Jesus Gonzales’ amateur career was supposed to end atop a podium with an Olympic gold medal around his neck. When that didn’t happen, his professional career was supposed to end on September 17, 2005.
Before his amateur career could play out as expected at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Gonzales accepted a lofty offer from Top Rank and hopped into the professional ranks a year early. Everything went as planned for 17 consecutive victories, but the 18th wasn’t to be, as “El Martillo” was stopped by unheralded Jose Luis Zertuche. Almost immediately, he was no longer a part of Bob Arum’s stable, and after seven victories over limited competition, Gonzales was out of the sport completely.
Even though there’s plenty to discuss when it comes to that fateful night—including Gonzales’ father Jesus Sr. punching Top Rank’s Peter McKinn following the bout—the party stays contrite on the topic.
“A lot of politics. There was nothing wrong, just people were doing things that they shouldn’t be doing in the sport,” said Gonzales Sr.
The once prized prospect went from punching opponents to punching the clock at a Phoenix bingo hall, before returning to the ring in 2010 following a two-year hiatus.
Even though he’s been back in the sport and rattled off three more victories (including a win over Francisco Sierra on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights), he has still been in relative obscurity, training out of Calgary, Alberta, under the FanBase Promotions umbrella.
“The passion was always there. The thing is, it gave him an opportunity to actually focus on what he was going to do. So much of the politics were holding him back, but now that we have a chance to fight for (FanBase Promotions), they actually make things happen,” said Gonzales Sr.
FanBase did make things happen, as Gonzales (27-1, 14 knockouts) will take on Adonis Stevenson in an IBF super middleweight title eliminator tonight in Montreal. The fight is a Canadian pay-per-view offering, and will be broadcast by Fight NOW TV in the United States.
Jesus Jr. hasn’t been as vague as his father when it comes to his opponent, however.
After a cursory “how has camp been?” to open the conversation, Gonzales jumps right in. “I’m in top shape. I’m in better shape than him.”
Such has been the tone all week long, as Gonzales and Stevenson (16-1, 13 KOs) have traded not just verbal barbs, but harsh allegations toward one another at press gatherings in Montreal. Earlier in the week, Gonzales made note of Stevenson’s previously unmentioned criminal past. At the age of 21, the Canadian-based fighter was jailed on charges of managing prostitutes, assault, and making threats.
“He’s a piece of s__t,” Gonzales told RingTV.com. “You can be forgiven for robbing a bank. You can be forgiven for stealing cars. You can be forgiven for even beating people up. But beating up on little girls and selling them? How can you say that’s alright? Mike Tyson supposedly raped someone and knocked a guy out at a bar. That’s not even close to being comparable. But that’s his problem, not my problem.”
Coincidence or not, the Phoenix product will wear the logo of Natalie’s House, a shelter for abused women, on his trunks. Also a part of his coincidental wardrobe was a Kronk Gym jacket at the weigh-in. Stevenson just so happens to have started training with Emanuel Steward at the legendary gym in Detroit.
The day after Gonzales brought up the criminal charges, Stevenson took to his Facebook page to accuse his opponent of using a racial slur toward him at the final press conference.
As soon as he got off the scales Friday afternoon, the Kronk-clad Gonzales fired back.
“Anybody that was there knows I didn’t call him the N-word. I don’t condone the word, and I don’t condone him saying the word about himself. That’s horrible. That’s like me being a Mexican calling myself a wetback. That’s not right. All that’s doing is opening up the stereotype,” said Gonzales, who claims he has been receiving death threats over the internet following the circulation of his alleged slur.
If Gonzales fits into a Mexican stereotype, it’s his willingness to take a hard punch in order to deliver one of his own. His victory over Sierra was a highlight of the 2011 Friday Night Fights season, and saw both fighters hit the mat.
On Saturday though, he hopes to tap into his amateur pedigree and show off his boxing skill against a man he considers to be a “one handed fighter.”
“I would have kicked his ass then,” said the 27-year old Gonzales of an 18-year old version of himself. “But now that I’m a better fighter, I can dictate when I want to knock him out. Even seconds, what round, what second of the round I want to knock him out in. I have that much control and that much confidence.”
It remains to be seen if Gonzales will capture professional gold, but he’s sure made an impression on the podium this week nonetheless.
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman