Fighting

Flyweight Roman “Chocolatico” Gonzalez seeks fame in American market

Nicaraguan challenger Roman Gonzalez, right, hits his right on the face of Japanese champion Akira Yaegashi in the fifth round of their WBC flyweight boxing title match in Tokyo, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Gonzalez won the title after defeating Yaegashi by a technical knockout in the 10th round.
Nicaraguan challenger Roman Gonzalez, right, hits his right on the face of Japanese champion Akira Yaegashi in the fifth round of their WBC flyweight boxing title match in Tokyo, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Gonzalez won the title after defeating Yaegashi by a technical knockout in the 10th round. AP

Fighters in the smallest weight classes rarely make breakthroughs in the U.S. boxing market. For the minimum and flyweight division fighters, Mexico and Asia usually become the coveted destinations to reach stardom.

Roman “Chocolatico” Gonzalez is trying to defy the common trend. Already well known in Mexico and the Far East, the native of Nicaragua and three division world champion now seeks acceptance by American fight fans.

In an attempt to convert additional followers, Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KOs) also strives for permanency or further escalation in pound-for-pound best fighters’ lists. Gonzalez will have a lucrative platform for his aspirations on Oct. 17.

Gonzalez, who recently was voted the best pound-for-pound fighter by Ring Magazine after Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s retirement, will make the third defense of his World Boxing Council flyweight belt against Brian Viloria at Madison Square Garden in New York. The bout will be part of a pay-per-view telecast headlined by the middleweight title unification fight between Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux. 

“When I go back I would never have imagined that I could be No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter or have won three world championships,” Gonzalez said of his accomplishments in a recent conference call. “I have taken care of myself. That is one of the great lessons. I am looking forward to October 17 to demonstrate my talent and be victorious once again.”

Gonzalez, 28, possesses appealing qualities that should resonate with American fight fans. Similar to the card’s headliner Golovkin, Gonzalez’s wins-knockout percentage not only defines dominance but a preference for aggression — often appealing to many boxing followers.

Not coincidentally, HBO is showcasing Gonzalez and Golovkin in their second consecutive bouts. The premium cable network, targeting a new wave of attractions now that its signature fighter Manny Pacquiao is closer to retirement, featured Gonzalez and Golovkin in a telecast May 16. Both fighters retained their respective titles with knockout victories.

“It definitely motivates me to be able to fight at Madison Square Garden and HBO is giving me the opportunity,” Gonzalez said. “And I need to perform well so that HBO continues to give me the opportunity to fight the best fighters. But not just me — I hope that other fighters in my weight class can get, from HBO, the same opportunity.”

Despite being a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team and enjoying reigns as junior-flyweight and flyweight champion, Viloria (36-4, 22 KOs) couldn’t scale the barrier placed on the lightest weight fighters and high-profile TV opportunities. Viloria has appeared on two HBO2 telecasts.

“Roman Gonzalez has sort of catapulted onto the scene and captured people’s attention,” Viloria said on the same conference call that featured Gonzalez. “With ascendancy, we all embrace it because a rising tide is great for the sport and for the [lighter] divisions. 

“I can never figure out why our division has never been looked on the same way as the higher weights. But I can assure you that come October 17, a lot of people will figure out why they have not paid a lot of attention to it only because we are going to show a great fight.”   

AROUND THE RING

▪ Miami resident Luis Ortiz also landed a spot on the Oct. 17 pay-per-view telecast. A native of Cuba, Ortiz (22-0, 19 KOs) will face Argentina’s Matias Vidondo (20-1-1, 18 KOs) for a second-tier sanctioning body heavyweight title.  

▪ Miami’s Randall Bailey knocked out Sushaku Fujinaka in the seventh round of their welterweight bout Sunday in Seoul, South Korea. Bailey is now 46-8 with 39 knockouts. 

▪ Late Saturday, Ukraine’s Viktor Postol scored a 10th-round knockout win over Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse for the vacant WBC super-lightweight title in Carson, California. Postol (28-0, 12 KOs) dropped Mathysse (37-4-) with a right to the head and was counted out by referee Jack Reiss at 2:58 of the round. 

In another sanctioning body super-lightweight bout, three division world champion Adrien Broner scored a 12th-round technical knockout over Russia’s Khabib Allakhverdiev in Cincinnati. The victory earned Broner (31-2, 23 KOs) the vacant World Boxing Association 140-pound belt.

On the same card, Jose Pedraza retained his International Boxing Federation junior-lightweight title with a split decision win over Edner Cherry.     

▪ Aventura resident and FIU senior Ahmed Elbiali will make a quick ring return following his first-round knockout win on Sept. 8. Elbiali (12-0, 11 KOs) will appear on a card Oct. 13 in Shelton, Washington. Elbiali’s opponent in the light-heavyweight bout will be named this week. 

▪ Spanish-language network Telemundo opens its fall season of live telecasts Friday night in Kissimmee. Former featherweight contender Orlando Cruz of Puerto Rico will face Mexico’s Gabino Cota in a scheduled 10-round junior-lightweight bout.            

Coming up

Tuesday (9 p.m., Fox Sports 1): Julius Jackson vs. Jose Uzcategui, 12, super-middleweights. 

Friday (11:30 p.m., Telemundo-Ch. 51): Orlando Cruz vs. Gabino Cota, 10, junior lightweights. 

Saturday (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network): Danny O’Connor vs. Gabriel Bracero, 10, welterweights.

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