Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez Defeats Kal Yafai to Win Junior Bantamweight World Title

Roman Gonzalez is once again a world title holder… 

The 32-year-old Nicaraguan professional boxer, known by his nickname “Chocolatito,” dominated Kal Yafai en route to a ninth-round demolition to take his junior bantamweight world title in the co-feature of the Mikey GarciaJessie Vargas card on Saturday night at The Ford Center at The Star, the training facility of the Dallas Cowboys.

Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez

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), who has won world titles at strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight, hadn’t 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. [AkihikoHonda, [of Teiken Promotions],Eddie Hearn and DAZN. They gave me the opportunity to once again become a world champion.”

Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez to Fight for Possible Fifth World Title

Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez will get the chance to earn another title…

The 32-year-old Nicaraguan professional boxer, the first boxer from Nicaragua to win world titles in four weight classes,will challenge junior bantamweight world titlist Kal Yafai on February 29 (DAZN) at the Ford Center at The Star, the Dallas Cowboys training facility in Frisco, Texas, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has announced.

Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez

The fight will be on the card headlined by the previously announced Mikey GarciaJessie Vargaswelterweight fight.

The WBAissued a resolution on Tuesday that cleared the way for the fight, which interim titlist and mandatory challenger Andrew Moloneyobjected to and had attorney Pat Englishwrite to the sanctioning body to assert his rights. He knocked out Miguel Gonzalezin March in an official eliminator, which the WBA had ruled would give the winner the next shot at Yafai following a defense against Norbelto Jimenez, whom he easily outpointed in June, no later than March 22.

However, the WBA ignored that ruling in its resolution ultimately writing “the WBA has express authority to modify applicable defense periods and otherwise suspend application of various rules under a special permit. Yafai’s special permit request is conditionally granted subject to his compliance with all other WBA rules, regulations, payment of all applicable fees and the following condition: The winner of Yafai/Gonzalez, or Yafai if a draw, must face Moloney as a mandatory defense within 120 days of said bout.”

English wrote back to the WBA to protest the decision, explaining that Moloney (21-0, 14 KOs), 29, of Australia, had twice turned down offers to challenge IBF titlist Jerwin Ancajasas well as a title eliminator in another organization because of his loyalty to the WBA, for whom he has fought in numerous regional title bouts as well as the title eliminator.

“This application (for Yafai-Gonzalez) has no merit whatsoever,” English wrote to the WBA. “It asks the WBA to violate solemn commitments to Mr. Moloney, both written and verbal. It would injure Mr. Moloney, a fighter who showed his loyalty to the WBA by turning down title bouts and elimination bouts in other organizations. If granted it would make a mockery of the mandatory system. It would be an insult to a country whose sole boxing champion is Andrew Moloney at a time when Australia is beset by terrible tragedy due to unprecedented wildfires. Further, the bout which is requested by Matchroom is an undercard bout, not a bout of ‘great significance’ to the boxing world.

“For these reasons, as well as the reasons set forth in this letter the application of Matchroom should and must be denied.”

Yafai is excited to get a fight with the biggest name in the division in Gonzalez, a lock as a future Hall of Famer.

“I wanted the biggest possible fight available and after the Juan Francisco Estradaunification fell through, I had the opportunity to fight ‘Chocolatito,’ the former pound for pound king,” Yafai said. “Chocolatito is someone that I have idolized as I worked my way up to become world champion myself, so it doesn’t get much bigger than this and it will bring out the best in me. I can’t wait, it is a case of when idols become rivals and I am so honored to share the ring with him but also show the world that I am an elite world champion.”

Yafai (26-0, 15 KOs), 30, of England, will be making the sixth defense of his 115-pound belt and second in a row — and third in his past four — in the United States. He was initially was going to face Estrada in early 2020 to unify 115-pound world titles but that was delayed because Estrada is sidelined with a hand injury.

That opened the door for Gonzalez (48-2, 40 KOs), who has won world titles at strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight.

A knee injury that required surgery kept Gonzalez out of the ring for 15 months, but he returned on Dec. 23 in Japan and notched a second-round knockout of Diomel Diocos to shake off the rust and put himself in position for another shot at a junior bantamweight world title.

“God has responded to my prayers once again. I want to thank God and (promoter) Teiken foremost. Also, the champion, Kal Yafai for giving me the opportunity to fight for the championship once again,” Gonzalez said. “I know this will be a very hard fight, but it will be worthy of all our efforts and determination.”

Said Hearn: “This is a brilliant fight on an absolute monster of a show. Kal Yafai has been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time, and now he gets it against a legend of the sport in ‘Chocolatito.’ This card in Texas is going to be epic and you can expect Yafai versus ‘Chocolatito’ to be an all-out war.”

The card will also feature another world title bout that was previously announced. Newly crowned flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez(15-1, 12 KOs), 26, of Mexico, who won the belt on December 20, will make his first defense against European champion Jay Harris(17-0, 9 KOs), 29, of Wales.

David Benavidez to Fight Anthony Dirrell in WBC-Mandated Bout

It’s gloves on for David Benavidez in an effort to reclaim hisbelt…

The 22-year-old Mexican American boxer and former WBC titlist is set to fight super middleweight world titleholder Anthony Dirrell in a bout mandated by the World Boxing Council.

David Benavidez

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman announced the decision Monday at a news conference in Istanbul, as the organization clarified its position on its 168-pound belt.

Sampson Lewkowicz, who promotes Benavidez, told ESPN that the fight with Dirrell has been agreed to and would take place in August or September.

Sulaiman had been weighing a request from contender Avni Yildirim for an immediate rematch with Dirrell. Benavidez had been due to make a mandatory defense against Dirrell last fall but was stripped of the title when he tested positive for cocaine. He served a suspension and returned to impressively knock out J’Leon Lovein the second round March 16 on the Errol Spence Jr.-Mikey Garciaundercard.

But with the title vacant — the WBC had declared Benavidez its “champion in recess” — Dirrell faced Yildirim for the vacant belt February 23 in Minneapolis, where Dirrell won a 10th-round technical decision in a close, action-packed bout. The fight had been stopped and sent to the scorecards because Dirrell suffered a bad cut over his left eye in the seventh round. By the 10th round, it had gotten worse and Dirrell was ruled unable to continue.

Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs), 27, of Turkey, and his promoter, Ahmet Oener, flew to Mexico City to meet with Sulaiman late last month to make their case for an immediate rematch. The WBC decided against it, but in ordering Dirrell-Benavidez, Sulaiman said Yildirim could return to fight on the Dirrell-Benavidez undercard and that he would get a mandatory shot against the winner of the fight (as long as Yildirim won the interim bout).

“I am very proud of these three fighters,” Sulaiman said. “Dirrell is a two-time WBC champion who has overcome adversity and defeated cancer; Benavidez is a young man who has come back from the evils of recreational drugs and has found a path for a new life; and Yildirim is a national hero hoping to become the first world champion from Turkey, who has dedicated his life with sacrifice and passion to make his dream come true.

“This is what boxing is all about — the best fighting the best and I applaud the three sides for working together in this process.”

Dirrell (33-1-1, 24 KOs), 34, of Flint, Michigan, said he was pleased by Sulaiman’s decision and hopes to face Benavidez when he is able to return to the ring once his cut fully heals.

“I think it’s a big fight for boxing and for the super middleweight division,” Dirrell told ESPN on Monday. “It’s two of the top guys going against each other.”

After Benavidez (21-0, 18 KOs), 22, of Phoenix, knocked out Love he made it clear he wanted to next fight Dirrell, who was ringside, in order to reclaim the belt he had been stripped of.

“I saw Anthony Dirrell with the WBC belt. He can’t call himself champion until he fights me,” Benavidez said in the ring at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, two weeks ago. “That’s my belt. I’m going to go get it. It’s mine.”

Dirrell said Benavidez had simply done to Love what was expected and that he looked forward to fighting him later this year.

“He did what he was supposed to do. All due respect to him, I think he was supposed to get him out of there,” Dirrell said. “They consider [Benavidez] one of the best so why not fight the best?”