By Jake Donovan
Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez momentarily sets his sights on the best in the flyweight division, although his latest effort wasn't exactly a major splash. The former two-division titlist scored a 7th round stoppage of Mexico's Francisco Rodriguez Jr. in their non-title affair Saturday evening in Managua, Nicaragua.
The bout marked his second fight above the junior flyweight limit, where he previously reigned as the division's best fighter. However, his inability to secure the best possible fights at the weight class has sent the knockout artist four pounds north to flyweight.
Rodriguez was a willing challenger in the sense that he agreed to the fight and made the trip all the way from Mexico. Other than that, the bout was hardly competitive, nor was the stoppage entirely convincing. Gonzalez was undoubtedly in control, but Rodriguez appeared to have some fight left in him when the contest was abruptly stopped midway through round seven.
A mild protest was offered by Rodriguez' camp, all of whom stood at the edge of the ring with their arms in the air wondering what happened. Rodriguez was far more cordial, congratulating Gonzalez, who advances to 36-0 (30KO).
Gonzalez was given a hero's welcome, as his recent fights at home have been something of a luxury. All but two of his first 20 contests have taken place in Nicaragua, but Saturday's bout marked just his sixth appearance in familiar surroundings since stepping up to the world title stage five years ago.
Since then, Gonzalez has literally traveled the globe, fighting - and winning - in Japan, Mexico and the United States. His last title fight was an epic encounter, going to war with Juan Francisco Estrada last November in one of the best fights of 2012.
There now exists the possibility of a rematch. Both fighters have indirect ties to Top Rank, and Estrada currently resides in the flyweight division as a unified titlist after upsetting Brian Viloria earlier this year.
Gonzalez also has his sights forever set on unbeaten Kazuto Ioka, who has also managed title success at strawweight and presently at junior flyweight. However, the unbeaten Japanese star continues to navigate around such a mouthwatering clash.
There were no assurances of a title shot heading into Saturday's fight, but Gonzalez' handlers will undoubtedly push him in that direction in the near future. A title win at flyweight would make him just the second fighter in the history of Nicaragua to win belts in three weight classes. The only other fighter to accomplish that feat is the late all-time great Alexis Arguello.
Another former champion moving up in weight, Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. enjoyed a successful trip outside of his normal super flyweight division. The visiting Mexican left a lasting impression on the crowd with a 7th round stoppage of Darwin Zamora in the televised co-feature.
The bout was Sanchez Jr's first since conceding his super flyweight title at the scales this past June. The once-beaten southpaw went on to enjoy a landslide decision over Roberto Domingo Sosa, but saw his reign cut short after just 16 months.
The move up to bantamweight seems to better fit his slender 5'8" frame, with the possibility to move further up the scale. He looked at home for now, overwhelming Zamora before forcing the stoppage at 1:36 of round seven.
Sanchez Jr. has now won ten in a row - including two separate trips outside of his native Mexico - as he improves to 17-1-1 (9KO).
In the televised opener, Cristofer 'Chocolatito Jr' Rosales (3-1, 2KO) scored a vicious third round knockout of Luis Ruiz. A compact left hook put Ruiz (3-2-1, 0KO) down in highlight reel fashion, with the referee waving off the fight the moment the fighter's skull slammed against the canvas.
All bouts appeared on the same show in Managua, but were spread out over separate broadcasts. The card aired live on Channel 4 in Nicaragua, with Sanchez Jr.-Zamora and Rosales-Ruiz airing via tape-delay on Azteca TV.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox