WBA Flyweight Champ Scores a KO With Crowd
Arriving at the Fairplex in Pomona, California on Saturday night, fans had two paths to choose from while walking through the acres and acres of land that usually houses the historic L.A. County Fair. Heading past the skeletons of roller coasters stored in the parking lot, there came a fork in the road with two signs: ROLLER DERBY OR LIVE BOXING.
Which one do you think I chose? Easy choice. Set to cover the California arrival of Nicaraguan idol Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (32-0, 27 KOs), the fights were the big attraction for the SoCal crowd and for this particular writer as well. And to all the attendees not familiar with this fairground location, one just had to follow the excited sea of blue and white flags being waved throughout the crush of the crowd walking toward Building 6.
“El Chocolatito” was in the building. After fighting in his native Nicaragua, Japan, Mexico and Las Vegas, Team Chocolate had finally made their way to Southern California, where the prizefighter’s huge fan base was anxiously waiting.
The 5′ 3″ stick of dynamite from Managua, Nicaragua was set to defend his WBA World Light Flyweight championship title against La Paz southpaw and ex-WBO champ Ramon Garcia Hirales (16-4-1, 9 KOs) in 12 rounds of battle on this Top Rank Live show. The Gonzalez-Garcia scrap was the main attraction in an eight bout card presented by Showdown Promotions and UBM.
And the unbeaten “Chocolatito” did not disappoint the partisan crowd in attendance.
Waving their flags, clapping their hands and shouting in unison, the energy in the building made even the most jaded of boxing fans sit up and take notice. Gonzalez’ fans brought forth a passion and joy rarely seen–or felt–these days. As the floor shook and hearts raced, their idol from Managua entered the ring–ready to shake, rattle and roll in front of an ecstatic crowd.
“El Chocolatito” gave the spectators their money’s worth while getting the job done in just four rounds of action.
Using his 107 pounds to the very best of his ability, Teiken superstar Gonzalez brought his thunder to the ring. The lefty Garcia, although a willing warrior, was overmatched in this championship bout against the Nicaraguan knockout artist. With every punch and every pivot from the pair, Roman’s fans further further buoyed the pint-sized slugger with their cheers.
In his crisp white boxing boots and blue and white trunks, the “Chocolate Kid” showcased his skills that have earned him a perfect record. Shooting even crisper shots to the head and body of his taller foe, Gonzalez found success early. But the hard swinging Garcia found a home for his own punches in the third round, successfully connecting with shots to the body of Gonzalez. Then, in the fourth and ultimately the final round, the fists of the 24-year-old dynamo proved to be too much for his Mexican opponent.
In the fourth frame, Garcia was knocked down by a right uppercut from the aggressive Gonzalez. Beating the count administered by referee Raul Caiz Jr., the game Garcia came back for more. But Gonzalez was ready to close the show as his fans roared in appreciation. Stalking his challenger, the Nicaraguan star fired off a flurry of punches with another crushing uppercut to seal the deal. Garcia was sent to the canvas a second time, but this time no count was needed as Raul Caiz Jr. stopped the punishment while doctors tended to the fallen fighter. Earning his 27th knockout, the end came at 2:09 in the fourth frame.
With flags flying and chants of “Nicaragua” echoing, the hero was lifted onto the shoulders of his corner with his country’s flag proudly draped around him in victory.
While the bout was broadcast on the Box Azteca network, I also overheard many media members giving live blow-by-blow accounts for their waiting audience back home in Managua and beyond. Gonzalez, a former WBA Minimum Weight Champ, made his presence known on U.S. soil.
As revelers spilled out into the cavernous venue, the celebration continued long after the bout ended.
Famed cutman and trainer Miguel Diaz spoke of the allure of “Chocolatito.” After witnessing the victory, Diaz told me: “He’s the best boxer to come out of Nicaragua since Alexis Arguello! He’s second only to Alexis in popularity; but no one can ever top Arguello.” Alexis, who died in 2009, will always remain an idol in the hearts of fans.
But with the continued KO success of Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, Nicaraguan boxing fans have a current hero and champion to root for.
Photos by German Villasenor/ Top Rank