Pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez is taking his upcoming flyweight world title defense against McWilliams Arroyo so seriously that he has moved his training camp from his hometown in Managua, Nicaragua, to Costa Rica.
“Moving camp to Costa Rica at this time makes sense,” Gonzalez said through a translator. “The sparring there is better, and the location allows me to completely focus on the fight without any distractions. The distinction of being the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter is a great honor. I hope to continue to please the fans and media with my performances.”
Gonzalez (44-0, 38 KOs) will make his fourth title defense when he faces Puerto Rico’s Arroyo (16-2, 14 KOs) on April 23 (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at The Forum in Inglewood, California. It will be a co-feature of unified middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin (34-0, 31 KOs) making a mandatory defense against Dominic Wade (18-0, 12 KOs).
The fight will mark a return to The Forum for both Golovkin and Gonzalez. In May, Golovkin knocked out Willie Monroe Jr. in the sixth round there and Gonzalez crushed former junior flyweight titlist Edgar Sosa in the second round in the co-feature.
Fighting there is a big deal for Gonzalez, whose idol, mentor and former trainer, the late Alexis Arguello, fought at The Forum four times and won each bout -- including when he stopped fellow Hall of Famer Ruben Olivares in the 13th round to win the featherweight world title in 1974.
“It’s very exciting to return to The Forum and also to fight once again on HBO,” Gonzalez said. “I’m honored that my fans from all over can attend or watch my fights. It’s what I’ve always wanted for my career. Also fighting in the same venue where my idol Alexis Arguello was successful means a great deal to me.”
Gonzalez, 28, is in a tough fight against the 30-year-old Arroyo, a 2008 Olympian. Arroyo challenged for a flyweight world title two fights ago in Thailand in September 2014. He dropped Amnat Ruenroeng in the sixth round and fought very well but lost a debatable split decision on the titleholder’s home turf.
Arroyo won his next fight last April and now is getting another world title shot against Gonzalez, who is wary of his opponent.
“This is a big opportunity for Arroyo,” Gonzalez said. “He feels like he should already be champion from his close, split decision loss to Amnat Ruenroeng, and I know how strong and well-prepared he will be for this fight. This is a big test and very important fight for me.”
A win could lead Gonzalez to a rematch later this year against unified flyweight titleholder Juan Francisco Estrada, whom he outpointed in a fantastic fight in 2012 to retain a strawweight world title.
“I get asked a great deal about the rematch with Estrada, but for now I have a very tough fight in front of me against McWilliams Arroyo on April 23 and I’m fully focused on this,” Gonzalez said.