“OLD fighters don’t fade away. They just slowly die in front of our eyes.”

The late Budd Schulberg’s famous words are as relevant today as they were when he penned them back in 1998, as he oversaw an aged Roberto Duran sustain an unmerciful beating at the hands of William Joppy in Las Vegas.

Roman Gonzalez, the petite, baby-faced Nicaraguan, may be just 30 years of age but in boxing regards at the lower weight classes he has extensive mileage on the clock. Having turned professional back in July 2005, the popular former pound-for-pound star went on to become the first fighter to claim world titles in all four of the sport’s smallest divisions.

From minimumweight up to super-flyweight, he enjoyed an admirable unbeaten surge from clinching his first at 105lbs in 2008 until his historic 115lbs success on a memorable night in California in 2016.

“Chocolatito” is back. He will finally return to the ring on May 5. This will see the Nicaraguan hero battle on the same night as friend and former training partner Gennady Golovkin once again, after previously building a successful double act across American-based shows, including at Madison Square Garden and The Forum.

As ‘Superfly 2’ previously took place and was enjoyed via worldwide coverage, the man that it made it all possible was an interested spectator far from the action, ahead of his imminent comeback. The night was centred around world champions and fighters he beat and helped put in the spotlight along his admirable career path.

“Roman is the one who opened the doors for flyweights to be in the spotlight on premium TV here in the US and has created interest worldwide for them,” Tom Loeffler, the managing director of K2 Promotions and GGG Promotions, told Boxing News.

Perhaps, sadly, those only tuning in and becoming part of the new audience for these smaller boxing stars may not even be aware it was the Nicaraguan that helped put them on the map. In fact, many were quick to overlook or dismiss his career achievements after the second successive setback to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, questioning his previous seat upon the pound-for-pound throne.

But Gonzalez had already secured his legacy before even gallantly climbing the ropes for a second scuffle with Rungvisai, in which he was knowingly facing off with a physically superior opponent. His place in boxing history was written by his own past accolades, long before critiques came flooding in after one disappointing night on American territory.

“Roman has world titles in multiple divisions, was voted pound-for-pound boxer and still has a lot of fight in him,” continued Loeffler, with the founder of the newly established 360 Promotions having helped oversee Gonzalez’s rise to prominence, particularly in promoting the well-received ‘Superfly’ shows.

“I think Roman will definitely go down as one of the best fighters ever to compete in the lighter divisions and as a fan favourite headlining arenas like the Forum and StubHub Center.”

Building his profile mainly in his homeland, Japan and Mexico, it wasn’t until 2011 that he made his debut in the United States but he had already made an impression on those following his earlier career path abroad.

Gonzalez overcame a prime Juan Francisco Estrada, a naturally bigger, game Carlos Cuadras, as well as comfortably outworking McWilliams Arroyo within the space of four years, while was unfortunate not to have earned a points triumph over Rungvisai in their enthralling initial war.

Gonzalez was brutally overwhelmed and ultimately demolished by a naturally larger champion in the rematch under the StubHub Center lights. But it was a defeat in front of a more wide scale audience, which he helped to attract. Gonzalez opened the door for the lower weights to land on such a large platform, ultimately making it possible for the successful ‘Superfly’ series to shine on a high-profile broadcaster.

“Many have made it – but many have fallen,” Gonzalez outlined back in 2016 ahead of his memorable bout with Cuadras. “Maybe they think nobody will beat them. They don’t realise that the more you win, the harder the fights.”

Fast forward 12 months and his own outlook had come to fruition, tasting his maiden setbacks at the hands of Thai conqueror Rungvisai.

Roman Gonzalez

Lying flattened out on his back after tasting a flush right hook from the powerful southpaw was a sad image in an incredible year for the sport, and perhaps the most shocking, as the much-adored champion-turned-challenger succumbed to a crushing defeat.

“This is nothing – there will be even harder fights,” declared a badly swollen and bruised ‘Chocolatito’ following the thrilling Cuadras clash, again unknowingly predicting his near future.

“It just looks like the end of ‘Chocolatito’,” declared a stunned Max Kellerman during HBO’s broadcast of the brutal Rungvisai KO, as the victor ecstatically rolled over and sprung around the ring where Gonzalez worryingly lay barely conscious.

With his aggressive blend of power and combination punching, Gonzalez became a dominant force in the lower weight divisions and was ultimately the catalyst for their promising current and even brighter future stature in the sport.

The great “Chocolatito” may be back for what is likely to be the final chapter of his illustrious career in 2018, but he simply has nothing left to prove, no matter how his story ultimately ends.