By Ryan Maquiñana
Brandon Gonzales was on the cusp of establishing his presence in the middleweight division, but a series of unfortunate events put those plans on hold in 2012.
First, a ShoBox date with Caleb Truax to open last year fell apart when Gonzales tore his groin in training camp, leading to months of rehab.
Next, before his appearance on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights last June, the 28-year-old Gonzales (16-0, 10 KOs) sustained a cut over his left eye in sparring that threatened to cancel a clash against Elie Augustama. However, the unbeaten prospect from Sacramento, Calif., had it glued shut and proceeded to take on Augustama—and the cut re-opened.
Though he would go on to post a shutout victory with trainer Virgil Hunter in his corner, Gonzales was forced out of action afterward due to the injury. Then when negotiations fell through for one more bout upon his recovery to close the year, Gonzales found himself inactive for seven months.
On Friday night, his wait will come to an end when he meets Don Mouton (12-4-1, 10 KOs) on another ESPN2 card, with this bout occurring at the Indian School in Santa Fe, N.M. BoxingScene.com caught up with Gonzales, who has moved up to super middleweight and is primed to make an impression in 2013.
BoxingScene.com: You’re fighting Don Mouton on ESPN Friday Night Fights, and I’m sure it must be a relief to get back in the ring after a lengthy layoff.
Brandon Gonzales: It will be seven months since I’ve had my last fight, and it’s ironic. Alfredo Angulo, who I’ve been sparring with here, was out for seven months as well, but he was locked up [in an immigration detention center due to visa issues], and yet, he’s fought twice since coming back. That’s kind of a joke we’ve got going on the gym. But anyway, I’m in a new weight class and I’m ready to go.
BoxingScene.com: So you’re moving back up to super middleweight for this fight? Are you done with middleweight?
Brandon Gonzales: Virgil [Hunter] convinced me to finally move back up to super middleweight. It’s been past due for probably I’d say since the Lester Gonzalez fight. But middleweight’s always appealed to me. It’s one of the original weight classes. I always looked up to guys like Marvin Hagler, Bernard Hopkins, and dominant champions like that. But I finally had to let that go and move up.
BoxingScene.com: Was this mainly a business decision, or did you feel sapped having to come down to 160 pounds?
Brandon Gonzales: Yeah, I felt it, but especially in the last two weeks heading into a fight. When you get in a fight, you try to just run with it regardless of how you feel. It’s a matter of endurance there. But making 160 instead of 168 is different in the sense that now I can be in the 170s those last two weeks, and it feels better.
BoxingScene.com: With the seven months of inactivity, how frustrating was it to be sidelined? Did you ever start having doubts about your career taking off, especially with you approaching 30 years old?
Brandon Gonzales: Yeah, you can get discouraged at times. But I have a good management and promotional team, with James Prince and Antonio Leonard and Goossen Tutor, and a good trainer in Virgil Hunter, so I’m confident in guys doing the things we’ve talked about. The injury was nobody’s fault. Those happen. It’s not really a time to look back at what could have been. It’s 2013, and I’m just looking forward to putting on a great show on ESPN.
BoxingScene.com: Your last fight was on ESPN, against Elie Augustama last June. What lessons did you learn from that fight, and how has that carried over into this camp?
Brandon Gonzales: It’s a better camp than the Augustama camp for sure. In that camp, there were some minor things. There was the cut. People might think that perfect training camp leads to a perfect fight, but that’s not always true. Just because you have a difficult camp doesn’t mean you’ll have a difficult fight. That’s the one lesson I learned from that Augustama fight. You can still prevail even if everything in camp doesn’t go your way.
BoxingScene.com: You were CSN Bay Area’s Northern California Prospect of the Year in 2011, and Virgil said that you have the tools to become a world champion. Do the accolades or receiving praise like that keep you going?
Brandon Gonzales: Definitely. Virgil’s a great trainer. I take in what he teaches, and I want to show that on Friday.
BoxingScene.com: Does it serve as any inspiration knowing that Andre Ward, who also works with Virgil, has had several postponements due to injuries over the past few years and yet has seemingly come back stronger each time?
Brandon Gonzales: Right. Our paths might have been a little different. It’s the same ocean, but a different boat. These are all just setbacks that I just have to keep overcoming, and one day, I hope to look back at these having done that. I just have to take advantage of this opportunity that I’ve been given.
BoxingScene.com: What do you know about your opponent, Don Mouton?
Brandon Gonzales: I haven’t studied film on him. Virgil has done all that and just gives me the plan. I think Mouton’s style is cut-and-dried. He comes forward and likes to mix it up. He can box a little bit, but I think I have more options to react to when I see the way he comes out in the ring.
BoxingScene.com: How has it felt being able to return to 168 pounds, where you fought for the majority of your early career?
Brandon Gonzales: Adjusting back to 168 pounds has been great. I’ve been able to make the transition back and felt strong. I got some good sparring with Angulo, Demetrius [Andrade], and Fernando [Guerrero]. As far as on a personal level with Virgil, it’s just about execution and becoming more efficient about the things we work on in the gym. It takes time but I expect them to come into play over these next few fights.
BoxingScene.com: You also exhibited some solid power at 168 pounds, whereas at 160 you made your mark as more of a boxer. Is it safe to say that we’ll be seeing a return to a more explosive style?
Brandon Gonzales: I hope so man, to be honest with you. I not only feel stronger, but stronger for longer, and maintaining the endurance and power over a fight is more effective for me now than when I was at 160. Right around rounds four to six is when you want to turn it up, and you want your power to be there late.
BoxingScene.com: With everything you went through and all the cancellations, what are your plans for 2013?
Brandon Gonzales: Definitely first things first, I want a standout performance against Mouton. I want to take it one fight at a time. Being at certain phases in the gym is crucial, and you’re not in that position unless you’re staying busy and staying active. I want to showcase my talent against a high-caliber opponent, and I believe all that’s around the corner if I take care of business here.
BoxingScene.com: Do you have anything else you would like to tell the boxing world?
Brandon Gonzales: You know, I encourage everybody to call their grandparents and say hello. I recently lost my grandmother a couple weeks ago. I wasn’t in touch with her like I should have been, I overlooked those opportunities, and I hope people don’t make the same mistake with their grandparents or their loved ones.
BoxingScene.com: Was she a fan of your fights?
Brandon Gonzales: Yeah, she was following my career closely. As far as boxing advice, she told me, “Don’t get hit in the face.” I still remember her telling me that she couldn’t stand to see me get hit in the face, which is why she never came to my fights.
BoxingScene.com: Was she on your mom or dad’s side?
Brandon Gonzales: She’s my dad’s mom, so she’s on the Mexican side of my family out in Stockton. My dad told me he wanted a stoppage in her honor, and so I’m definitely trying to fulfill that wish.
BoxingScene.com: That, too, but more important, not get hit in the face.
Brandon Gonzales: Yeah, I can’t forget that either. (Laughs)
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.