Chocolatito Gonzalez returns for the first time in a year, headlining on DAZN tomorrow night to face flyweight titleholder Julio Cesar Martinez, who steps in to replace Juan Francisco Estrada, with the planned Estrada-Chocolatito trilogy fight once again falling through.
As replacements go, this is a doozy. The fight will be at 115 lbs, so Martinez’s flyweight belt is not on the line, but he’s going for something big and taking a huge crack at something when he really didn’t have to do it. Likewise, Chocolatito really didn’t have to accept a dangerous, intriguing opponent, but he did.
So who wins this one?
Scott Christ (6-5)
The smart money is on Chocolatito here. Though he’s 34, he’s still very good, and he’s the far more technically sound fighter. It’s also the rare fight where he might actually be the slightly bigger man; he’s a tad taller than Martinez and has been fighting at 115 for six years now. Chances are, when Martinez gets into one of his wild rushes or starts throwing crazy flurries, it won’t be anything Chocolatito hasn’t seen before, and he should be able to not only hold his ground, but possibly pick Martinez apart and knock him out. Martinez was dropped by McWilliams Arroyo last time out, and matchup-wise, Chocolatito is sort of like a super-charged McWilliams Arroyo.
But I’m going with the younger fighter. I think we could see him get dropped again, but I also think we could see him clip Chocolatito and just change the fight. He’s a good finisher, generally, and when an opponent is hurt, anything can happen. It’s a gut feeling pick, but with another year off, advancing age, not getting the fight he was meant to get, I think there’s a confluence of factors that give JCM a better shot than the stylistic matchup may indicate. Martinez TKO-8
Wil Esco (8-3)
There’s almost zero chance of this being a boring fight which should come as great news to most. Chocolatito would appear to be coming down the last stretch of his professional fighting career but he put on a really good performance against Juan Francisco Estrada in his last outing (despite the loss) to show that he’s still got it left in the tank. That, I believe, will spell bad news for Julio Cesar Martinez, who sports an unorthodox two-fisted attack.
The biggest thing I see in this matchup is the style clash. Martinez lets both hands fly but his offense is largely predicated on winging hooks and against such a technically fundamentally sound fighter in Chocolatito, I think that puts him in the danger zone. Chocolatitio will be able to keep up with Martinez’s fast pace but I expect that during exchanges it’ll be Chocolatito’s straight punches that land first and more often, which will be problematic for Martinez, who isn’t a defensive wizard. Ultimately I think it’ll only be so long before Martinez gets broken down. Chocolatito TKO-10
John Hansen (8-3)
I love this fight. I can’t wait to see this fight. I’ve gone back and forth on it, changing my mind on the outcome at least half a dozen times since Martinez was announced as a replacement.
I’m picking Chocolatito. Saying that now to get it out of the way and commit myself before I change my mind again.
I think what we saw in Martinez vs McWilliams Arroyo is the key to this one. Arroyo is a sharp, strong, skilled guy; an economy class Chocolatito. He started off against Martinez with a disciplined plan and looked great early, but it all started slipping away from Arroyo when he pushed too hard and got caught with 10 seconds to go in the first round. I don’t know if he could have avoided Martinez’s power for 12 rounds, but I think his initial approach to the fight is a winning one.
Gonzalez’s otherworldly technical skills kept him atop pound-for-pound rankings for years, and his footwork and movement were unparalleled. Even if he’s lost a step in his mid 30s, he started out with plenty to spare. He can handle power, and he knows how to control and counter aggression.
Martinez is thrilling to watch because he has such entertaining power and tenacity, but we know he can be hit, and he can be dropped. We don’t know yet if he can be stopped, but Gonzalez has the skills and talent to work a game plan that doesn’t require it. Chocolatito UD-12
Patrick Stumberg (7-4)
It’s become clear that while Gonzalez isn’t at his peak, that’s not a huge deal when said peak was “arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.” Speaking as a huge fan of Julio Cesar Martinez, that’s more than a slight problem for “Rey.”
Gonzalez just seems like exactly the wrong sort of opponent for Martinez, one who can not only keep his composure in the sort of furious exchanges the latter prefers but capitalize on the many, many defensive lapses those create. Martinez relies on cowing his foes with speed, power, and unpredictability to keep them from clobbering his exposed chin, and if there’s anyone with the wherewithal to find that chin in the middle of a hurricane, it’s Gonzalez.
None of this is to say Martinez can’t win, just that Gonzalez is custom-built to take him out. “Chocolatito” puts him away before the championship rounds. Gonzalez TKO-9
And the staff winner is...
Chocolatito Gonzalez (3-1)!
Chocolatito vs Martinez odds
DraftKings Sportsbook has this one tight, with the veteran Chocolatito Gonzalez the very slight favorite at -140, with Julio Cesar Martinez at +115 as the underdog, making this about as much of a pick’em fight as boxing main events get.
Elsewhere on the card, Angel Fierro (-700), Souleymane Cissokho (-3000), Marc Castro (-3000), Diego Pacheco (-1200< and Skye Nicolson (-900) are very heavy favorites. Mauricio Lara, serving in a co-feature role, is also a huge favorite at -1200 over Emilio Sanchez (+700).