Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez vowed to bring home a title to Puerto Rico.
Mission accomplished for the diminutive two-time title challenger, who claimed the WBO junior flyweight title in a 12-round split decision over exiting champ Elwin Soto. Judge Daniel Sandoval (116-112) seemed impressed with the aggression of Soto, with his awful scorecard overruled by judges Robert Hoyle (116-112) and Zachary Young (116-112) who favored Gonzalez’s effective stick and move style Saturday evening on DAZN from Chukchansi Park in Fresno, California.
Mexicalis’ Soto vowed throughout the buildup to the fight that the key would be to cut off the ring and force the action. That never occurred, as Gonzalez—a Bronx-born Boricua who is based out of Caguas, Puerto Rico—boxed from the outside and landed effective hooks to the body and head of the defending titlist.
Gonzalez was steady with his jab and right hook, while Soto followed the veteran contender around the ring in the early rounds. The clash of styles produced a tactical battle where most expected the bout to steal the show. Gonzalez seemed unbothered, trading when necessary and moving when the situation called for it.
Soto closed the gap in round three, though only able to land an occasional left hook. The defending titlist looked to work the body but was unable to penetrate the tight guard of Gonzalez.
The middle rounds saw Gonzalez stand and trade on occasion, digging with right hooks to the body while the two were at close quarters. Soto continued in search of a home for his left hook upstairs at a time when a body attack would have slowed down the mobile Gonzalez.
Referee Jack Reiss was forced to intervene in round eight as both fighters were committing an assortment of fouls. Gonzalez was warned for dipping low and clinching Soto, who in turn was warned for driving his shoulder into his challenger’s chin.
Gonzalez was on the move throughout the second half of the fight, his lateral movement proving too elusive for the stalking Soto. Time was called in round nine, as Gonzalez turned and winced in pain after Soto intentionally twisted his arm during a clinch. The sequence drew a final warning from Reiss, who also reminded the WBO titlist and his corner in between rounds to keep it clean.
Soto picked up the pace in round ten, as the fight and his title reign appeared to be slipping away. Gonzalez continued to make things difficult, constantly circling to his left except on the occasions where he would catch an onrushing Soto with straight left hands.
Gonzalez was urged by his corner to stay the course heading into the championship rounds, not give away ground and continue to outbox Soto. The squat Boricua carried out the blueprint to near perfection, keeping the fight at his desired distance and mixing up his offense with jabs and straight lefts when moving to the champion’s right and right hooks to the body when boxing in the opposite direction.
Soto couldn’t muster the strength to let his hands go in the twelfth and final round. Gonzalez closed the show with a left hand in the closing seconds, though had to wait out an extended delay as the California commission took their time in tabulating the final scores.
Gonzalez advances to 25-3-1 (14KOs), winning a title on his second try. He held his own for six rounds before suffering three knockdowns in a seventh-round stoppage at the hands of then-unbeaten three-division and WBO flyweight titlist Kosei Tanaka in August 2019.
Soto (19-2, 13KOs) sees his two-plus year title reign come to a close. The squat puncher made three successful defenses of the belt he claimed in a 12th round stoppage of Angel ‘Tito’ Acosta in June 2019.
Soto-Gonzalez served as the lone title fight on a show headlined by the return of former four-division titlist Mikey Garcia (40-1, 30KOs), Rodriguez’s stablemate who faces Spain’s Sandor Martin (38-2, 13KOs) in a scheduled 10-round welterweight contest.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox