By Jake Donovan
Having gone nine months between fights, the opportunities are suddenly piling up for Jhonny Gonzalez.
The reigning featherweight titlist returned to action over the weekend, scoring a 10-round technical decision win over previously unbeaten Clive Atwell. Gonzalez was in control for the most part, but never fully in rhythm before a headbutt left him cut over the left eye, pre-empting the title fight.
“It’s a win, even if it wasn’t a great performance,” states Oswaldo Kuchle, Gonzalez’ promoter. “He was a bit rusty due to inactivity, but he got the win and is ready for anything.”
With his first defense of his second featherweight title reign out of the way – even if not completely according to script – the three-time champ can now look to the future. A shocking 1st round knockout win put Gonzalez back in the limelight, though efforts to make the rematch a reality proved problematic. A rib injury suffered by Mares canceled their scheduled sequel earlier this year, with the bout never rescheduled.
Having moved on to the voluntary defense versus Atwell, the next step was rumored to be a lucrative showdown with countryman Jorge Arce. Such a fight remains in talking stages, with several hurdles to clear.
In the meantime, Gonzalez watches with great interest as Rocky Juarez turned back the clock with an upset win over Rene Alvarado. The Nicaraguan held a “Silver” title which put him in line for a future crack at Gonzalez, but Juarez outmuscled the featherweight contender to resurrect his once-fledging career.
Prior to the fight, Juarez was unapologetic in his intention to win this fight and land a title shot versus Gonzalez. The Texan did his part, in a performance that left the featherweight champ impressed and anxious to offer a fitting reward.
“I wasn’t surprised that Alvarado lost,” Gonzalez (56-8, 47KO) informed Boxingscene.com when pressed for comment.
His team took it a bit further.
“We knew Alvarado was never an A-level fighter; he beat a B-level fighter in Robinson Castellanos to become a contender,” Kuchle suggests. “We wanted Rocky to win because we knew he was the better fighter, and Jhonny fighting a former Olympian is a terrific story for both fighters.”
The win puts Juarez (30-10, 21KO) in title contention for the first time in five years, when he twice came up short versus then-long-reigning champ Chris John. A draw and subsequent loss ignited a seven-fight stretch spanning nearly four years in which Juarez went without a victory before scoring a minor upset in an 8th round stoppage of Antonio Escalante in Oct. ’12.
More than 18 months went by before landing the opportunity to face and eventually defeat Alvarado. Chances are he won’t have to wait very long for his next fight, one that can prove to be his last ever chance at a long-elusive major title.
“We believe Rocky deserves a title shot, and Jhonny is happy to give him the opportunity,” Kuchle insists. “Let’s do it.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox