FRISCO, Texas — Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez may no longer occupy the perch as the No. 1 fighter in the world pound-for-pound as he did a few years ago, but the surefire future Hall of Famer once again owns a world title.
In a vintage performance, Gonzalez dominated Kal Yafai en route to a ninth-round demolition to take his junior bantamweight world title in the co-feature of the Mikey Garcia-Jessie Vargas card on Saturday night at The Ford Center at The Star, the training facility of the Dallas Cowboys.
As an up-and-coming fighter, Yafai, who was making his sixth title defense and in the biggest fight of his career, idolized Gonzalez. He watched his fights and even traveled to them when he could. And now he can say he was battered by Gonzalez, who won a 115-pound world title for the second time and added to an already impressive legacy.
Gonzalez (49-2, 41 KOs), 32, of Nicaragua, who has won world titles at strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight, had not been in the spotlight for the past couple of years following a pair of losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017, some lower-profile bouts and a 15-month layoff caused by a knee injury that required surgery. But after getting healthy and winning a tune-up fight in Japan in December, he was ready to challenge Yafai for the title, and he dominated.
“I have God’s strength, and God gave me this title back,” Gonzalez said through an interpreter. “Everyone has the same blessing I got tonight. I always ask God for a blessing. I have a good team around me that brought me back. I thank Mr. [Akihiko] Honda, [of Teiken Promotions], Eddie Hearn and DAZN. They gave me the opportunity to once again become a world champion.”
The fight began at a measured pace as the fighters traded jabs and hooks in a very close, tension-filled round, but the pace picked up in the second round as Gonzalez went on the attack and never let up. He swarmed Yafai and landed solid punches with both hands to the head and body.
Gonzalez continued to get the better of the action on the inside in the third round, dislodging Yafai’s mouthpiece for the second time in the fight, and kept it up round after round. Gonzalez was throwing more, landing more and controlling the pace of the fight. He snuck in solid uppercuts and hammered Yafai repeatedly to the body.
Gonzalez continued to dominate but emerged from the sixth round with a cut by his right eye from an accidental head-butt.
Yafai (26-1, 15 KOs), 30, a 2008 Olympian from England who was looking worse for the wear, took a lot of punishment in the seventh round as Gonzalez blasted him over and over with right hands to the head. Gonzalez continued to dole out punishment in the eight round, landing almost at will. In the final seconds of the round, he dropped Yafai under a hail of punches.
Finally, in the ninth round, Gonzalez landed a perfect right hand to the head that crumpled Yafai to his back. Referee Luis Pabon began to count but quickly waved it off 29 seconds into the round.
“He did surprise me that he wanted to fight inside, but I was ready to go,” Gonzalez said. “I want to try and unify some titles. That’s my dream.”
Martinez outslugs Harris
Julio Cesar Martinez retained his flyweight world title by unanimous decision in an exciting bout against European champion Jay Harris. Martinez, who dropped Harris with body shots in the 10th round, won 118-109, 116-111 and 115-112.
Martinez (16-1, 12 KOs), 25, of Mexico, who shares trainer Eddy Reynoso with Canelo Alvarez, was making the first defense of the vacant 112-pound belt he won by ninth-round knockout of former titlist Cristofer Rosales in December.
“It was a very tough battle, but I plan to defend my title many times. There is no fear here. No excuses,” Martinez said through an interpreter. “I’ll defend this belt many times. This is for all of Mexico. Congratulations to Harris. He was a very strong fighter. He came here undefeated, but this is my title and I want to defend my title anywhere.”
Harris (17-1, 9 KOs), 29, of Wales, who was fighting outside of the United Kingdom for the first time, was given two months off from his day job at Amazon to train for the fight. While he fought well, Martinez’s power proved to be the difference.
Martinez went right at Harris and shook him multiple times in the opening round with hard left hooks, and it took Harris a few rounds to get into the fight against the aggressive titleholder, who continued to do damage with his heavier shots in the second round. Harris tried to box and slow down the pace, but Martinez pressed forward constantly.
By the fifth round, Harris was bleeding from the nose and his face was marked up from taking so many punches. But Harris showed toughness and had some good moments — just not enough against Martinez, who knocked Harris backward repeatedly with left hooks.
Parker stops Winter
Former heavyweight world titlist Joseph Parker knocked out Shawndell Winters in the fifth round in a fan-friendly fight.
Parker (27-2, 21 KOs), 28, of New Zealand, who was 245.4 pounds to Winters’ 208, was back in the ring after he was forced to withdraw from an October bout with former world title challenger Dereck Chisora because of a spider bite that made him ill. He and Winters went at it in an action fight, but it was Parker, the bigger man and harder hitter, who got the job done. Parker won his third fight in a row since losing a decision and his title in a unification fight with Anthony Joshua in 2018.
Winters (13-3, 12 KOs), 39, of Harvey, Illinois, who is trained by former light heavyweight champion Montell Griffin, came into the fight having pulled two knockout upsets in a row — against then-undefeated prospect Oleksandr Teslenko in September, and Sergiej Werwejko on Werwejko’s turf in Poland — but had no such success against Parker.
Parker landed several right hands in the early going, and in the final seconds of the third round he clipped Winters with a clean right on the chin and Winters went down along the ropes. Winters beat the count and the round ended before another punch could be thrown.
Winters opened a cut over Parker’s right eye in the fourth round and finished the stanza by landing a thudding left hand that stopped Parker in his tracks. But in the fifth round, Parker put together a powerful right-left-right combination that dropped Winters to his rear end along the ropes and referee Rosario Solis waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 40 seconds.
“A win’s a win. I got a good win. I’ll take the win,” Parker said. “I’ll celebrate and leave it up to [Matchroom Boxing promoter] Eddie [Hearn] and the team to see what’s next. I have to work on being a little more patient. I’m excited to be back in the ring. I want to keep busy. Hopefully, two more fights this year and finish off with a bang.”
Parker said he was interested in rescheduling the fight with Chisora or facing interim titleholder Dillian Whyte, who won a close decision over Parker in 2018.
Madrimov destroys Navarro
Junior middleweight Israil Madrimov, one of boxing’s hottest prospects, ran roughshod over former welterweight world title challenger Charlie Navarro, scoring two knockdowns en route to a sixth-round knockout in a world title eliminator for the No. 2 position in the WBA rankings.
Madrimov (5-0, 5 KOs), 24, an Uzbekistan native fighting out of Indio, California, dominated from the opening bell. His speed and strength advantages were obvious. In the third round, Madrimov pounded Navarro with a left hook to the head that sent Navarro into the ropes.
Madrimov continued to pound Navarro (29-10, 22 KOs), 40, of Venezuela, with an assortment of shots from both hands and at various angles in an utterly one-sided fourth round. Navarro could not do a thing against him.
In the sixth round, Madrimov sunk a brutal left hand into Navarro’s body for a knockdown, and moments later another body shot sent Navarro to the mat again. As Navarro struggled to get up, referee Rafael Ramos waved off the fight, at which point Madrimov did a backflip to celebrate.
Pacheco shuts out Riojas
Super middleweight prospect Diego Pacheco, an 18-year-old from Los Angeles, shut out veteran journeyman Oscar Riojas — winning 60-54 on all three scorecards.
Pacheco (9-0, 7 KOs) got in a good workout and showed off a strong jab. Pacheco, an eight-time amateur national champion before turning pro in December 2018, had his biggest moments in the closing seconds of the fight when he badly wobbled Riojas with a right hand. Riojas’ legs were gone and Pacheco landed several more punches, including a clean uppercut, but the bell rang to end the fight before he could do more damage.
Riojas (21-13-1), 36, of Laredo, Texas, who suffered a cut under his left eye, has been stopped only three times in his career and saw a three-fight winning streak end.
Prospect Espino outpoints Savage
Las Vegas super middleweight prospect Alexis Espino looked a bit sluggish early but picked things up as the fight went on and ultimately routed tough Delvecchio Savage (3-6-1, 3 KOs), 23, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Espino (6-0, 4 KOs), 20, of Las Vegas, made it three straight victories for Robert Garcia-trained fighters. He won by scores of 60-54, 59-55 and 59-55, as he handed Savage his fourth six-round decision loss in a row. Savage landed a few solid shots along the way, but Espino was far more accurate and had Savage in a little trouble late, including a flush uppercut that landed in the final round.
Acevedo dominates Knifechief
Mikey Garcia-promoted and Robert Garcia-trained junior middleweight prospect Leo Ruiz Acevedo (7-0, 5 KOs), 20, of San Bernardino, California, dominated Dennis Knifechief (12-12, 7 KOs), 30, of Shawnee, Oklahoma, en route to a third-round knockout in their scheduled six-rounder.
In the third round, Acevedo pinned Knifechief on the ropes and teed off on him until referee Rosario Solis stepped in to stop the fight at 1 minute, 44 seconds.
Rodriguez stops Sustaita in eighth round
San Antonio flyweight prospect Jesse Rodriguez (11-0, 7 KOs), 20, who is promoted by Mikey Garcia’s Garcia Promotions, looked sharp in a one-sided eighth-round knockout of Marcos Sustaita (12-3-1, 10 KOs), 23, of Oceanside, California.
Rodriguez, who is also trained by Robert Garcia, dominated virtually the entire fight and hurt Sustaita several times during the bout. In the eighth round, Rodriguez nailed Sustaita with a left hook to the head that rocked him and sent him toward the ropes. Rodriguez followed by landing a few more unanswered punches, forcing referee Laurence Cole to wave off the fight at 1 minute, 10 seconds.