By Fiona Manning
While the rest of the California boxing world will be attending the World Boxing Hall of Fame banquet at Commerce Casino tomorrow [Saturday] night, the southland’s hottest fighter, light heavyweight contender Julio Gonzalez will be lacing up the gloves far away at the Color Line Arena in Hamurg, Germany, intent on taking WBO champion Dariusz Michalczewski’s championship.
It’s a fight few boxing insiders predict Gonzalez to win. In fact, online betting sites have him labeled as a serious underdog.
But if you ask Gonzalez, records are made to broken: He aims to topple Polish-born Michalszewski (48-0, 41 KOs)’s lengthy reign at the top: With his 49th fight, Michalczewski stands poised to surpass some of boxing’s greatest records.
If his bout with #3 ranked Gonzalez (34-1, 22 KOs) ends like his first 48, he will equal the 49-0 career mark set heavyweight the great Rocky Marciano. If Michal-czewski gets past Gonzalez, he will also break the record for the longest light heavyweight title reign set by Archie “The Mongoose” Moore.
This will be the little-known German-based champion’s 24th title defense, putting him close to Joe Louis’ record of most title defenses from any world champion (25).
“Don’t count me out,” said Gonzalez prior to leaving the US on Saturday. “I’ve trained very hard for the fight. I am used to this sort of pressure. I thrive on the big fights.”
Records are made to be broken. Ever since the amateurs, when Gonzalez beat previously-unbeaten Cuban superstar Ramon Garbey, he has specialized in being a big-time spoiler.
Just ask previously undefeated Julian Letterlough, Jesus Ruiz and Reggie Roberts. All three saw not only their records shattered, but in the case of Ruiz, his career ruined.
With a couple of lackluster fights this year decision wins over Glengoffe John-son and Manu Ntoh in which Gonzalez appeared to be restless and bored Gonzalez and Kaplan decided to part ways with trainer Samuel Gomez and return to Mack Kurihara, with whom Gonzalez had worked since the amateurs.
Kurihara was in Japan for much of Gonzalez’s training so Dub Huntley, a former fighter turned ace trainer (he used to train Laila Ali) who flew with him, Kaplan and Vargas to Germany, trained Gonzalez both in his usual La Habra Gym and at the LA Boxing Club.
Huntley was impressed with Gonzalez’s willingness to work. “I get guys who think they’re something and think they know it all but Julio’s an athlete,” he said. “He thinks about the sport first, not the fame. That’s how the real champions look at it.”
35-year-old Michalczewski, who has already made 23 successful defenses of his WBO crown, doesn’t seem worried about Gonzalez whom he claims to “know nothing about apart from the fact he’s only lost one fight to Roy Jones. So, I do know he’s tough.”
That’s odd, considering Gonzalez is one of the few men to go the distance with the generally-accepted pound-for-pound champion of the division if not all of boxing; Roy Jones, Jr.
Gonzalez, who represented Mexico in the 1996 Olympics (he lost to Vassiliy Jirov, the former IBF cruiserweight champion a loss that Gonzalez would still like to avenge).
Jones himself has long tried to get Michalczewski into the ring except that Michalczewski has refused to leave Germany to face him. They used to say about Germany that to get a draw there, you need to knock out your opponent.
When Jones refused to go there and arguments ensued about money for the fight to take place on US soil, the scales tipped the odds towards Gonzalez.
The talented Mexican-born slugger and his tightly-knit entourage of manager, criminal defense attorney, Norman J. Kaplan, trainer Mack Kurihara and corner-men consisting of trainer Dub Huntley and lightweight Yoni Vargas, evidently never heard that story about Germany.
Or they don’t care.
Records are made to be broken. Both Gonzalez and Michalczewski have a lot at stake and are guaranteed to deliver high-pressure, aggressive performances. Both men are used to going the distance, but both fighters also consider themselves to be big punchers.
Since the Jones fight, Gonzalez has become the target for every contender in the division. Many underestimate his low-key style until they get into the ring with him.
Michalczewski too, has fought durable division big-names such as Virgil Hill, Montell Griffin and Derrick Harmon. But he’s never fought the toughest man out there, Roy Jones Jr.
For Gonzalez, this is another shot at greatness. But you’ll need a computer to watch him in action against Michalczewski.
US audiences have hardly had a chance to watch Michalczewski’s fights, so few have been televised here.
Gonzalez however is one of the hottest fighters on the circuit, thanks to a barn-burning fight on ESPN2 last year with the aforementioned Letterlough.
Gonzalez knows how to entertain a crowd. He got off the canvas three times to defeat Letterlough who admits to still being in shock over that fight.
“We ran into each other at an elevator in a hotel right after that fight,” Gonzalez recalled. “I really hurt my hand hitting his head in that fight and I told him that. He actually laughed and told me I have a hard head too.”
What does he think of Michalczewski? “He’s never fought anyone like me,” he said.
He’s right. Of all the fighters Michalczewski has fought who have been in the ring with Big Bad Jones, only Gonzalez has gone the distance.
It’s a fact the WBO champ finally had to cop to this week when Team Gonzalez descended on Hamburg.
When asked about Gonzalez, Michalczewski admitted: “I have seen some videos. And as Max Schmeling said before fighting Joe Louis: I’ve seen something. “Memo to Dariusz Michalczewski: so has Julio Gonzalez.
Dariusz Michalczewski vs Julio Gonzalez for the WBO light heavyweight championship can only be seen in the US live via webcast by logging on to www.boxing.de Start time is 19:00 in Germany, 1PM ET, 10AM PT in the US.