There is a part of Jonathan Gonzalez that is not entirely inspired by the challenge he next faces.
Any fear of a letdown, however, is trumped by the understanding that a spectacular win on Friday leads to more lucrative opportunities within the immediate grasp of the Puerto Rican southpaw.
There’s also the part of a rabid fan base awaiting Gonzalez’s first defense of his WBO junior flyweight. It comes in a scheduled 12-round bout with former title challenger Mark Anthony Barriga this Friday on ProBox TV from Osceola Heritage Park (OHP) in Boricua friendly Kissimmee, Florida.
“It feels great to be back in front of all my Puerto Rican fans,” Gonzalez told BoxingScene.com. “That’s why I’m working so hard for this fight. I’m here to beat this guy down and demonstrate that Puerto Rico still has a [male] world champion.”
It’s been a rough stretch for the island, though Gonzalez plans to provide cause for applause on Friday. The show marks his return to Kissimmee for the first time in more than three years, developing a following while on the Boxeo Telemundo circuit. Three straight appearances at OHP preceded Gonzalez’s challenge of Kosei Tanaka, suffering a seventh-round knockout in an otherwise competitive August 2019 WBO flyweight title fight in Nagoya, Japan.
A three-fight win streak has followed, including a twelve-round, split decision win over Mexicali’s Elwin Soto to claim the WBO junior flyweight title last October in Fresno, California. The title defense against Barriga (11-1, 2KOs) is—on paper—a notch below the level of competition that Gonzalez hoped to face compared to where he’s been but is guarded against allowing this to turn into a trap fight.
“I respect Mark Anthony Barriga, although I have to admit I’ve fought better fighters,” noted Gonzalez. “I’ve been in there with Kosei Tanaka, with Elwin Soto who I beat to win this title. But I’ve never overlooked an opponent. I expect Barriga to come out and box for four rounds, try to make it a close fight. After the fourth round, I plan to impose my will and win this fight. If he comes to fight instead of box, I’m gonna tear him apart.
“I’m ready for this fight to be toe-to-toe for twelve rounds, though I don’t think it will go twelve rounds. I think it will be toe to toe. I love to box. I love to hit and not get hit. I’m not going to turn down a fight if my opponent is there to fight. If he wants to fight instead of box, I’ll be there ready for it. I’m going to weigh 108 pounds on Thursday. By Friday, I’m gonna weigh more than 130 pounds, I’m going to be a strong guy.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox