Fighters of the decade: Roman Gonzalez

Lee Gormley
13/01/2020 7:36pm

Photo: Ken Ishii/Getty Images

In the first of a new series discussing who was the greatest boxer of the last decade, Lee Gormley makes the case for Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez...

Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez entered the past decade as a reigning world champion at minimumweight and, after almost 10 years of dominance in the lower divisions, he finished it as a four-weight king.

Floyd Mayweather seemingly leads the way in the majority of major organisation’s 'Fighter of the decade' ballots and his wins over rivals Manny Pacquiao and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez were impressive in the first half of the 2010s, albeit typically timed to perfection and made on his own terms.

No, such esteemed recognition is more deserving for a pugilist who forged out an incredible career across the entirety of that period of time; one who took on all comers at the right stage, regardless of any personal disadvantages.

That fighter is ‘Chocolatito’, whose name is criminally absent from several high-profile lists across America, where he was an integral figure in building the popularity and overall profile of the sport’s lower weight divisions; despite being past his best and beyond his comfortable weight limit.

In the view of this writer, no other prize-fighter matched what Gonzalez achieved this past decade, no matter what criteria is used. The little Nicaraguan genius was as much about quality as he was quantity with his record, while his in-ring abilities were simply magnificent and - at the height of his powers - on another level to great rivals.

Across the decade he amassed 23 victories, including 13 championship wins and 19 knockouts, was the first fighter to win world titles in boxing’s four lowest weights successively and the first from his nation to reign in four classes. That latter feat saw him eclipse his mentor Alexis Arguello.

During the ten years he retained his minimumweight title, moved up to reign at light-flyweight, jumped further to dominate at flyweight then pushed beyond his physical boundaries to historically triumph at super-flyweight too.

All of this wasn’t accomplished against lesser opponents either, with conquered foes including Katsunari Takayama, Juan Francisco Estrada, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria, McWilliams Arroyo and Carlos Cuadras. He was also unfortunate not to earn a decision over the Thai powerhouse Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in their initial meeting, which led to his maiden career setback after 47 bouts.

Unlike others in the running for the Fighter of the Decade honour, ‘Chocolatito’ has no asterisks beside any of his successes, while he always provided action when he climbed through the ring ropes. Entertainment might be overlooked factor when it comes to making such picks as well and Gonzalez was involved in mostly thrilling battles, including a Fight of the Decade contender against Rungvisai in 2017.

Simply put, Gonzalez has a better resume over the entire past decade than any one else in contention.