Gonzalez vs. Arce: Alignment of Stars, Collision of Fates
Tonight, beIN Sports Espanol (11p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT) will once again broadcast an important fight other major boxing networks seem to have neglected. Typically fights like these are overlooked because of the lack of demand for fighters of the smaller variety. Such is the case for tonight’s WBC featherweight title bout in Sinaloa, Mexico. The two men headlining the event are Mexican greats who, at a combined age of 68, have fought 739 rounds in 138 fights and have knocked out 96 of their opponents. One enjoyed a career resurgence after dethroning a young Mexican champion in a shocking knockout. The other recently came out of retirement in hopes of getting the chance at another title and will get that opportunity in his hometown.
After suffering a third round knockout from Nonito Donaire in December of 2012, it was the last straw for Jorge Arce, 64-7-2 (49), whom retired shortly afterward in the ring in Houston, TX. With world titles in four different weight classes in his 17-year career, Arce not only had the accolades from a distinguished boxing career but also earned himself a fan-friendly reputation of being a troublemaker in the ring. “Travieso” was the name he was given as he climbed the boxing ranks in his home country of Mexico. The translation of his alias varies within the English language but “menace,” “mischievous one” and “naughty” all seem to fit his style. Arce’s character was also accompanied with the self-proclamation of being “The Mexican Cowboy.” Entering the ring with a black cowboy hat and sucking on a red lollipop, his bravado and ruthless style were perfect ingredients for becoming a star.
Like many other boxers of the past and present, Arce got the itch for being in the ring again and it needed to be scratched. Feeling as though his body was responding much better than he had felt after losing to Donaire, he let his promoter, Fernando Beltran of Zanfer Promotions know he was ready to give it one more shot. Arce was back in the ring 11 months after his initial departure from the sport. After knocking out a viable opponent in Jose Carmona, the comeback looked to be a good call for Arce. He followed the win this past March with a TKO victory over a lesser opponent in Aldimar Santos. In his last fight in June against veteran Jorge Lacierva, Arce showed flashes of that hazardous style of which he’s renowned. It was a dirty fight in which Arce was deducted a point on three different occasions for hitting after the break. Regardless, Arce knocked Lacierva down with a brutal body shot that changed him over the rest of the fight. It wasn’t clear when it happened but after the knockdown, Lacierva hurt his shoulder and later had to withdraw from the bout, resulting in a TKO loss. The three knockouts since his return to the ring were parlayed into the world title shot Arce wanted and the comeback was proven to be the right decision. Not only will he be vying for his fifth title in as many weight classes but he will also be set to face a fellow star in Mexico who could become yet another feather in his cap (or cowboy hat).
The first thing you might notice when examining the career of Jhonny Gonzalez, 56-8 (47), is the strange spelling of his first name. Although it comes off as somewhat memorable, it wasn’t his parents intention as the legitimate spelling of Johnny was misspelled on his birth certificate. It’s fair to say he stumbled right out of the womb and you can say the same about his boxing career. Gonzalez lost the first two fights in his professional career in 1999 and took a few years to gain an identity within the sport. It took him 35 fights to finally get his first world title shot in the bantamweight division and he relished it by winning the WBO strap against Ratanachai Sor Vorapin. He held it for a couple years before suffering the second knockout loss of his career against Gerry Penalosa. It took Gonzalez almost four more years to annex another world title, this time in the featherweight division. He went to Japan to take Hozumi Hasegawa’s WBC belt and had his longest reign, successfully defending it four times before running into Daniel Ponce de Leon (literally ran into him. Gonzalez lost after a cut from an accidental headbutt put a premature end to the bout). That was Gonzalez’s last loss and up until that point, he hasn’t had a defining moment.
With a career near its tail end, he took a fight in August of 2013 against one of boxing’s rising Mexican stars in Abner Mares. When the fight was made, Gonzalez had seemingly been picked as a name to add to the résumé of a young champion with the brightest of futures. In the first round, Mares made one small mistake by dropping his right hand for a split-second against a big punching veteran who could see the opening in slow motion. Gonzalez filled Mares’ void with a left hook that landed perfectly on the chin, knocking him down instantly. After just beating the count, only 30 seconds remained in the round but Gonzalez smelled blood and finished him with a barrage of punches before the end of the frame. At age 32, Gonzalez instantly resurrected a career that was slowly on the decline. In the upset, he once again wrapped the WBC featherweight belt around his waist that was taken from him by Ponce de Leon. And he got it all back in 175 seconds.
The stars have aligned perfectly for both Gonzalez and Arce to meet in the ring. This being an expected slugfest, the same can be said for the large boxing commonwealth in Mexico. Gonzalez’s slight size advantage, punching power and recent momentum after sending Abner Mares into boxing hell see him as the betting favorite (Gonzalez -370, Arce +280) as he will try to make the second successful defense of his WBC featherweight title. One distinct detail in tonight’s fight is where it will take place: the town in which Arce was born and raised, Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico. The culmination of his comeback after retirement will materialize in the town in which his boxing dreams were seeded. Because he has already somewhat experienced what it’s like to call it quits, it’s safe to say Arce has nothing to lose. In an interview leading up to this bout, “Travieso” left us with a quote that manifests who he is as a fighter and how important this bout is in front of his hometown.
“I don’t know what the champion is willing or not willing to do but I am willing to die fighting. Watch out because I’m willing to do anything and I’ll have to be dead to get me out of that ring without a victory.”
The table is set. Now there’s only one thing left to do.