Saturday night in San Diego will feature a super flyweight showdown with the return of Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.
Although boxing fans suffered something of a disappointment when Juan Francisco Estrada pulled out of his planned trilogy fight with Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, they have received a nice consolation prize. WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez showed up to make his super flyweight debut and establish an almost certain candidate for fight of the year when the two meet Saturday at San Diego’s Pechanga Arena (DAZN, 8:30 p.m.).
Gonzalez (50-3, 41 KO) was once heralded by many as the pound-for-pound king before a pair of 2017 losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Instead of fading more than 45 fights into his professional career, Gonzalez continued to fight, winning the WBA super flyweight championship two fights later with a February 2020 knockout of Khalid Yafai. After a successful defense against Israel Gonzalez, Chocolatito fought Estrada in March 2021, a rematch of a 2012 bout.
Unlike the first encounter, Estrada prevailed and walked away with the WBA and WBC titles, though not without controversy. The general consensus was that Gonzalez deserved the win, but he came out on the wrong end of a split decision. While Estrada’s withdrawal from the fight, the result of a poor training camp due to the lingering effects of COVID-19, has robbed Gonzalez of his chance to right the wrongs perpetrated by the judges in the ring, he faces no less of a challenge against Martinez.
Martinez (18-1, 14 KO) is an aggressive fighter, wild in his attack and with enough power to break almost anyone’s chin. His only career loss came in his professional debut. Since then, Martinez’s only stumbles have come in a pair of fights that ended in a no contest. In 2019, Martinez blew through Charlie Edwards in his first world title shot only to have the fight declared a no contest due to landing a punch on Edwards after he was already down to one knee.
One fight later, Martinez won that same WBC flyweight title by knocking out Cristofer Rosales. After three successful title defenses, Martinez faced McWilliams Arroyo in his most recent fight. The wild bout saw both Martinez and Arroyo fall to the canvas before an accidental clash of heads caused the fight to be declared a third-round knockout.
After the rocky performance against Arroyo, Martinez decided to accept the challenge to move up to super flyweight and face one of the men who helped define the modern era of the lighter weight classes. It’s the kind of challenge that boxers are asked to do by fans and the media, but rarely accept.
While Martinez is a capable fighter with a wild style and a big punch, the fight with Arroyo is a bit alarming. Arroyo is a very similar fighter to Gonzalez stylistically, except where Arroyo is very good, Gonzalez is exceptional. Gonzalez is not big for super flyweight, so Martinez will not be fighting at a huge size disadvantage. However, Martinez’s striking is wild enough that Gonzalez’s technical striking could dominate the fight. If Arroyo could take Martinez down, it’s hard to imagine that Gonzalez can’t do the same as he exploits the openings Martinez leaves by throwing wide hooks. Whatever the outcome of the fight, it’s almost certainly going to be an exciting show while it lasts.
Pick: Roman Gonzalez by TKO6