It’s impossible to ignore the universal adoration for Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez in the boxing world. Guilty, I’m a paid-up member of the fan club. The proud Nicaraguan has been a joy to watch across his four title-winning divisions, with this Saturday marking his 53rd professional bout, and second against Juan Francisco Estrada – a rematch of two fading forces but masters of their art.
There have been plenty of highlights across his 16 years as a professional, but what are some of his standout wins? Let the arguing commence…
5. TKO-2 Edgar Sosa (2015)
Chocolatito’s obliteration of Edgar Sosa earmarked his HBO debut in destructive style back in 2015. No doubt the Mexican was over the hill by the time their paths crossed inside the Inglewood Forum, but this seek-and-destroy mentality from the defending WBC and Ring Magazine flyweight champion was the perfect introduction to a wider audience.
Gonzalez accelerated off the front foot from the opening bell and was intent on making an early mark on Sosa. Body to head, head to body, the intelligent aggression was on full display in the opening round, with an accumulation of varied timber causing three knockdowns in the second round.
A sustained assault with Sosa’s back to the ropes saw the fight come to an end with 26 seconds remaining in the round, with the Mexican veteran stopped for just the third time in his career.
Gonzalez was known prior to this fight, but debuting on HBO would have brought with it pressures to entertain a new, wider audience. He thrived under the spotlight and administered a one-sided beat down using every tool in his toolbox.
4. TKO-9 Kal Yafai (2020)
I’ve spoken with Gonzalez twice since his 2020 win over Kal Yafai and on both occasions he was keen to underline the importance and magnitude of this victory. I’ll hold my hands up, I picked Yafai to edge this one in a kind of shot-to-nothing, flag-waving, back the Brits attempt, but as soon as the opening bell rang it was clear that Chocolatito still had plenty left in the tank and more than enough to de-throne Yafai.
Gonzalez out-worked the younger man convincingly in the middle rounds, dropping and stopping the former Olympian for the WBA junior bantamweight title. His consistent work-rate surprised many, and the ease at which he was able to cut off the ring and beat the fight out of Yafai was a throwback to his flyweight reign. A massive right hand closed the show in the ninth, underlining the terrific power he has carried up through the weights.
This was Gonzalez’s biggest test since the back-to-back losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and questions were answered in emphatic style.
3. TKO-9 Akira Yaegashi (2014)
Gonzalez ripped the WBC and Ring Magazine flyweight titles out of the hands of the tough and experienced veteran in blistering style back in 2014, doing to the Japanese star what no man had previously been able to do.
This was Gonzalez’s eighth fight in Japan, and true to form the then 27-year-old delivered in his toughest fight in the two years following on from Juan Francisco Estrada. Yaegashi was willing to trade with Gonzalez throughout the nine rounds, but found himself on the wrong side of raw punching power and impressive ring IQ from the challenger.
Yaegashi was a smart counter-puncher but was never given the openings by Gonzalez to make a proper imprint on the contest. The champion was dropped by a monstrous left hook in the third round, setting the tone for what was to follow until a five-punch combination sealed the deal in the ninth.
2. UD-12 Juan Francisco Estrada (2012)
And just like that, we’ve come full circle. Chocolatito and Estrada first traded leather nine years and seven pounds ago, with this Saturday’s contest giving the Mexican chance of revenge for the second loss of his career.
2012’s first contest saw an absorbing clash of styles at junior flyweight, as Estrada dropped down a weight class and fought for the first time outside of his native Mexico. This was “Gallo’s” first world title tilt, coming up short over the distance despite effectively deploying a back-foot counter-punching strategy with some heavy combinations testing the mettle of Chocolatito.
Gonzalez continued to march forward, smashing his way through the target and bloodying the face of the challenger with pin-point precision over varied attacks of ruthless aggression.
Chocolatito admits this was one of the toughest fights of his career and expects both him and Estrada to have “matured” ahead of their rematch on Saturday night. If we are treated to a percentage of what unravelled in 2012, then we are once again in for a treat.
1. UD-12 Carlos Cuadras (2016)
Unbeaten over a combined 81-fight period, Gonzalez and Cuadras went to war over a bloody twelve rounds back in 2016, with the WBC junior bantamweight title at stake.
Making the leap from 112-pounds to 115, Chocolatito was attempting to make history in Nicaragua in becoming the first fighter to win world honours in four different weight classes – eclipsing that of his hero Alexis Arguello.
What developed was a slugfest between two warriors, with Cuadras finding success off the back foot and landing some stiff right hands and huge swinging uppercuts to the advancing face of Gonzalez. The challenger’s pressure inevitably prevailed over the distance, despite Cuadras forcing him to fight until the final bell and damage to both eyes. Gonzalez would have stopped many fighters before this point, but Cuadras was able to hold his feet and fire back with venom down the stretch.
This is one of my personal favourite fights of the last 10 years. Gonzalez sealed his legacy that night against Cuadras and has continued to build on it since.