Kal Yafai: ‘Chocolatito Gonzalez is trying to take away my stardom’
By Charles Brun: Kal Yafai wants former pound-for-pound King Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez know that he’s not going to allow him to take his shot at “SUPERSTARDOM” away from him when they face each other on February 22 on DAZN and Sky Sports. Yafai (26-0, 15 KOs) is making his sixth defense of his IBF super flyweight title that he won in 2016.
Yafai faces Gonzalez on the undercard of Mikey Garcia vs. Jessie Vargas at The Ford Center at The Star, in Frisco, Texas.
The 30-year-old Yafai has arguably been shielded from the talented 115-lb fighters due to careful match-making by his promoter Eddie Hearn. He’s not put Yafai in with the dangerous guys like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada, Jerwin Ancajas, Naoya Inoue or Donnie Nietes. Hearn hasn’t even matched Yafai against talented Julio Cesar Martinez, who holds the WBC flyweight title. Most boxing fans would pick Martinez to beat Yafai.
Did Hearn pick Chocolatito for Yafai due to his recent struggles?
Some believe the reason Hearn matched Yafai against Chocolatito Gonzalez (48-2, 40 KOs) is because he’s slipping. The former 4 division world champion Chocolatito has lost 2 out of his last 4 fights since 2017. It’s clear that Gonzalez isn’t designed to fight in the 115-lb division.
If Yafai moved up four weight classes to fight at super featherweight, chances are he’d be food for the top 126-pounders. Put Yafai in with WBC super featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt, and he’d likely not fare too well. It’s the same thing with Chocolatito. He’s moved up 4 divisions due to a slowing metabolism, and he’s now struggling at 115. Some of it probably age, but a lot of it is a case of Gonzalez not possessing the size for the division.
Yafai wants to prove he’s an elite fighter
“I’m so excited. I haven’t been this excited since I challenged for a world title, and I just can’t wait,” said Yafai to Sky Sports Boxing on his fight with Chocolatito. “I’d signed to fight Estrada, so I didn’t think that fight [with Chocolatito] would ever happen. It’s here, and I can’t wait.
“Never did I think I’d end up fighting him,” said Yafai on Chocolatito. “I was a little bit emotional when I saw him get knocked out by Rungvisai, and saw him on the canvas. I felt really sad. He’s unbelievable, and he seems like a nice person, but he’s trying to take away my future stardom and the things I want to achieve in the sport.
“Now I want to prove that I’m an elite fighter,” said Yafai. “To do that I’ve got to beat Roman Gonzalez. I’ve got to improvise, use my attributes, and my size, my very long reach, and my size as well. This goes unnoticed, and my jab as well, because a lot of top fighters in the lighter weights don’t use the jab. That’s one of the things I’ve got to use against him,” Yafai said.
For Yafai to be viewed as an elite level fighters, he’s going to need to beat Juan Francisco Estrada and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. That’s a big ask for a guy that struggled to beat Sho Ishida and Israel Gonzalez. Yafai looked poor in both fights, and should have arguably lost to Gonzalez.
Estrada is next for Yafai after Chocolatito
“After the win, he’s obviously the one you want to go after,” said Yafai about Juan Fransisco Estrada. “It’s another world title, unification, and it’s a fight we’ve already signed for. Unfortunately for his hand injury [it didn’t happen]. Like I said, that fight was made twice, and it didn’t happen both times.
“If you don’t believe that, then you’re in the wrong sport. Of course, I believe I’m the best, 100%, no doubt about it,” said Yafai when asked if he thinks he’s the best in the division. “Who knows? I’m not really bothered,” said Yafai when asked if he thinks Estrada will be ringside for his fight against Gonzalez.
“I know that’s a fight that can be made, because it has been made, but it didn’t happen due to injuries,” Yafai said about a fight with Estrada. “I’m defending my title against the former pound-for-pound King [Chocolatito Gonzalez], and then I’ll look on to fight someone like Estrada. If not, then I want another one of the champions,” said Yafai.
It’s probably not wise for Yafai to look beyond Chocolatito because the Nicaraguan fighter still has more talented even now. Chocolatito is just a better schooled fighter, and can do a lot more things than Yafai. The reason Yafai has been winning is a combination of his size advantage and weak opposition. He’s bigger than most of his opponents, and his promoters haven’t been eager to put him in against good fighters.
Yafai would like Estrada to fight him in UK
“I just know that I’ve needed this fight for a long time, and it’s finally here,” Yafai said about his fight against Chocolatito. “It’s down to me to step up and prove to everybody I am an elite fighter. I’d absolutely love to, but that’s up to Eddie [Hearn],” said Yafai when asked if he’d bring the Estrada fight to Birmingham.
“If that could work, it would be brilliant, but I can’t see any of the champions willing to come to Birmingham,” said Yafai about Estrada likely not coming to the UK to fight him in Birmingham. “I would love that, but sometimes money speaks. The thing for me personally is that I enjoy being in America. I go there to travel, and be there on holiday.
“So I kind of know how things are over there, so I enjoy it,” Yafai said. “I think it’ll mean everything to me,” said Yafai about beating Chocolatito Gonzalez. “All the work I’ve put in, and all the amateur fights I’ve had, it’s all coming down to this fight. This is what I’ll get remembered for,” said Yafai.
A win over Chocolatito might not be enough for the 30-year-old Yafai to be seen as an “elite” level fighter in the eyes of the casual boxing fans. This writer does know that Yafai ISN’T viewed as an elite level fighter now by hardcore fans, and that won’t change from being Chocolatito. The Nicaraguan fighter started his career out at minimumweight. He’s well above his best weight class, which is arguably 108.
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