One of the greatest fighters of all time isn’t done yet

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·5 min read

If Roman Gonzalez were a heavyweight for most of his incredible career and not a flyweight, we’d be asking if he is as good as Tyson, Holyfield, Lewis or Louis.

If he were a heavyweight, he’d be treated like royalty as opposed to a guy who could stand on Las Vegas Boulevard for an hour and not have a single person recognize him.

But despite his size — he’s the only fighter in history to have won titles in each of the four lightest weight classes — Gonzalez is a giant in the sport of boxing.

He fights Juan Francisco Estrada in a rematch on Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on DAZN for the WBA and WBC super flyweight titles. Win or lose, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

He’s won 50 of his 52 fights and, with any luck, could have won one of the two he lost. That was a March 18, 2017, bout with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai at Madison Square Garden in New York, in which he dropped a majority decision.

He’s scored 41 knockouts among his 50 wins, but isn’t simply a Mike Tyson-esque puncher. This is a brilliant boxer who knows how to break down his opponents and, even at the advanced age of 33 for a super flyweight, gets better as the fights wear on.

The question isn’t whether he’s a Hall of Famer or whether he’s the best fighter 115 pounds or under in boxing history.

No, it’s pretty clear given his record, his performance and his quality of opposition that Gonzalez is one of the 25 greatest fighters who ever lived.

Roman Gonzalez, left, punches Moises Fuentes during their bantamweight boxing match, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Las Vegas. Gonzalez won by TKO. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Roman Gonzalez, left, punches Moises Fuentes during their bantamweight boxing match Sept. 15, 2018, in Las Vegas. Gonzalez won by TKO. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

To see him fight is a privilege. To see him in a significant fight in a rematch against a longtime rival like Estrada is something that anyone who calls himself or herself a boxing fan couldn’t possibly miss.

Gonzalez is all but unknown among American sports fans and is only marginally better known among boxing fans in this country.

He’s a humble, unassuming guy who doesn’t care to promote himself. But as he nears the end of a legendary career, he’s finally getting the accolades he should have gotten years ago.

It’s not like he cares, though. He doesn’t.

“I consider myself a man who’s done the best that I could,” Gonzalez said. “I had difficult times growing up, but in the end, it worked out well. Life has taught me a lot of things, and I learned. And I feel and think that I’ve already conquered many things in boxing. What comes now with this title is just extra.

“I never imagined myself getting to where I am now. But wow, it is still hard. It costs me because I train the right way. I do things the way they should be done. But I like it. And it’s what let me help my family, help my kids. But I don’t complain because I thank God for where I am now.”

Estrada is favored at BetMGM at -170, while Gonzalez is +140. Estrada himself is a future Hall of Famer and is three years younger than Gonzalez.

Estrada is at his peak now, but it’s difficult to say that Gonzalez is on the decline. His only losses were back-to-back to Rungvisai. He lost a majority decision to Rungvisai in the first bout, one that many media at ringside, including Yahoo Sports, felt Gonzalez had won. Rungvisai decisively won the rematch, knocking him out in the fourth round on Sept. 9, 2017.

Rungvisai defeated Estrada by majority decision on Feb. 24, 2018, but Estrada came back to win the rematch on April 26, 2019, by unanimous decision.

It would be a monumental victory for Gonzalez if he can win, and though he’s the underdog, he’s the kind of guy who performs best when his back is to the wall.

He told the story of how he spent time at his countryman and idol Alexis Arguello’s home before a Jan. 20, 2006, bout against Roberto Meza, and he got so relaxed he got dropped in the first round.

It was just his fifth pro fight and Gonzalez was just 18 years old. Getting dropped early could have caused him to lose his composure, but he instead came back to drop Meza three times later in the first.

“I always respected all the orders Alexis gave me because he’s a three-time champion,” Gonzalez said of Arguello, who took his own life in 2009. “It’s an honor. He was like my father. We were very close. Sometimes, he invited me to his house, and I remember being at his house, eating and I got relaxed, and he dropped me off at my fight. That day was the first time that I got hit hard.

“I was scared, but I got up and knocked the guy out. But those are life experiences that I had with him where I learned. Because I think I could not have gotten up after that punch. But due to the conditions, it made me get up again. Alexis was a very demanding person in the gym.”

Gonzalez learned those tough lessons, and more, and now as this jockey-sized fighter storms down the backstretch of his career, it would be wise to remember that we’re not just watching a good, or a great fighter.

We are watching one of the best to have ever done it and realize what a treat this has been.

More from Yahoo Sports: