The Beginners Guide to Roman ‘Chocolatito” Gonzalez’s career | Boxing Binge-Watch
Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez was 88-0 as an amateur, but that is really hard to verify, but nonetheless, Gonzalez was one of the best amateurs ever and more than likely the best Nicaraguan amateur ever. Chocolatito didn’t choose to go to the Olympics but rather turned professional at 18-years-old in 2005. This decision has never been fully explained in any interview I could find.
He was given the nickname Chocolatito by Alexis Arguello, per HBO’s ‘2 Days’ his grandfather a famous boxer in Nicaragua. My uncle, Cali Gonzalez, was also a really good boxer, as well as my father, Luis Gonzalez. Due to his dark skin complexion, everyone called him ‘Chocolate.’ So when I started boxing, people called me ‘Little Chocolate,’ which is where the word ‘Chocolatito’ comes from.”
Early Days of His Career
Gonzalez began his career fighting in Nicaragua, before two bouts in Japan under the Teiken Promotions promotional banner. Gonzalez won his first world title at the minimumweight defeating Yutaka Niida by a fourth-round stoppage for the WBA title. The bout serves as the first recorded bout to binge-watch as Gonzalez displays his beautiful ability to cut-off the ring on Niida as well as uses his size in the 105 lbs. division to overpower Niida.
It wasn’t until Gonzalez fought Francisco Rosas that Gonzalez was truly tested in the pro reigns. Gonzalez, who was quoted as having the “flu-like symptoms” prior to the bout struggled in the second half of the bout, and took a tremendous amount of body shots as the two traded blows. This fight somewhat sums up Chocolatito’s career as Rosas is a tough fighter, whose record could be mocked, but also could’ve been easily avoided, part of the charm of Gonzalez is he took on all foes, of all styles, which eventually lead to his undoing.
Gonzalez would start to make headway towards becoming a legend by defeating Katsunari Takayama better known as “Lightning Foot”, who held the world title five times in his career, and recently made an ill-fated attempt at the 2020 Olympic team. Gonzalez would overpower Takayama who used fast feet and hands to disrupt opponents, Gonzalez would display his unconventional, but incredible footwork while forcing Takayama to work in the ring, when Takayama wanted to take a break.
In the midst of this run, Gonzalez went back and stopped Francisco Rosas, the man who gave him a tough outing only a few fights back. Gonzalez put on a masterclass as it was clear, Gonzalez came in with a point to prove using his trademark left hand 45 uppercut to the body and head in unison to neutralize Rosas, who looked unsettled the whole time.
After defeating Roman Garcia Hirales for the WBA light flyweight world title, Gonzalez was now a two-division world champion. Sadly, Gonzalez’s most fabled fight will be one that most never watched live, and most will never sit through entirely. Gonzalez would fight and defeat future pound-for-pound fighter Juan Francisco Estrada in a competitive bout. Estrada gave Gonzalez issues at the beginning with movement, reminiscent of how his mentor Alexis Arguello struggled with boxers in his career. The difference was Gonzalez adjusted and made the ring smaller, fighting the bout on his terms and edging out a close victory as the two took a lot of damage in a bout that was seen only on domestic television regionally.
In 2013, Gonzalez stopped Francisco Rodriguez Jr. by way of the 7th round TKO stoppage at flyweight. Rodriguez is still a top-ten ranked fighter in the super flyweight division and Rodriguez has stayed relevant. These are the type of wins Gonzalez amassed, not sparkling shiny records guys, but tough guys that on any given night could beat you, if you didn’t train hard.
In the obnoxious film snob way, the best version of Roman Gonzalez I saw was when he won picked up his third world title in his third division by beating WBC flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi stopping the champion in September of 2014 in the ninth round. In this bout, Gonzalez’s ability to counter an incredibly sharp Yaegashi was superb as was his ability to shorten the ring and force Yaegashi to expend tremendous energy while absorbing damage in the process. It might be hard for some to watch since it isn’t in English, but of all the fights, this fight feels to be the closest to Gonzalez’s prime.
Coming To The U.S.A. Full-Time
Despite an already legendary career, Gonzalez’s fights were not being seen largely in the western world by most fighters, and despite a lot of support by enthusiastic fans on Twitter, his influence was limited on the United States, at the time. Gonzalez was still just viewed as a “lower weight fighter obnoxious people try to cram down your throat or belittle you for not knowing who he is, despite the lack of distribution of his fights”. Despite being a world-level talent, it is hard to tell anyone to do anything especially people in the United States, just look at the COVID-19 situation, and Gonzalez felt some backlash as he was heavily hyped coming into America.
Often, we get to see fighters careers from infancy until they win a world title, but in Gonzalez’s case, we saw him debut on HBO at a little past his prime or just at his prime with a hard-selling HBO Boxing trying demand you like him, as opposed to displaying his talents, seemed to divide people on the great fighter. Enter in a growing divide in the sport as Floyd Mayweather had left HBO for Showtime, and a slew of fighters followed suit, creating fans who became brand loyal and not sport loyal.
Gonzalez debut on HBO against Edgar Sosa in 2015, and started an era of being featured as Gennady Golovkin’s co-main event partner. The flyweight and super flyweight division fighters were not getting the money that bigger weight fighters made, so competitive and high-quality fights could be for a co-main event budgets, and Gonzalez’s propensity to knock people out, made him a fan favorite.
During this time, Gonzalez stopped Brian Viloria, defeated McWilliams Arroyo as well. Gonzalez was plugging along as well as HBO pairing him with fan-favorite Gennady Golovkin, saw him become a more known commodity in the sport.
If You Watch One Fight, Watch This One.
Roman Gonzalez defeated Cuadras to win the WBC super flyweight world title, making him a four-division world champion, a feat that is rarely accomplished, surpassing his mentor Alexis Arguello, who was a three-division world champion. Gonzalez fighting at super flyweight, against Carlos Cuadras, the WBC super flyweight world champion, saw that his aggressive style had some issues with the bigger fighters in the super flyweight division, which foreshadowed the future…
This bout dubbed ‘Super-Fly’ was a play on the division and as well as the 70s blaxploitation films of the same name. This form of marketing made Gonzalez a main event fighter earning $400,000, and headlining HBO Boxing.
Yet, months later, Gonzalez’s coach Arnulfo Obando passed away at 53-years-old.
Gonzalez took time away from boxing before returning in March of 2017 to face Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, a lesser-known Thai fighter, who was ranked #1 by the WBC. The bout was fateful as Gonzalez was dropped in the first round and lost a close majority decision. I share the unpopular opinion that I feel Rungvisai pulled it out, but just barely. Rungvisai was all wrong for Gonzalez, too big, too willing to stand and trade with Gonzalez, and Gonzalez was not a backfoot fighter, meaning he had to exchange with the much bigger man to be effective.
Gonzalez went into an immediate rematch six months later as he headlined “Super-Fly II” in what most thought would be a redemption story for Gonzalez, a week before Canelo Alvarez versus Gennady Golovkin’s first bout. The outcome was not that. Gonzalez was hurt in the fourth round and then stopped in that same round.
The feeling was a deflating feeling for Gonzalez fans, and felt to be one of the major blows to HBO Boxing, who left boxing shortly thereafter. Gonzalez who was labeled as the pound-for-pound #1 fighter by Ring Magazine as well HBO Sports’ ‘The Fight Game’, saw internet trolls take aim at his reputation in one of the lowest moments of his career.
Gonzalez would only fight once in 2018 stopping former world champ Moises Fuentes in five rounds and stopping Diomel Diocos in two rounds in possibly Gonzalez’s last fight in Japan in 2019.
This past year, Gonzalez won the WBA super flyweight title by stopping Kal Yafai in the ninth round, meaning Gonzalez will still have a bit more of his career remaining.
Gonzalez has held six world titles over four divisions dating back to 2008, holding a career record in world title fights of 16-2.
Gonzalez was one of the best lower weight fighters I ever saw in person. Gonzalez used a beautiful form of shift his weight to his left side followed by a left uppercut that was timed beautifully in his prime. Gonzalez’s footwork was unconventional as he was flat-footed, because he looked for power shots, but was able to cut the ring off and punch with an opponent while not taking too many shots for an offensive-minded fighter.
Gonzalez will be remembered as a legendary offensive-minded fighter who accomplished more than most in the sport of boxing and was a pioneer for lower weight class fighters.