Roman Gonzalez’s earliest memories of fighting are from his childhood on the streets of Managua. Long before Alexis Arguello became his mentor and named him Chocolatito, before he became so iconic that he would be mononymous, he was the smallest kid in his friend group playing soccer. Particular spots in the neighborhood were of high value for kids looking to get a game of footy in, and with some regularity, Gonzalez and his friends had to physically fight off kids trying to take their spot.
Eventually he learned to fight for real under the guidance of Arguello, the finest person his homeland of Managua could possibly offer to teach him. Of all the minutiae Arguello taught him over the years, when speaking about the advice that sticks with him, Gonzalez stresses it was the virtue of discipline. Early in his amateur career, Arguello told him “your hardest opponent will be yourself.”
For all intents and purposes, the fight was over after the first round. When Gonzalez sat down in the corner after the first three minutes, his corner asked him “did you feel his power?” In boxing parlance, “feeling your opponent’s power” often refers to acknowledging after first-hand experience that your opponent has the power to hurt you. In this exchange however, it meant that Gonzalez had felt the strength of Martinez’s blows, mainly on his gloves and arms, and determined he didn’t have to be concerned. Following the fight, Gonzalez said as much, admitting that he wanted to take the first round specifically to “feel (his) power.”
The other part of that one minute exchange that was instructive was an inquiry from trainer Marcos Caballero. “He’s easy to figure out, right?” Chocolatito nodded. He’d already done so.
As he’s displayed throughout his career, Gonzalez is an offensive marvel, able to throw punches at a rate few fighters in the sport can match up with an accuracy few can match and in the midst of that, block, roll and ride with punches all in one continuous motion. Particularly when he gets into a groove, Gonzalez can look like a character in Fight Night video games, where fatigue and physics are ignored and movements happen as fast as one’s thumbs can think.
On defense, his is an approach that welcomes contact from his opponent, rather than trying to avoid it entirely. While he’ll dodge some punches outright, he’s mainly blocking with his gloves and arms, utilizing his upper body to leverage the momentum and the openings from the shots being thrown to land his own.