TO give a round-by-round description of Roman Gonzalez’s performance in his unanimous decision victory over Julio Cesar Martinez would distract from the artistry he showed from the first bell until the last. The technical skills he displayed were a purist’s delight in comprehensively defeating Martinez at the Pechanga arena on Saturday (Matchroom promoted).
No, it was not easy. Martinez brought his A-game and fought his heart out for all 12 rounds, but was facing a Gonzalez who was in top form. One who reminded us once again how great he once was and still is.
What this fight did was conjure up images of Canelo Alvarez’s unsuccessful leap up in class to take on Floyd Mayweather. The two Mexicans are stablemates and are trained by Eddie Reynoso. Canelo was in the crowd rooting for Martinez, but the Nicaraguan great proved to be a bridge too far.
Martinez was forced to forfeit $50,000 of his purse when he came in a pound-and-a-half over the super-flyweight limit of 115lbs. Considering that he was moving up a division it is fair to speculate that Martinez did not do all he could to make weight.
When the men entered the ring it was striking how much smaller Martinez looked. This was evident to promoter Eddie Hearn who announced after the fight that Martinez would return to the flyweight division in his next fight.
Martinez may have been encouraged by a close opening round when his skill-level matched Chocolatito’s, but the old master was merely sizing him up. From the second round onward Gonzalez went to work. As much as Martinez welcomed the chance to exchange blows, the fury of his opponent’s attack forced him back. The placement of the blows from Gonzalez could not have been better. At times Martinez’s face was like a magnet for Gonzalez’s gloves.
Uppercuts cascaded on Martinez, but he remained defiant. Face battered and unable to hurt Gonzalez he defiantly waved him in. Gonzalez, showing no outward expression, ignored the histrionics and continued to clinically break Martinez down. By the later rounds it could have been stopped, maybe should have been, but Martinez would occasionally rally to prevent that from happening. Gonzalez would masterfully catch most of the punches on the gloves and arms then resume manhandling Martinez.
The predominantly Mexican crowd roared enthusiastically in the closing moments of the fight when their man fired away with a fusillade of blows, but even they knew he had been well beaten and voiced no objection when the official scorecards of judges Max DeLuca 116-112, Mike Ross 117-111, and Zachary Young 118-110 were read. Jerry Cantu refereed.
At 27, there will be plenty of better nights ahead for Martinez, but for now the spotlight shines bright on his conqueror. There is talk of Gonzalez, 34, moving up in weight to take on Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue. An ambitious move, but one that great fighters like Gonzalez not only should not shy away from, but cherish. Gonzalez has never avoided the toughest challenges and is not about to start now.
Fans in the UK are very familiar with Mexico’s Mauricio Lara from his last two fights against Josh Warrington. Lara looked like he had an easy fight on his hands against Los Angeles’ Emilio Sanchez who he dropped in the first round and was thoroughly dominating until things took a shocking twist in the third. A hook hurt Lara and suddenly he was holding on. Emboldened by the events, Sanchez poured it on. Lara desperately held on, even tried to tackle Sanchez and went down in the process. It was ruled a slip, but Lara was slow to get up. This drew a warning from referee Ray Corona who was a little slow to make Lara resume the contest. The one that was really penalized was Sanchez who lost a great opportunity by having his attack stalled.
Just as quickly as he was hurt, Lara turned things around. He hurt Sanchez, then dropped him in sensational fashion. The scheduled 10 rounder was stopped at 2-59 of the third.
San Diego’s Angel Fierro and Mexico’s Juan Carlos Burgos fought to a boorish 10 round majority draw. One card favored Fierro 96-94, the other two were 95-95. The result was a little more disappointing as far as Fierro goes. He was thought to have more upside than Burgos who has been around a while.
France’s Souleymane Cissokho won a unanimous 10 round decision over Robert Valenzuela by scores of 100-90 and 99-91 twice. It was an uneventful fight for the most part, except for the sensational fourth round when both hit the deck. First it was Cissokho who was hurt early and forced to retreat as Valenzuela tried to finish him. Before the round was over Cissokho restored order by dropping Valenzuela then maintaining control the rest of the way.
The Verdict Gonzalez a joy to watch and Lara-Sanchez a wild and exciting treat, too