On the same night, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez lost his unbeaten record, his world-title belt and his lofty standing in the pound-for-pound rankings.
“I felt I won the fight,” Gonzalez said of his March 18 majority-decision loss to Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai at Madison Square Garden. “It was difficult, but that’s over now.”
It won’t be over until Saturday night at StubHub Center, when Gonzalez (46-1, 38 knockouts) gets his rematch against Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1, 39 KOs) in the HBO-televised main event of an all-super-flyweight card.
Some who observed Gonzalez, 30, during his March fight week sensed something was off.
Whether it was his sullen mood or clear discomfort while cutting weight, he was fighting through something that even now he’s reluctant to discuss.
Gonzalez was struck by the unexpected death of his Nicaraguan trainer Arnulfo Obando in November, losing the only voice who had advised him during his unbeaten run in which he’d won belts in four weight classes.
“There were no problems,” he said. “If I wouldn’t have felt as good as I did, I wouldn’t have fought so well.”
Sor Rungvisai knocked Gonzalez down in the first round and impressed judges by landing what they deemed to be the more effective punches, producing the upset.
Gonzalez reacted by separating from replacement trainer Wilmer Hernandez and aligning with trainer Sendai Tanaka, who has worked with a handful of other fighters belonging to Gonzalez’s promoter.
“I want to have a better, smarter fight and not have those errors that happened in the first fight,” Gonzalez said. “I learned a lot in that fight, about offense and defense.
“I believe that in boxing, as in life, you have to improve in the next thing you do, whether you lose or not.”
Gonzalez said he took some comfort in the consensus thinking that he rallied impressively enough to win the fight — even if the judges viewed it differently.
How he performs Saturday will dictate whether the first loss is viewed as an excusable blip or a revelation that he was at his best in younger, lighter days.
The main event tops a card that includes a title defense by unbeaten super-flyweight champion Naoya Inoue and a bout between former super-flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras and former flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada.
Gonzalez has defeated both Cuadras and Estrada, and Inoue would make for a dream showdown should he continue his dominance.
“I’m focused first on my fight, but it is going to be an excellent night of boxing,” Gonzalez said. “I’m definitely excited about regaining that belt. I’d like to think that I’m defined not by the belt, but because of all the things I’ve done in my life.”