Kal Yafai v Roman Gonzalez

The Ford Center at The Star, Texas, USA

29th February 2020

By D D Cartwright

In the early of hours of Sunday morning UK time, Kal Yafai stepped into the ring with his idol. Then he tried to knock his head off. And that’s where the problem started.

Sky Sports summariser, Matthew Macklin called it as early as 30 seconds into the second round. He urged the Birmingham fighter to use his reach advantage, box behind the jab and stop Chocolatito’s dangerous inside game.

But Kal couldn’t resist.

Or wasn’t allowed to. He risked it all and lost.

Yafai held his ground in the centre of the ring and traded blows. But the Nicaraguan’s superior hand-speed, and blistering combination punching, repeatedly split Yafai’s guard and left him exposed to Chocolatito’s power.

The knockout blow came in the ninth. A huge straight right that felled Yafai like a sandwich board in the wind.

It hit him flush in the face.

Chocolatito was ahead on all three scorecards when the fight was stopped. One judge scored it 71-80 in favour of the new WBA World Super Fly Champ, before Yafai hit the floor.

Kal has always had his critics. And defeat will only add noise to the chorus of doubt.

But he remains Birmingham’s only truly elite-level boxer. A lone star. And one of only a handful of British athletes to operate at the highest level for so long.

Yafai is a former Team GB Olympian. He’s been British, Commonwealth, International and Inter-Continental Champion. He took the WBA World Super Fly Title in late 2016 and successfully defended it 5 times over the next 3 years. He’s fought on cards in London, Dublin, California, Rhode Island and Monte Carlo. He’s 30 years old and 26-1 as a pro.

Few boxers fail to feel the river of despair that follows defeat. More than a few have been pushed downstream by Chocolatito himself. Yafai’s not the first fighter to be left cold on the canvas by the Nicaraguan star. But Chocolatito also took the fight following two bruising defeats. And there were plenty lining his route to the ring that were quick to call him spent.  

But in the post-fight press conference, Chocolatito put it all in the past.

“The important thing is to know how to get up. I came back to be King again… Now we know the good things to come. After the fights I lost, they hurt a lot in my life. I promised to my kids that I was gonna become a World Champion again.”

And on his mentor, former three-weight World Champion, Alexis Argüello.

“I admire him a lot. I train with him. And even if I have 5, 6 or 7 titles, he’s always gonna be the best. From him I learned how to listen. He told me ‘you’re good. But it all depends on you and whether you take care of yourself’. Just imagine if one listens to a great Champion like Alexis Argüello.”

Now it’s Yafai’s turn to prove he can get back up.

He could do worse than listen to the man who just robbed him of his dream.

MBC has republished this article with the permission of the author. To read the original article click here

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