“In boxing and in life, you have to go one step at a time,” Roman Gonzalez told me this weekend.
Sure, that mindset is to be expected from Chocolatito. He is of course an athlete. He’s conditioned to peak on certain evenings following arduous camps and endless miles on the body clock, with tunnel vision a necessary byproduct.
Us, as fans and followers of his art are more impatient, more inquisitive, more willing to look ahead and predict where or when certain fighters legacies will be rubber-stamped.
Many feel that the ink is already dry on Gonzalez’s legacy. The Nicaraguan is a four-weight world champion who has held titles spanning three decades, but before a future date in Canastota, the 33-year-old promises me that there is still plenty left in the tank and plenty more to prove.
“I believe age is just a number when you have faith in God,” he added, referring to the time in between this and his first fight with Juan Francisco Estrada in 2012. 3,038 days and seven pounds separate the two meetings, with myriad other ingredients to consider.
“I believe both of us have matured. We’ve also had the flavor of defeat which builds your boxing career even more than victory at times. We have both evolved as champions and will bring an even more competitive fight than the first.”
Chocolatito won a unanimous decision that night retaining his WBA title at light flyweight, but would a repeat all these years down the line be of more significance to him?
“I won’t know if it’s the best victory of my career until the fight happens,” he explained. “Boxing can be unpredictable at times, but I am eager for this rematch. It’s still a dream of mine to unify and become undisputed by the end of the year, but first, we concentrate on Estrada.”
His hunger hasn’t waned. Back-to-back defeats to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai 2017 could well have signalled the end for Chocolatito’s reign at the top of the super-flyweight tree, but his determination to succeed shines through. A trilogy with the Thai fighter should follow if he can navigate “El Gallo”, and it’s a challenge he’d love in an attempt to avenge the only defeats in his lengthy career.
“I definitely have a lot of hunger still, the hunger is what fuels my sacrifice of leaving my family for such a long period of time. I need this hunger in order to keep my boxing career and in order and defend my title. I would love to fight Rungvisai again. He’s a very hard fighter that has challenged me and helped me also to re-emerge as a better boxer in my humble career.”
But first, it’s Estrada. He knows him well and has identified the strengths of the Mexican world champion. “He’s got excellent speed, real strength and great boxing IQ. My Coach Marcos Caballero and Rafael Rojas have chosen a very strong counterpuncher [in sparring] for this camp and it’s working great in my perspective.”
“We are still improving. My boxing IQ has definitely improved over the years, as well as my ability to space my energy out through the rounds in a fight.”
Chocolatito refuses to consider defeat on Mar. 13. Instead, the fuel to get him over the line is imagining what victory celebrations would look like. True to the nature of Gonzalez, it’s low-key, modest and restrained.
“Gallo pinto, sour cream, fried plantains and cheese.” he envisaged. “That’s all, sitting in our dining room area with my daughter and sons, happy.”