Boxing: Jonathan Gonzalez

Gonzalez squares off with Garcia on FNF

February, 6, 2014
Mexico's Norberto Gonzalez had been training hard to face undefeated Jonathan Gonzalez of Puerto Rico until the latter injured his left shoulder in sparring and was forced to withdraw from the bout.

The injury opened the door for countryman Roberto Garcia to step in on late notice to face Norberto Gonzalez in a 10-round middleweight bout headlining a "Friday Night Fights" card (ESPN2, 9 ET) from the UIC Pavilion in Chicago.

Garcia (33-3, 22 KOs), 33, is a high-risk opponent for Gonzalez, even though he took the fight with less than two weeks' notice.

"Many people are surprised I've taken this fight with a 12-day notice, but I'm 100 percent fit," Garcia said. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have accepted."

Garcia enters the bout having lost just once in the last 10 years -- a unanimous-decision defeat to Antonio Margarito in May 2010. In 2013, Garcia extended his current unbeaten run to five straight, which includes a 2012 decision win over Antwone Smith.

He is convinced he can win against Gonzalez.

"I can keep up the power throughout the bout, I'm a 12-round fighter and the fact that this is a 10-round fight makes me happy," said Garcia, who did not hesitate to acknowledge a greater inspiration at this stage of his career. "Getting this fight has been a big boost because it comes at a great time. Since I became a father I'm working harder. My daughter motivates me to be better."

For Gonzalez, 32, this will be his fourth appearance in the United States, where he didn't have a great introduction. In 2009, he dropped a decision in his own meeting with Smith and lost again on American soil one year later against Mark Jason Melligen.

After the loss to Melligen, Gonzalez had a nearly three-year layoff. He has rebounded with two straight wins, including a unanimous-decision victory over Brazilian Michael Oliveira in November when Gonzalez overcame a knockdown in the second round.

Luis Fernando Zapari, Gonzalez's trainer, said his fighter "has been training for this fight for the last two months in Monterrey, Mexico. He has worked hard and has done very well."

Gonzalez (20-2, 13 KOs) is an aggressive fighter who can be inconsistent at times and likes to put on pressure early in the fight. He's fairly quick with a good jab, and likes to throw combinations up the middle.

Garcia is a more technical fighter, though not as fast as Gonzalez. This is why he has been prone to get caught by counter shots. He has a high guard and often varies his rhythm so he can adjust to different opponents.

In the eight-round featherweight co-feature, Kamil Laszczyk (15-0, 7 KOs) of Poland faces Daniel Diaz (20-5-1, 14 KOs) of Nicaragua.

Undefeated contenders open FNF season

January, 3, 2013

Undefeated junior lightweight contenders Rances Barthelemy and Arash Usmanee will open the 2013 season of "Friday Night Fights" (10 ET) this week on ESPN2 and

Cuba's Barthelemy, 26, will climb into the ring at the Magic City Casino in Miami as the favorite, but nothing indicates he'll take an easy victory. Left-handed, with good technique and height, Barthelemy (17-0, 11 KOs) will have to overcome the pressure of an opponent who, although technically inferior, possesses a style that can make things difficult on the competition. Afghanistan-born Canada resident Usmanee (20-0, 10 KOs) is a stalker with brawling tendencies. His good assimilation of punches and strong exchanges will test the limits of the fighter many view as Cuba's next professional star.

Barthelemy's skills and 5-foot-11 frame make him a formidable force, at least on paper. He showed his vast potential in his three fights in 2012, in which he clearly defeated Hylon Williams -- another undefeated prospect -- Robert Osiobe and Alejandro Rodriguez.

And although he is still considered a prospect, Barthelemy has the instincts of an athlete who comes from a family of fighters. Older brother Yan (12-3, four KOs) won the Olympic gold medal in 2004, and younger brother Leduan (2-0, two KOs) also shows promise. (Both fight at junior featherweight.)

Friday's fight could be the most difficult challenge of Barthelemy's career. Usmanee, 30, a former national amateur champion for Canada, is coming off two knockout victories in as many fights. The Kabul-born fighter says he has grown as a professional and added assets to his repertoire. But after promising a long battle and a KO victory, it also sounds as though he isn't inclined to change his stripes.

"I like to go to war in every fight, even when I shouldn't," Usmanee said. "I am an aggressor with good technique, and this coming Friday you'll see a great fight."

If Barthelemy can dictate the fight with his length and technique, he'll likely win on the scorecards -- and by a great margin. But if he succumbs to Usmanee's crazy rhythms and winds up trading leather in close quarters, he may have problems. A cool head, patience and lots of jabs will be the Cuban's keys to victory.

For his part, Usmanee needs to pressure constantly, overwhelming his opponent with combinations. His frantic pace could puncture the plans of Barthelemy, who, for the first time in his career, will be engaging in his first scheduled 12-round fight. (He has never gone beyond eight rounds.) That's no minor bit of data.

In the co-main event, another war could be brewing that's worth paying attention to: Puerto Rico's Jonathan Gonzalez (15-0-1, 13 KOs) will attempt to position himself for another title shot after drawing with Sergiy Dzinziruk in September, a fight for which Gonzalez didn't make the contracted weight. He will have to convincingly defeat a difficult opponent in Derek Ennis (23-3-1, seven KOs), a good test for the Puerto Rican fighter in a junior middleweight bout.