Roman Gonzalez hoping there are more career chapters to be written

By Oscar Pick

A MAGICIAN will never reveal their secrets. Once they perform a magic trick, leaving their audience open-mouthed and, quite simply, in awe of their brilliance, there is no need to keep the curtains raised; their work has, rather emphatically, been completed.

In truth, any form of explanation after such a comprehensive display would only shatter their mystique. And it is this mystique which, after all, enables them to deliver a spectacle that evokes both astonishment and intrigue, always leaving something to the imagination.

When considering this, it could be said that Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez – a generational talent and truly formidable competitor, showing few signs of deterioration – is not so far removed from a magician, with every jaw-dropping manoeuvre pulled from a seemingly bottomless bag of tricks.

Returning to the ring for his 56th outing, the former pound-for-pound king will take on Colombia’s Rober Barrera in a 10-round bantamweight clash this Friday (July 12).

The pair will collide in Managua, Nicaragua, with Chocolatito headlining in his home town for the first time since 2015.

However, when viewing Gonzalez’s phenomenal career through an impartial lens, one that is neither rose-tinted nor harshly critical, the result of this weekend’s showdown seems somewhat unimportant.

What matters most is that, through his dazzling performances, the Nicaraguan has captivated fans for nearly two decades, injecting plenty of excitement into the lower divisions, which, without his efforts, may still be yearning for a degree of interest.

Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

But what is the secret behind his longevity? How has he stood the test of time when others in and around his weight have either fallen victim to wear and tear or chosen to retire after reaching their mid-30s?

Well, his style is an obvious place to start. First and foremost, it is important to highlight that Chocolatito is not, and never has been, the most athletically gifted fighter.

While 80 per cent of his wins have come by way of knockout, the 37-year-old is best known for stopping his opponents with methodical beatdowns as opposed to explosive counters or razor-sharp flurries.

He is a master at slowing down the pace of a fight, giving himself more time to set up a barrage of attacks.

Then, as his opponent starts to retreat, Gonzalez begins to pile on the pressure by cutting off the ring – utilising his superior footwork – before beating them into submission with an accumulation of shots.

By having an awareness of his limitations, the four-weight world champion is able to use his ring generalship, range control and timing to nullify any athletic advantage that other fighters may have.

Moreover, with less emphasis on speed, his ageing body is equipped to punch fluidly and accurately, removing the need to produce fast-twitch movements that are conducive to landing haymakers.

In addition to his style, Chocolatito may have prolonged the twilight years of his career by campaigning in more comfortable weight divisions.

It is no secret that, for any fighter, cutting weight can be the toughest aspect of their training camp. The mental fortitude that is required to overcome the brutal process of removing every ounce of water from one’s body is beyond what most people can comprehend.

Gonzalez won his first world title at minimumweight when he was just 22 years old. While the 105 lbs limit may have suited him at the time, he was never going to stay in that division for more than two years.

Sure enough, his most notable wins – as well as a compelling trilogy with Juan Francisco Estrada – came when he moved up to higher divisions where, despite being slightly undersized, his body was never depleted from a gruelling weight cut.

Tom Hogan/K2

Now, Chocolatito has the opportunity to become a five-weight world champion, a showstopping feat that would outshine anyone with a wand and cape.

So, while his greatness is already rubber-stamped, there could be more pages, possibly even chapters, of his remarkable story that are yet to be written.

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