Story and photos by Felipe Leon
In professional boxing, it is typical for a fighter to either come from a boxing family or from such impoverished beginnings that he doesn’t see any other way out but with his fists. For twenty-two year old WBC USNBC super bantamweight champion Oscar “Fantasma” Gonzalez (27-1, 24KOs) it was something much more basic than that.
He just liked to fight.
Now Gonzalez will have the opportunity to do just that when this Saturday night he takes on his biggest challenge yet in former world title challenger Giovanni “Ruso” Caro (23-10-4, 18KOs) of Mexico City, Mexico, at the Monumental Plaza de Toros of his hometown of Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico. Gonzalez’s first defense of his latest title is the main event of Televisa’s “Sabados de Corona” and is presented by Erik Morales’ Box Latino.
After moving from Veracruz to Tepic at the tender age of five, Gonzalez soon found himself in amateur street fights orchestrated by his much older neighbors. The second oldest sibling of a total five of his heavy machinery driving father and home-maker mother, Gonzalez quit school by the ninth grade and joined a gym but was only allowed to train if he returned to his studies. With the promise that his parents would support him in his choice of extra curricular activity, Gonzalez returned.
Soon the young man amassed a 77-9 amateur record, collecting a Mexican national title in 2006. Without any opponents in his region willing to face him, Gonzalez decided at sixteen years of age to turn pro. Fighting in and around Tepic and as far as Guadalajara, Gonzalez quickly built up and undefeated record but in his first excursion outside his local radius, he suffered his first defeat.
“It was my twelfth fight and I felt the loss, I felt it very much, I wanted to be undefeated for a long time but it wasn’t to be, there was no denying that I lost,” Gonzalez said of the unanimous decision he dropped to Alejandro Delgado in Ensenada, Mexico. “I began to work even harder and to keep winning and thank God that has continued.”
With a refined and polished style, Gonzalez caught the eye of his biggest supporter to date, seven-time world champion Erik “Terrible” Morales and Gonzalez’s promoter. ”When I went with Erik, I was very happy. It is very motivating to work with him and with hopes of doing big things. It is an honor for me to work with Erik, for him to promote me. He is a person with a lot of experience, very recognized and a great person.”
Now part of Box Latino, Gonzalez has also helped Erik in his most recent training camps in the altitude of the Otomi Ceremonial Center located in the southern mountains of Mexico. Exchanging punches inside the ring as well as spending time outside of it, Gonzalez has developed a friendship with the Mexican legend and has been in the receiving end of some sound advice.
“We are friends. We have a good friendship, we communicate well and I think it is one of the biggest reasons for me to be with the company,” Gonzalez said of Morales. “He always advices me to be good, to keep working hard. He gives me tips on the little things that makes a person successful.”
Another key figure in Gonzalez’s team is trainer Fernando Fernandez. Fernandez is better known for working in Morales’ corner as chief second to Morales’ father and trainer, Jose “Olivaritos” Morales. Fernandez has trained Gonzalez since last year when both of them participated in a popular “Contender”-like reality TV show broadcast in Latin America by Fox Deportes and sponsored by the World Boxing Council. The show, “Reto de Campeones WBC (Champion’s Challenge WBC)”, consisted of eight Mexican fighters
matching up against eight foreign fighters in a tournament. Fernandez, along with “Olivaritos” Morales, served as a trainer of the Mexican team while Gonzalez went ahead to win the tournament.
“That tournament opened the doors for me. I began to get known because of it. It was just like the name of it, a challenge,” Gonzalez said of TV show in which he defeated Thailand’s Vacharakit Senahan, Dominican Republic’s Carlos Fulgencio, former world champion Roberto “Araña” Vazquez of Panama and Uruguay’s Caril Herrera on his way to the top of the heap. “My attitude from the beginning was that I was going to win. It wasn’t ‘let’s see what happens or how far I get.’ I joined the tournament to win it. Thank God I worked hard and my work paid off because I came out the winner.”
With the hope that 2012 is his break out year, Gonzalez is ready to take a considerable step in his career after capturing the regional WBC USNBC title in February when he stopped veteran journeyman Gerardo “Locomotora” Espinoza in five and in a keep busy fight just over a month ago, Manuel Aguilar in two.
In Caro, Gonzalez will find a well-seasoned fighter who has campaigned for the most part in the super bantamweight division and who last year challenged for the IBF title versus South Africa’s Takalani Ndlovu and suffered a controversial split decision loss after dropping Ndlovu in the first round. Caro has also faced such International talent such as Simpiwe Vetyeka, Chris Avalos, Bernabe Concepcion and Olivier Lontchi. Caro owns wins over the tough Francisco Leal and Ricardo “Piolo” Castillo.
“I don’t know much about him. I know that he is strong and tough but I think with me being young and he having more experience, that has nothing to do with it,” Gonzalez said of Caro with an obvious dig towards Caro’s declarations to the press. “I think I have faced fighters with as much experience and but better than him. I think it is a good fight. I feel more than ready and prepared to beat him at any moment.”
If the #10 ranked super bantamweight by the WBC Gonzalez is not intimidated by Caro’s obvious edge in experience, Fernandez does recognize the importance of the match up and even more so, in a win over Caro, “I think it is one of the most important ones in his career so far as we expect for even more important ones to come. This is a great first step. This is the type of opponent that we had been asking for, one with a recognized name and with experience. This is a fighter that already has challenged for a world title and I think it is a good opportunity for Oscar to knock on the door of bigger fights and to climb in the rankings especially in the organization that has him the highest which is the WBC.”
One factor that might be the difference between a awe inspiring win or a crushing defeat is how Gonzalez reacts and deals with performing in his hometown under the blistering hot lights of not only a nationally televised event on Mexico’s highest ranking TV network but also in front of his friends and family, a feat that Gonzalez has not duplicated since winning the WBC Youth title in ’09. “It is motivating for me the fact that Box Latino along with Mr. Antonio Echeverria (local promoter) have made it possible for me to return to my hometown, it is very motivating. I think it time for me to show who I am and also to thank them for believing in me. Being at home and with my people, nobody can beat me and it won’t be easy for ‘Ruso’ to come out the winner in this fight.”