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Kal Yafai: ‘Roman Gonzalez is DONE if he doesn’t win’ on Saturday

Image: Kal Yafai: 'Roman Gonzalez is DONE if he doesn't win' on Saturday

By Barry Holbrook: Kal Yafai has mixed emotions going into his title defense this Saturday night against former #1 pound-for-pound king Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez on DAZN and Sky Sports. Yafai (26-0, 15 KOs) has looked up to the former four-division world champion Chocolatito Gonzalez (48-2, 40 KOs) for many years, and it’s tough for him to be the one that potentially will end his career this Saturday night on February 29.

Yafai will be defending his WBA World super flyweight title for the sixth time this Saturday against Gonzalez at The Ford Center at The Star, in Frisco, Texas. The Yafai-Gonzalez fight is the co-feature bout on the Mikey Garcia vs. Jessie Vargas card.

The 30-year-old Yafai was originally supposed to be facing WBC 115-lb champion Juan Francisco Estrada, but he suffered a hand injury training and couldn’t take the fight. Luckily for Yafai, his promoter Eddie Hearn was able to get the 32-year-old Gonzalez as the replacement. In terms of accomplishment and recognition, Chocolatito is the bigger fight for Yafai than Estrada, who hasn’t done as much with his career.

Yafai: I’ve wanted to fight Roman Gonzalez a long time

“I think he’ll be back at his best,” said Yafai to Matchroom Boxing about Chocolatito. “That’s how I’m trained. I believe he’s at his best. He’s come back with two good wins, but not against great opposition. But he’s done what he’s had to do, and he’s done it in good fashion. He’s still got it, and I’m taking it very seriously.

“It’s a massive fight, and I do what I got to do to win. What better fight to get next than Chocolatito. It’s a fight that I’ve wanted for a long time, and I’m really happy that it’s come to fruition. I’ve seen things, but I’ve not taken many things from that fight because Rungvisai is a southpaw, he’s a bit rugged, and I don’t think he’s got the technical ability that I’ve got.

“He’s got other chinks in his armor like in his fight against Carlos Cuadras. That’s a fight that I watched a lot more. Rungvisai has got big power, but I’ve got to do what I got to do. I’ve got to concentrate more on my strengths than his weaknesses,” said Yafai.

Gonzalez isn’t the same fighter he was when he fought Carlos Cuadras in a war in 2016. That was a grueling fight that took the best out of both guys. Cuadras lost 2 out of 3 fights in the aftermath of the Chocolatito fight, and his career has tanked badly.

You can argue that Cuadras should have lost 3 straight after his fight with Gonzalez. Cuadras’ 10 round decision win over David Carmona in 2017 was controversial.

Cuadras was a better fighter in 2016 than Yafai is now. If Yafai is assuming that he’s going to be able to do the same things to Roman that Cuadras did, he’s mistaken.

Khalid has been a big fan of Chocolatito for years

“I’m buzzed. I haven’t had this feeling for a long time since my first defense, and when I challenged for a world title,” Yafai said about his excitement about his fight against Gonzalez. “The others, I was expected to win. There will be a Latino crowd out there [in Texas], and I’m sure they’ll enjoy the performance.

“It’s a big card. I’m a big fan of Mikey Garcia, and you’ve got the flyweight fight between Martinez and Harrison. I’m sure that’ll be a great tear-up. It’s a great card to be on, and that’s what this fight deserves. It’ll bring a lot of excitement,” said Yafai about his fight with Chocolatito.

“I’ve watched Chocolatito since I first turned pro, coming through the weight divisions, and demolishing fighters. In May 2015, he boxed Edgar Soso at The Forum in LA, and I went and watched him fight. It was quick, it was a two-round demolition. He was impressive, more impressive seeing him in the flesh. This time, I won’t be looking at him in awe, I’ll be looking at him to take him out,” Khalid said of Chocolatito.

If Gonzalez looks good, then Yafai will get a lot of recognition for beating him. In Roman’s last two fights against Moises Fuentes and Diomel Diocos, he looked great. However, those fights were against weak opposition though.

Roman looked bad in his two defeats against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and those matches took a lot out of him. Yafai would have just as many problems, if not more, against Rungvisai than Gonzalez did. Rungvisai is a very strong puncher, and he would present major problems for Yafai.

Yafai expects to receive recognition from Gonzalez fight

“This is a fight that I’ve been craving for a long time, and this is a fight that I need,” Yafai continued on talking about Roman Gonzalez. “Hopefully, this will give me the recognition I deserve, because, for all my ability, I don’t think I get the respect that I deserve and the recognition of being Britain’s first world champion at super flyweight, defending my title five times.

“I’ll get the recognition I deserve beating Chocolatito. One million percent,” said Yafai when asked if he’ll see the best version of himself in facing Gonzalez. “That’s what I need, and that’s what I had when I stepped up and challenged for a world title. I had that fear factor, and that’s what I need.

“That’s what I need to deliver those performances,s and that’s what I got now. I can count on that. I will deliver that performance on February 29th. This fight is more exciting than any other in the division. I could have fought anybody else, but this fight is going to bring a lot more excitement to the crowd and the viewers. You just know it’s going to be one of those fights. You know what you’re going to get with Chocolatito,” said Yafai.

It’s important that Yafai fight in an exciting style that the Texas boxing fans will appreciate. In many Yafai’s fights, he’s used a lot of movement, and boxed his way to dull victories. Yafai won’t win over the crowd unless he goes to war with Chocolatito in the center ring, and that’s a style that doesn’t suit him. If Yafai fights like that, he’ll be playing to Roman’s strengths.

Roman Gonzalez will be finished if he doesn’t win – Yafai

“He’s just going to come and throw boatloads of punches together, and try and make me very uncomfortable in there, but I’m okay with that,” said Yafai in remarking about the pressure Chocolatito will put on him.

“I don’t mind being tested. That’ll suit me down to the ground. This is a fight that people will really enjoy, and they can’t afford to blink in. If he doesn’t win this fight, he’s basically done. So he has to win this fight for him,” said Yafai about Roman. “But for me, it’s my risk to superstardom, and that’s what will happen.

“I’ll beat him with a lot of the Latino and American crowd watching, and then they’ll remember my name. And then I’ll go into the big fight against the likes of Estrada, and the other champions. Then people will know who I am.

“There are loads of ways of seeing myself beating him. I’ve gone over it a million times in my head, and I see myself catching him with loads of shots, with loads of different punches from different angles, head, and body. All I know is every time I view it all I see is myself winning,” said Yafai.

If the Yafai-Gonzalez fight is the exciting war that Gonzalez’s match with Cuadras was in 2016, then Yafai will gain a lot of fans. Unfortunately,  Yafai won’t get credit if Gonzalez looks like the shot fighter that Rungvisai stopped in 4 rounds in September 2017. Given Chocolatito’s weak opposition since that loss, we don’t know what to expect from him on Saturday.

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