In 2015, Roman Gonzalez was our Fighter Of The Year, and when the clock struck twelve on the year 2019, we declared him to be The Fighter Of The Decade. And yet at the time so many believed we had seen the last of the brilliant pugilist they call “Chocolatito,” that one of the most likable and classy of fighters, not to mention a four division world champion, was ready for his rocking chair. It had been fun while it lasted, but clearly the astonishing performances and big wins were all now officially in the rear view mirror. Right?
It seemed a reasonable assumption to make given the grueling war Gonzalez had endured in his first bout against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017, a fight stolen from him by the judges. Six months later his powerful Thai nemesis knocked him out cold in four rounds and the verdict was in: that first, grueling and bloody struggle against Rungvisai had drained what was left of Gonzalez’s greatness. No one would forget his brilliant run as one of the best fighters in the sport, pound-for-pound, but now was the time to look back and fondly remember. The sun had set on “Chocolatito’s” prime. Right?
But then in 2020 Gonzalez challenged Khalid Yafai for yet another world title belt and not only did the Nicaraguan legend win, but he looked absolutely brilliant in the process. A perfunctory victory over Israel Gonzalez followed and then, in one of the truly great fights of recent years, not to mention this site’s Fight of the Year for 2021, “Chocolatito” clashed with Juan Francisco Estrada in a long overdue rematch. After twelve rounds of blistering action Estrada won a split decision, but more than a few fans thought the verdict rightfully belonged to Gonzalez.
The trilogy match between Estrada and Gonzalez was delayed for many months due to both fighters contracting the dreaded corona virus, but last night it finally happened and once again it was a thrilling duel between two latter-day greats. And while few are taking issue with Estrada getting the nod after twelve hard-fought rounds, all acknowledge it was another highly competitive battle, with more than a few, as well as one ringside judge, scoring it a draw.
Which is incredible, when you consider the fact that “Chocolatito” is now 35-years-old, ancient for a puffed-up flyweight, not to mention all the wear-and-tear on his diminutive frame from so many hard battles, long training camps and distance fights. The bottom line is we are either near, or at, the very end of one of the great ring careers of recent times, and so it behooves us to appreciate anew “The Great Gonzalez,” and the skills which have made him one of the finest boxers of all-time.
So what better reason could there be to revisit one of Lee Wylie‘s most brilliant videos, the one that was praised on air by HBO’s Jim Lampley, the one that Roman himself has declared that he is, in his own words, “eternally grateful for”? He reminded us once again with his heroic performance last night, but it can never be said too many times: fight fans are blessed to have watched the amazing career of such a class act, a true great, a true champion, “The Great Gonzalez.” Check it out: