Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez waited a year for his chance to avenge a defeat in a fight that he–and many others in the sport—felt should have gone his way.
The wait will be even longer, though Nicaragua’s legendary former four-division champion hasn’t even set out a timetable for rescheduling a third fight with lineal/WBA junior bantamweight champion Juan Francisco ‘El Gallo’ Estrada (42-3, 28KOs).
The two were due to meet in a rubber match this Saturday, exactly 51 weeks to the day of their thrilling rematch which saw Hermosillo, Mexico’s Estrada claim a disputed split decision victory in their WBC/ WBA unification clash. Estrada had to withdraw from this weekend’s fight after testing positive for Covid which left him to shut down training camp in January.
The 31-year-old divisional kingpin has been replaced by countryman and WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (18-1, 14KOs), who instantly accepted the fight which requires a move up in weight to face one of the best little big men in boxing history.
“It didn’t surprise me. I know he’s willing to face anyone,” Gonzalez told BoxingScene,com. “I’m willing to take on anyone. We both know it will be a great fight.
“I was happy to hear that he accepted but, no, I wasn’t surprised by it.”
The bold move by Martinez allowed Gonzalez (50-3, 41KOs) to salvage a training camp for an otherwise already delayed third fight with Estrada. Plans for a trilogy clash last October 16 were shut down after Gonzalez tested positive for Covid. The near five-month postponement was just long enough for the infectious disease to once again impact those plans.
With no title at stake this weekend, even a win by Gonzalez will leave him without a belt for more than a year and without the guarantee of a title at stake for his next outing. Estrada has been mandated to face secondary WBA junior bantamweight titleholder Joshua Franco (18-1-2, 8KOs).
Recently crowned WBC titlist Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez—Franco’s younger brother—awaits word on whether he will have to next face mandatory challenger and former lineal champ Srisaket Sor Rungivisai. Rodriguez replaced the Thai southpaw on six days’ notice in outpointing Carlos Cuadras to win the vacant WBC title, with the understanding that a decision to stay at the weight will likely mean a mandatory title defense up next.
None of that is of any concern to Gonzalez, a former strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight champion and one-time pound-for-pound king who didn’t lead a Hall of Fame career by looking past any opponent.
“There’s no telling what the future holds. For now, the only future I am concerned with is March 5,” insists Gonzalez. “I’m not worried about fighting Gallo Estrada a third time. We had two great fights and I was looking forward to the third fight.
“But he won’t be in the ring this weekend. Rey Martinez is the fighter I am facing and that is my only concern.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox