This Saturday night at The Forum in Inglewood, California, Nicaragua's Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez will make his HBO debut against Mexican veteran Edgar Sosa. For many American fight fans, it will be the first chance to see Gonzalez, 27, in action. For diehard fans of boxing, it is a gift, as Gonzalez is quite possibly the best boxer in the world today -- yes, arguably better than the 38-year-old version of "TBE" himself.
So who is Gonzalez, and why should you care about this pint-sized dynamo?
Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez
Hometown: Managua, Nicaragua
Record: 42-0, 36 KO
Titles: WBA strawweight (2008-10), WBA junior flyweight (2011-12), WBC flyweight (2012-present)
Gonzalez turned pro on July 1, 2005, just a couple of weeks after his 18th birthday, at Casino Pharaohs in Managua, knocking out his opponent in the second round of a scheduled four-round fight. He stopped his first 16 opponents, mostly fighting at 108 pounds, before going to Japan on January 14, 2008, and being taken the distance for the first time by Hiroshi Matsumoto. The scores for the 10-round road trip were 100-90 twice, and 98-92.
His next fight came six weeks later back home in Nicaragua, where he again went the distance, even though he dropped club fighter Javier "Maravilla" Murillo seven times in 10 rounds. Seven months after that fight, he won his first world title, and he's been dominant ever since.
Fights to Watch
- Gonzalez vs Yutaka Niida (9/15/2008): Gonzalez's first world title win, a powerful and overwhelming beating of Niida, who was a two-time champ at 105 pounds and a pretty darn good fighter. Niida, who had retired once after his first world title win in 2001 due to back problems, never fought again after this was stopped in the fourth round by the referee and ringside physician, a combination of the loss of the fight and the sudden loss of his trainer Mitsunori Seki, who passed away three months prior to this bout.
- Gonzalez vs Francisco Rosas (2/28/2009): Gonzalez's first title defense (after a flyweight homecoming/stay-busy win in December) came on the road in Mexico against Rosas, a tough veteran who had never been stopped. Rosas gave Gonzalez the first really serious test of his career, with Roman retaining via majority decision. When they rematched in October 2010, Gonzalez knocked him out in the second round.
- Gonzalez vs Katsunari Takayama (7/14/2009): Coming off the close call against Rosas, Gonzalez got back to business in Japan with a dominant decision win over Takayama, who would go on to become a two-time titleholder at strawweight, and currently holds the IBF title.
- Gonzalez vs Omar Soto (10/1/2011): "Chocolatito" had won the WBA junior flyweight interim title with his rematch wipeout of Rosas in 2010, and defended already against Manuel "Chango" Vargas and Omar Salado, both fights coming in Mexico. This isn't really a notable fight other than it was Gonzalez's first bout on American soil, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the undercard of the FOX Deportes-televised Nishioka-Marquez card. He wrecked Soto, who had missed weight by almost four pounds, in the second round.
- Gonzalez vs Juan Francisco Estrada (11/17/2012): Fighting at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, Gonzalez defended his junior flyweight belt for the final time against Mexico's Estrada, a 22-year-old fighter with a record of 26-1. Gonzalez had to go the distance, but won clearly and got the deserved score cards. This fight is really notable now, because after this, Estrada upset Brian Viloria to win the WBA and WBO flyweight titles, and now is considered the No. 2 flyweight in the world behind only his former rival, Gonzalez.
- Gonzalez vs Francisco Rodriguez Jr (9/21/2013): In what was his functional flyweight debut (after taking a stay-busy fight at a 116-pound catchweight, a TKO-5 win over veteran Ronald Barrera), Gonzalez put a pretty good beating on Rodriguez, who was 12-1 entering the fight. Notable mostly because after this, Rodriguez would drop down to strawweight and win the WBO title in March 2014 by beating Merlito Sabillo, unifying that with the IBF title five months later with a win over the aforementioned Takayama. (He later vacated both belts.)
- Gonzalez vs Akira Yaegashi (9/5/2014): Yaegashi, like Gonzalez, was a former strawweight titleholder who had moved up in weight, and defended his WBC flyweight belt for the fourth time against Gonzalez. It would be his last defense, as the Nicaraguan dropped him in the third, dominated the fight, and finished him off in the ninth round to make clear that the flyweight division had a new chief. This was also Gonzalez's 40th win.
- Gonzalez vs Rocky Fuentes (11/22/2014): Gonzalez's first title defense was another pretty one-sided fight, with "Chocolatito" stopping Filipino contender Fuentes in the fifth round. Fuentes had lost his prior fight, a vacant IBF world title match against Amnat Ruenroeng in Thailand, but the way Gonzalez beat him was still very impressive. (Gonzalez has fought once since this fight, beating Valentin Leon in a catchweight bout on February 28 in Nicaragua.)
Flyweights (and even "worse," strawweights and junior flyweights) are always going to be a tough sell to the casual fan, but thankfully not everything in the world has to be for the casual fan. This is flat-out one of the very best fighters on the planet today, an offensive tornado with incredible skills, and it's encouraging that HBO is getting on the ball and airing someone who is this good.
Edgar Sosa (51-8, 30 KO) is a 35-year-old veteran who reigned as WBC junior flyweight titleholder from 2007-2009, fighting constantly over that time and making 10 successful title defenses before a controversial TKO-2 loss to foul-happy Rodel Mayol in November '09, where Mayol headbutted Sosa, causing multiple fractures to Sosa's cheekbone, and directly leading to the stoppage win after the fight continued.
Since then, Sosa has had some success as a flyweight, but has failed in two bids to secure another world title, losing to WBC titlists Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and Akira Yaegashi in 2011 and 2013, respectively. He won a pair of fights against journeyman types Omar Salado and Carlos Melo in 2014, but he is and should be a big time underdog against a fighter of Gonzalez's stature on Saturday.
Even if the fight isn't exactly 50-50 on paper (or close to it), Gonzalez, like headliner Gennady Golovkin, is a fighter you tune in to see anyway, because he's simply that good and that exciting to watch.
Since seeing is believing and you might not have the time or desire to watch all those fights linked above, here's a breakdown of Gonzalez's style from Lee Wylie, which was put together last October for The Fight City: