Chocolatito talks Estrada, Rungvisai, religion, and future plans

1209908675.jpg.0 - Chocolatito talks Estrada, Rungvisai, religion, and future plansPhoto by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Roman Gonzalez believes there is plenty more to come in his career. 

“We never stop learning in life or boxing,” Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez told Bad Left Hook through his manager and translator for the day, Carlos Blandon. The 33-year-old reclaimed world honours in the junior bantamweight division just before the world shut down and believes he has more to give as his career winds down.

A third successive win for the Nicaraguan – stopping Kal Yafai inside nine rounds – confirmed his return to form following back-to-back losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017. These two defeats had threatened to retire the four-weight world champion, with a devastating knockout in the rematch confirming the changing of the guard at 115 pounds.

Looking back on those defeats, Gonzalez credits God as well as his new training team for allowing him to bounce back so effectively.

“I always have God in my heart and in my corner. It’s always necessary to ask for help to God, your family and your team. I was able to make a winning formula with my team after that knockout loss. I added a head trainer Marcos Caballero and a strength coach Rafael Caballero and that made the difference.

“I feel like I only lost one of those fights, even though the record books will state differently. It was very difficult afterwards, but it was necessary to value everything that God has given me. To overcome those losses and win another championship has been a dream come true. Hopefully, along the road, we will see each other again [Srisaket Sor Rungvisai].

“Retirement definitely crossed mind. Still, I felt that I had a good run in front of me, so I met with my manager, Carlos Blandon, and we decided to organize a winning team. And here we are again, ready for war.”

Gonzalez rolled back the years in Frisco, Texas, putting on a conclusive display against Yafai that few thought he still had left in him. Working the jab, moving his feet and throwing together some tasty combos, Chocolatito laughed in the face of Father Time.

“I felt that I had accomplished one more dream in my life,” Gonzalez spoke of that evening. “I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone just to myself and my team. I am thankful with God that gave me the opportunity to fight such a great champion that I admire and it was an honour to share the ring with him. The rest of the people will always have their opinions, and I respect them, but I’m not concerned about them.”

Asked what he believes he needs to improve on going into his next fight, Gonzalez answered honestly.

“I would like to improve my defence, and also my rapid pivot movements on both feet,” he said. Chocolatito is being linked with WBC and Ring Magazine champion Juan Francisco Estrada for later this year, rematching the Mexican eight years after sealing a unanimous decision over him at junior flyweight.

“I think he is a great champion and our fight will be very explosive,” Gonzalez spoke of Estrada. “We have both learned a lot and have become more mature in and out of the ring, so I expect it will be an excellent performance from both of us.”

Since COVID-19 shut down the world, Gonzalez has been able to keep busy in preparation for a date. DAZN are targetting October for Gonzalez’s return, although a fight in the interim before a clash with “El Gallo” looks the preferred option.

“It has definitely been tough times for everyone,” he continued. “I was very concerned with the safety of my family, team and the world. I stayed in my house for the first month, but then I started to exercise in my backyard, and then I visited my manager’s personal gym he has in his house and we would workout with facemasks. It was difficult to get accustomed, but I knew that I had to stay in shape to be able to defend this world title which I prayed and worked so hard for.”

Gonzalez constantly pays tribute to his family, team and God, who he believes has helped him achieve everything he has in the sport. Being “a boxer that inspired the youth to be able to overcome financial struggles and hardships,” is how he would like to be remembered in retirement, although the Nicaraguan still feels he has plenty more victories to achieve.

Life on his farm and managing his real estate business awaits in retirement for Chocolatito, but for now, age is just a number.

Fifty-one professional fights into a 15-year career and Gonzalez assures me there is plenty more to come.

Follow Lewis Watson @lewroyscribbles

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