Exclusive Interview with WBA Champ Roman Gonzalez
22-year-old Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua is the reigning WBA minimum-weight champion. As is often the case with a good number of the significantly smaller men in the sport, Gonzalez’ profile is not what it should be. However, those fans who have not seen the 5’2.5″ fighter in action are missing something. A good puncher despite his size, Gonzalez, the Ring magazine’s number-one ranked minimum-weight fighter (their championship is currently vacant) has 20 KO’s from his 24 pro wins.
An exciting fighter to watch, the man who was good friends with the great Alexis Arguello – who, of course, passed away last year – turned pro in July of 2005. In just over three years, the pressure-fighter became the WBA champion, having travelled to Japan in September of 2008 , where he out-pointed Yutaka Niida, who was making the eighth defence of his second reign as WBA ruler. Moved fast and happy about it (Gonzalez told me he’d fight more often than he already does of he could!), the Nicaraguan has since retained his belt on two occasions.
Very much wanting to defend his WBA crown five times before moving up to junior-flyweight to become a two-weight champion, Gonzalez began our conversation by telling me how he first got into boxing.
Through his translator Silvio Conrad K (Roman speaks no English), the 22-year-old talent told me how he very much comes from a fighting family.
“I first got into boxing through my father,” Gonzalez said via Conrad K. “He was a fighter, as was his own father, as well as my uncles. I guess you could say boxing is in my blood. As much as my family have inspired me, though, my greatest boxing hero is the legendary Alexis Arguello. He helped mould me into the world champion I am today. He was also a great friend and I miss him so much.”
Very much wanting to try and emulate his countryman and all-time great, Gonzalez, who told me he had 80 amateur fights, losing one, to Saul Baca (a loss he disputes), says he loves to fight as often as he can.
“I am happy to have been moved quickly and to have achieved as much as I have so far. Ideally, I’d like to defend my title once every three months. I don’t like to be inactive for any length of time, it makes making weight all that much harder.”
And Roman, who boxes at 105-pounds, admits he does have trouble making the weight – not surprising, really, even though he stands at just a fraction over 5’2.”
“Making 105-pounds is very tough for me,” Roman said. “It requires a great deal of effort on my part. For example, I had no proper vacation at Christmas, as I was working hard for my upcoming title fight defence with Ivan Menses (of Mexico, set for Mexico on Jan. 30th). I often spar around 200 rounds in preparation for a championship fight. It takes a lot of sacrifice to make weight and to stay on top.”
After he’s made five defences at 105-pounds, Roman plans to move up to junior-flyweight. And he already has his eye on a couple of belt-holders there.
“A move up in weight is imminent I think. I want a second WBA belt; I’d like to fight Giovanni Segura (of Mexico, the current WBA champ at 108-pounds). But first I want to make five defences of my current title, because the WBA has a special belt for fighters who have made five successful defences. A fight with (WBO light-fly champ) Ivan Calderon also interests me. He came to Nicaragua in December, and he wasn’t too friendly towards me. I did not like his manner at all!”
Surprisingly, despite his 20 KO’s, Gonzalez does not list himself as a big puncher – explaining how he scores most of his stoppage wins with an accumulation of shots, as opposed to with single shots.
“My favourite punch is my left hook to the body, but I don’t really think I’m a huge puncher with one shot. I like to place my shots well and also land, say, eight to twelve shots in a combination – this can make any opponent fall, especially when I go to the body. Yeah, I would definitely say I’m a pressure fighter who throws a large volume of punches.”
Trained by his father and also by Arnulfo Obando at The Roger Deshon Gym in Nicaragua – where as many as ten world-ranked boxers can be training at the same time – Gonzalez is currently working hard for his fight with Mexico’s 14-5-1(8) Meneses. The 22-year-old has certainly had plenty of quality sparring.
“I spar regularly, and intensely, with fighters such as Yader Escobar, Carlos Buitrago, Nerys Espinoza and Evert Briceno – all good world class fighters. I expect a tough fight against Meneses, because all Mexican’s are tough. I will also be fighting him in Puebla, which is Meneses’ hometown. But I am used to fighting in hostile environments; having fought in Mexico before, as well as in Japan.”
Gonalez’ last fight, a July 2009 points-won title defence against Japan’s Katsunari Takayama (a wide Unanimous Decision for the Nicaraguan) is the bout Roman says was his hardest to date.
“Takayama was really quick and he also had the great experience of being a former two-time world champion (Takayama is a former interim WBA champ, losing the latter title to common opponent Yutaka Niida). We were both prepared for the fight and we were both in excellent condition. We could have kept going for 15 or even 17 rounds! I am very proud of that win.”
Now looking ahead to his fourth title defence, the gifted yet modest youngster who has already achieved so much isn’t ready to claim he is one of the very best fighters in the world quite yet; but he says that with hard work he will one day be one of the sport’s elite.
“It is a bold statement to say you are one of the very best boxers in the world. I’m proud of my Ring [magazine] ranking, but I need to keep on proving myself before I can be accepted as one of the best in the world. But with hard work and by staying focused, I feel I can beat all my peers.”