I would say as a minimumweight, light flyweight, and flyweight, Chocolatito was truly one of the greatest ever. Not once did he lose a single fight in any of those weight classes – winning titles in all three. However, super flyweight has been a much bumpier ride for Chocolatito. Since winning the WBC title in his super flyweight debut over Carlos Cuadras, his record in the division stands at a pedestrian 5-4.

The biggest issue for Chocolatito is that his power has not traveled up to super flyweight in a way that makes him the devastating puncher he once was in the lower weight classes. To be fair, in those nine fights, he has not been fighting cream puffs. His four losses have come at the hands of Estrada (2X) and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (2X as well). Chocolatito came up in weight and immediately started fighting the best of the best at super flyweight, but as we’ve come to see (and the record doesn’t lie), he’s a 50/50 fighter against top competition right now in his current weight class.

December 3, 2022; Glendale, Arizona; Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez during their WBC World and Ring Magazine Super-Flyweight fight at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Mandatory Credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

He’s simply not the Chocolatito he was before. That being said, having a 50/50 shot against the best is hardly embarrassing, and lord knows, boxing could use more top-level 50/50 fights. But, for Chocolatito, is it still worth it? He will be 36 this summer, and unless his very next fight is number four against Estrada, it may not be worth it to him financially or physically to continue. That’s not to say that Chocolatito couldn’t regain the super flyweight crown after just missing out in doing so by a hair’s breadth Saturday night, but as the early part of the fight showed, Chocolatito is becoming more and more of a slow starter, and that extra bit of gas he siphoned from late last night may not have much left in the tank.

While I can’t imagine a single reason why fight fans wouldn’t want an Estrada/Chocolatito quadrilogy, I can gather why Chocolatito may not. And if he leaves now, he will be on the short list of the greatest flyweight and below fighters ever – top five, probably. With his legacy secure, if walking away is Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez’s final move, he may well be picking the perfect time to do it. He owes us, himself, and the sport of boxing nothing more. And however much we may want that fourth fight between him and Estrada, we hardcore types should just be grateful that we had Chocolatito as long as we did.