By Jake Donovan
If there’s an upside to dueling cards in Las Vegas on September 15, it’s that a fighter such as Jhonny Gonzalez benefits from the additional exposure that will come with a showcase appearance on a major premium American network.
The free swinging featherweight titlist is slated for the co-feature slot on the Showtime card headlined by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in a 154 lb. title defense against Josesito Lopez. In the chief support, Gonzalez faces Daniel Ponce de Leon. Many believe that not only will it steal the show, but also prove to outshine the middleweight title fight between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sergio Martinez which headlines a rival show in town that same evening.
Gonzalez couldn’t care less about stealing anyone’s spotlight. Where this fight carries true meaning is his opportunity to once again fight on a day near and dear to his heart, both as a proud Mexican citizen and as a human being in general. September 15 is not only Mexican Independence Day, but also the fighter’s 31st birthday.
“It’s a special day,” Gonzalez (52-7, 45KO) says matter-of-factly. “I’m used to (fighting on my birthday). My last two birthdays I’ve spent in the ring, where I will once again have my present.”
Gonzalez earned his 50th win last year on his 30th birthday, breezing through a 2nd round knockout of Rogers Mtagwa in their nationally-televised ESPN headliner. One year prior, Gonzalez truly put himself back into title contention with a thrilling 6th round knockout of Jackson Asiku in an independent pay-per-view headliner that proved to be one of the best fights of the year in 2010.
The win over Asiku paved the way for Gonzalez to pursue a title in a second weight class. The veteran knockout artist is a former bantamweight titlist who came up short in separate tries at the 122 lb. crown against then-lineal champ Israel Vazquez in 2006 – in fact, one day after his 25th birthday – and in 2009 against the still-reigning Toshiaki Nishioka.
Gonzalez hit paydirt last yearl, rallying from an early deficit to knockout Hozumi Hasegawa in four rounds on the road in Japan. Four title defenses have followed, including a points win over Elio Rojas this past April.
Wins over Hasegawa and Rojas rank among his best, as does a May ’06 points win over Fernando Montiel. Still, it’s this fight that Gonzalez believes will define his true worth as one of the best in the sport today.
“He is now the best in the list; that’s why I have prepared special for him,” Gonzalez insists of Ponce de Leon (43-4, 35KO). “He has a difficult style, the hunger, the strength and the Mexican heart.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox