Ryan Songalia

Pressure is on Gonzales in ShoBox debut against Duran

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It’s the kind of situation that every unbeaten prospect eventually finds himself in; showcased in a nationally-televised fight against a rugged, measuring-stick veteran opponent that has exposed gaps in the armor of other unbeaten fighters.

Middleweight Brandon Gonzales (14-0, 10 KOs), of Sacramento, Calif., will face his first “step-up” fight on Friday, at Bally’s Atlantic City against Ossie Duran, of Paterson, N.J., in the eight-round main event of Showtime’s ShoBox: The New Generation.

“At this point in my career, I kind of have to make a statement in every fight, especially in an opportunity like this to fight in front of a national audience,” said Gonzales. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about winning. Win first, and everything else will come along with it.”

Gonzales hasn’t fought in nine months, but hasn’t wasted any time, either. Since his eight-round decision win over Lester Gonzalez in January, Gonzales has signed with Goossen-Tutor Promotions and added a manager, hip hop mogul James Prince, who has been linked to Floyd Mayweather Jr., Chad Dawson and most recently Shane Mosley.

He has also hooked up with trainer Virgil Hunter, who has worked with Andre Ward since the WBA super middleweight titleholder’s amateur days. Hunter replaced Jeff Mayweather. Gonzales explained that he preferred the 90-minute drive to Oakland, Calif., to work with Hunter to traveling to Las Vegas to work with Mayweather. The move to Hunter was a natural transition, having been acquainted with Hunter as a sparring partner of Ward for years.

“It’s nice being closer to home and having a watchful eye on me in-between fights,” said Gonzales. “The organization of the camp is what I think I will benefit from the most. I think the consistency in the schedule is probably the best part of this training camp.”

Fighting for the first time on the East Coast and on ShoBox brings its own pressures. Just as in the case of Nonito Donaire Jr., this past weekend, national television exposure brings the expectations to perform at the highest level, to look like you belong in that showcase. Duran (26-8-2, 10 KO) has a knack for making prospects look ordinary, however.

A 34-year-old native of Accra, Ghana, Duran has been on a roll in the last two years, defeating three mid-range fighters, including Matt Vanda, since losing a disputed decision to then-undefeated prospect Fernando Guerrero on ESPN2. The Guerrero fight in 2009 capped off a four-fight winless streak that saw him drop a decision to another rising unbeaten prospect, James Kirkland. However, Duran gave Kirkland his toughest test prior to Kirkland’s incarceration.

“I don’t see myself as an opponent, I’m an underdog but I’m not seeing myself as the opponent,” said Duran, who is trained by Bismarck Bruce, an assistant to Joshua Clottey and Joseph Agbeko. “I’m going in there to win. “This time I’m not leaving it to the judges. I’m going in there as my own judge.”

Instead of entertaining questions about his future endeavors, Gonzales prefers to focus on the task ahead of him. Against Duran, perhaps that’s not a bad idea.

“At this time, everything is dependent on this fight. I’m not looking ahead, this is going to be the springboard to which direction my career takes after this fight,” said Gonzales.

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