Joet Gonzalez knows what many boxing fans are thinking.
They’re wondering how the featherweight contender is in position to earn a third shot at the WBO 126-pound championship in less than three years? Shakur Stevenson and Emanuel Navarrete decisively defeated him in Gonzalez’s first two 12-round fights for the WBO featherweight crown, but if he beats former WBO junior featherweight champ Isaac Dogboe on Saturday night in Hinckley, Minnesota, Gonzalez will again become the WBO’s mandatory challenger for Navarrete’s title.
Gonzalez (25-2, 15 KOs) believes he has earned this spot because he won challenging fights after his unanimous-decision defeats to Stevenson in October 2019 and to Navarette last October 15.
“I’m showing the boxing people that I’m still here, I’m still fighting the top guys,” Gonzalez told BoxingScene.com. “That’s why, you know, I’m in this position. A lot of people, you know, they’re upset. They say, ‘Oh, why is he getting another title shot?’ I mean, look at who I’m fighting. Look at the guys I’m taking after such tough fights. I’m back in there with the best. A lot of fighters, they get a tough fight and they come back with a tune-up. That’s why I’m in this position. That’s why I’m back in line for another world title shot, because I work hard and I put myself in this position.”
In his first fight after Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) beat him 119-109 on all three cards in Reno, Nevada, the 28-year-old Gonzalez beat Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga unanimously in a 10-rounder in September 2020 in Las Vegas. He lost to Navarrete in his following fight 13 months later, but he bounced back again with a ninth-round stoppage of the Philippines’ Jeo Santisima on March 4 in Fresno, California.
Back-to-back victories over Santisima (21-4, 18 KOs) and Ghana’s Dogboe (23-2, 15 KOs) could earn him a rematch with Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs), unless the Mexican champion opts to move up to the 130-pound division after his title defense against Eduardo Baez (21-2-2, 7 KOs) on August 20 in San Diego.
Whoever Gonzalez fights for the WBO belt if he defeats Dogboe, the Glendora, California native is certain he has taken the proper paths after the only two losses of his 10-year pro career.
“I don’t wanna take a step back,” Gonzalez said. “Obviously, I can’t jump right back in there to a world title shot. It doesn’t really work that way. I just had a shot. I have to work my way up there. But I take the top fights that can move me as soon as possible to that title shot. I lost my first world title shot and I came back, you know, during the pandemic and I went up against Marriaga.
“Then I went to war with Navarrete in October, and I was literally back in there for February. Then [one of the fighters in the] main event got COVID and it got pushed back a month. But I’m back in there with the top guys and I wanna show the people that I’m here to fight the best.”
Caesars Sportsbook lists Gonzalez as more than a 2-1 favorite to defeat Dogboe in a main event ESPN+ will stream from Grand Casino Hinckley. Coverage of this 11-bout card will begin on ESPN+ at 6:45 p.m. ET.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.