Joet Gonzalez: ‘Rafael Rivera is a dangerous fighter coming off a loss, so I know he’s hungry’
Two days from the biggest night of his professional career so far, undefeated featherweight Joet Gonzalez feels ready for the impression he’s about to make.
“Down the line it will get bigger but this is as big as it’s getting right now,” Gonzalez told UCNLive.com, at a media workout, on Wednesday afternoon. “I’m really happy with Golden Boy (Promotions) and my manager Frank Espinoza for putting this together, and giving me the opportunity. Right now it’s my moment. I’ve been really busy these last two weeks with the media, interviews and training. It’s a taste of what a world champion deals with, so this is just practice and it came at the right time.”
Tonight on ESPN (7:00 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT), Gonzalez will headline a Golden Boy Promotions card at the Novo Theater, in downtown Los Angeles, California, and not only will it be his first time headlining a card; it’ll be his debut on a major television network.
“Big opportunity,” described Gonzalez. “They have a lot of other prospects as well but I have to show Golden Boy and the people who I am, what kind of fighter I am, and it’s a good thing I have that opportunity this Friday, and I’m going to try and put on a show. Give a good fight.”
Gonzalez, 24, agreed that he’s the hottest he’s been, as a pro, heading into this fight. Riding a KO streak of five, Gonzalez will take on Rafael Rivera, also 24, in a bout for a vacant WBO regional trinket that is essential for anyone looking for a higher ranking and eventual major title shot down the road.
“He’s a hungry fighter,” Gonzalez said about Rivera, 25-1-2 (16), who last fought in September, against featherweight title challenger Joseph Diaz Jr. “Dangerous fighter coming off a loss, so I know he’s hungry. It’s his second time at fighting for the NABO title, so I know he’s going to try and make the best out of this. He’s going to try and win on the second one but I’m not going to let that happen. I trained really hard, and it’s my time.”
Gonzalez, 19-0 (11), is coming off a memorable night, when he forced a stoppage of rugged Filipino opponent Rolando Magbanua but it wasn’t just his fight that made that night memorable. Emilio Sanchez, a fellow Golden Boy prospect, was knocked out in the second round by Eugene Lagos, just before Gonzalez stepped into the ring for his fight. It was Sanchez’s first defeat and, whether he needed it or not, a sudden reality check for any other unbeaten prospect, let alone a close friend.
“I watched it the next day but, while I was backstage, I heard it,” Gonzalez recalled. “It sucks. I’ve known Emilio since he was little, and fought on the same amateur teams together. He came back; I told him it was OK, and I had to regroup and focus on my fight.”
Facing Magbanua, a stablemate of Lagos, Gonzalez prevented another upset from happening and forced a stoppage in the fifth round, shortly after dropping him.
“He was probably the heaviest hitter and biggest puncher,” Gonzalez said about Magbanua, “but all the fights are different. They’ve all played a different role in my career and help me develop a different way. As a puncher, he was probably the strongest one, and obviously he was more mature and a stocky guy who came in shape.”
Gonzalez was reluctant to call that his toughest fight to date but, last August, an awkward Colombian named Deivi Julio posed a difficult match-up. However Gonzalez produced the same result.
“Yeah, he was awkward and southpaw,” recalled Gonzalez. “He liked to move a lot and was slippery but I caught him with a right hand and knocked him down. I saw that, when he was getting countered, that he was a little dizzy still. So I jumped on him right away, he wasn’t throwing back going to the ropes, and the referee stopped it.”
Trained by his father, and alongside his kid brother Jousce – a junior lightweight prospect under Golden Boy – Gonzalez comes from a boxing family that trains out of the Azusa Boxing Club, and lives in nearby Glendora, California. Joet also has a younger sister, Jajaira, who’s hoping to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and the Gonzalezes are close-knit group who feed off each other’s motivation, and seem to relish the tempered hype that surrounds other boxing families. Gonzalez, like his father and brother, is quiet, for the most part, but approachable and well-spoken enough to go in depth in boxing conversations. Armed with a busy jab and a frame that’s always in shape, Joet is a no-nonsense type of fighter who is fundamentally sound; however there is a mischievous side that not only separates him from the normalities of being a human but is fundamental in being successful in the fight game.
“It does but not in a bad way,” Gonzalez responded when asked if Sanchez’s defeat crept into his mind, as he entered the ring last time. “In a good way – it motivates me, pushes me to beat this guy even more, to hurt the guy. We’re in the hurting business. The guy is not coming to give me hugs and kisses; he’s coming to knock my head off. So it’s either me or him, and, at the end of the day, I’m going to make sure it’s him.”