Mexican Jhonny Gonzalez was supposed to act out the role of a sacrificial lamb against unbeaten countryman Abner Mares during their recent scuffle for the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) featherweight (126 lbs.) championship. While a former two-division champion (bantamweight and featherweight), the popular belief going into the fight was that Gonzalez had seen better days.
Gonzalez was never the same fighter after he lost the World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight title (118 lbs.) to Filipino Gerry Peñalosa in August 2007 in California. Boxing cleverly and way ahead on points, Gonzalez fell down on his knees and never regained equal footing after absorbing a perfect body shot from Peñalosa in the seventh stanza. The rousing upset made Peñalosa a two-division champion, putting him in the same plateau as brother Dodie Boy Peñalosa, Luisito Espinosa, Nonito Donaire Jr., Brian Viloria, Donnie Nietes, and Manny Pacquiao. Gonzalez, on the other hand, faded into oblivion after the bout.
Gonzalez won his next six fights but was knocked out by Japanese Toshiaki Nishioka in a bid for the WBC super bantamweight (122 lbs.) diadem in May 2009. Gonzalez managed to score a first round knockdown, but Nishioka picked up steam and demolished the Mexican in the third round.
The loss to Nishioka prompted Gonzalez to change his team. Having been trained from the outset by his father Miguel Angel “Raton” Gonzalez, Jhonny decided to tap the services of Hall of Fame Mexican trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain. The new partnership worked wonders as Gonzalez went on an unbeaten 12-fight streak. In April 2011, Gonzalez became a world champion again when he stopped Japanese Hozumi Hasegawa in four rounds for the WBC featherweight crown. Gonzalez made four successful defenses of the title before yielding it to countryman Daniel Ponce De Leon on a technical decision in September 2012. Gonzalez kissed the canvas in the first round and once again looked shop-worn against De Leon.
Gonzalez picked up two straight wins after the De Leon debacle but did not impress. On February 23, he was knocked down by journeyman Eusebio Osejo before winning on points. Not a few thought he even cheated in the fight; spitting out his mouthpiece after getting knocked down to buy more time to clear his head.
Heading into the Mares fight, Gonzalez was given only two chances: slim and none. Younger and undefeated (26-0, 14 knockouts), Mares represented Mexico in the 2004 Olympics before turning pro in 2005. He won the International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight title in 2011 and added the WBC featherweight hardware two years later by annihilating De Leon in nine rounds.
To the shock of the sold-out crowd at the Stubhub Center in Carson, California, Gonzalez flattened Mares in just one round. Mares dipped his right shoulder low and was in the process of throwing a right hand when Gonzalez unloaded a perfectly-timed left hook that sent the defending champion crashing to the canvas. Mares hit the canvas again when referee Jack Reiss decided to stop the fight.
Gonzalez improved his ledger to 55-8 with 47 knockouts. As can be deduced, Gonzalez’s knockout percentage is extremely high. While his overall skills may have dipped, the fists of the 31-year-old Gonzalez still pack a wallop and Mares definitely felt it. Gonzalez later claimed that he was deeply motivated for the fight, adding that he felt slighted when Mares started talking about his next fight even before they swapped mitts. “What I didn’t like was that the promoter and the media was already talking about a fight before the result even came out from this fight and that’s why you should never make plans,” he said in the post-fight conference.
Gonzalez is likely headed for a rematch with Mares, but the new WBC featherweight champion also has other fighters in mind. Outside Mares, he singled out at least three fighters; Mikey Garcia (WBO featherweight champ), Guillermo Rigondeux (WBA super bantamweight champ) and our very own Donaire Jr.
He may no longer be the same fighter, but the fight with Mares showed that Jhonny can still be good. Go Jhonny go!
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