Resurgent Chocolatito Stops Yafai
By Robert Ecksel on March 1, 2020
“He did surprise me that he wanted to fight inside, but I was ready to go.” (Ed Mulholland)
In Saturday’s co-feature in support of the main event between welterweights Mikey Garcia and Jessie Vargas, first ballot Hall-of-Famer Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez (49-2, 41 KOs), the resurgent four-division champion from Managua, Nicaragua, stopped Kal Yafai (26-1, 15 KOs), the reigning and defending WBA super flyweight champion from Birmingham, England, at 0:29 of round nine.
The scores at the time of the stoppage were 77-74, 78-73 and 80-71.
At the age of 32 and having lost two of his last five fights dating back to 2017, many believed going into the bout that he was done, that there was little to nothing left, and that talk of his injuries and trainer’s demise were little more than a smokescreen to obscure how the mighty have fallen. But Chocolatito, by letting his hands go and bringing the fight to an undefeated champion, upset Yafai at the same time as he proved the doubters wrong.
He was helped in no small part by Yafai’s game plan. The younger, bigger, stronger man had decided, with apparently little to no discussion with his team about strategy, to stand and trade with Chocolatito. Yafai’s corner pleaded with him to “Box him. Box him. C’mon, move your feet. You’ve got to work. Use your feet. Just box.” It was sound advice which Yafai ignored. As a result, he was witness to a beheading, namely his own.
Dictating the pace and controlling the action, he looked like the Chocolatito of old. He may not be as fast as he was in prime, although that’s debatable, but the former pound-for-pound stalwart was relentless. Yafai would have been smart to box and move, instead of hoping to make a statement, a statement which blew up in his face. His eyes began to swell in round seven. He was down in round eight. He was dropped again at the start of the ninth, at which the point the referee Luis Pabon waved it off.
“I have God's strength, and God gave me this title back,” said Chocolatito after the fight. “Everyone has the same blessing I got tonight. I always ask God for a blessing. I have a good team around me that brought me back.
“He did surprise me that he wanted to fight inside, but I was ready to go. I want to try and unify some titles. That's my dream.”