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While some overlook, Miguel Gonzalez battles back

Miguel Gonzalez
Miguel Gonzalez

By José Santana Jr.


Standing in the Team America Gym on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio, Sonny Gonzalez leaned over to a friend and told him, “My son is going to be an Olympian.” The two were watching his son Miguel spar with another kid. Sonny’s friend Jerry responded, “Well, he has the tools.”


The elder Gonzalez first brought Miguel to the gym to expend energy he was using in the streets. “I was a real big wrestling (WWF) fanatic at that time,” Miguel Gonzalez said. “When I got involved with my father, he had showed me the sport of boxing. He realized I liked to fight a lot, and was rough and stuff growing up, and he’s as big a boxing fanatic as I was for wrestling.”


“When I was young I loved boxing very much,” Sonny Gonzalez said. “I come from a small town in Puerto Rico named San Lorenzo. In the area where I grew up there wasn’t a boxing gym so I began to box in the streets with the other kids. When I arrived in the U.S. in Cleveland I went to a gym here, but I always went to the gym but followed the streets because that’s how I grew up.  Soon enough my time was up.”


It wasn’t until Sonny was later jobless that he decided to go back to the gym – but this time to take his sons.


“I kept training (Miguel) at the house, showing him how to be slick, hip movements like Julio Cesar (Chavez), trying to show him head movements like Wilfredo Benitez, so it began like that,” Sonny Gonzalez said. It translated to the gym where Miguel often times made the other kids cry, bleed from the nose, and curl in pain from body shots to the ribs.


At that time Miguel was 9 years old. He would eventually go on to become a decorated amateur winning gold at the Silver Gloves, Junior Olympics, and in duals against Russia and England representing the U.S.


Sonny Gonzalez’s prediction years earlier would come true partially when the younger Gonzalez would make the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team as an alternate, coming one win short of being the lightweight representative losing in the Olympic Trials final to Sadam Ali. Along the way Gonzalez defeated many of the U.S.’s best including current professionals Victor Ortiz, Michael Perez, Jerry Belmontes, Gary Russell III, and Diego Magdaleno.


Things got rough for Gonzalez, however, when he turned pro. He got off to a rocky start losing in his fourth fight, and again in his eighth. Even so, he doesn’t attribute the early losses to trouble transitioning to the pro game, but to misfortune. “(As an amateur) I would train as a professional and box as a professional – pacing myself each and every round, digging my body shots and slowing my opponent down,” Gonzalez said. “My skills have always been as a professional.”


In his first loss, Gonzalez stands by his opinion to have won. “I was very sick with bronchitis and flu symptoms, (but) I still took the fight on short notice anyhow,” Gonzalez said. He lost a majority decision to 1-2 Eric Ricker. “I’ve watched the DVD a few times and felt like, ‘Wow what were the judges watching that fight?’”


He urged his team to get him a rematch and in March of this year he got it, finishing Ricker in four rounds.


His second defeat came to Cuban Angelo Santana in 2009 – another fight taken on short notice, three days before the fight date. “He beat me by two points,” Gonzalez said with the opinion that he deserved the nod. “I hurt his rib with my left hook to the body. He started running the last three rounds. I would love the chance to fight him again but he hasn’t accepted my challenge. He was a Don King fighter on a Don King show, with Don King judges, so-on and so-forth.”


Gonzalez is focused on putting the losses behind him now, and is currently on a 12-fight win-streak which he looks to extend Saturday when he takes on Tyrone Harris (24-7, 16 KOs) in an eight-round bout at Bob Cene Park in Struthers, Ohio, just outside of Youngstown.


It’s a stiff test for Gonzalez, who has made sure to keep active, stay in the gym, and make better decisions regarding his career management. Now at 18-2 (14), the 25-year-old southpaw feels like things are falling into place.


“I’m always getting smarter and better with age which means a lot more focus and a lot more discipline and sacrifice,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve just been living in the gym basically and being smarter with the decisions – talking with my team, my management and training staff, concentrating on making better decisions for us all, and not making short-notice fights going in there like my first defeat where I was very ill.”


He realizes many people may be quick to judge him as a pushover with the two losses, but each time he steps in the ring his abilities seem to change their mind.


 “It hasn’t really done anything bad for me – the two early losses,” Gonzalez said. “(When they see me) it still has people looking at my background saying, ‘Wow, how did this kid lose?’”


Gonzalez has spent this training camp travelling to Youngstown to get sparring with lightweight prospect Dannie Williams, trying to ensure another impressive performance against Harris. Undoubtedly, he’ll go in there and try to live up to his nickname, “Silky Smooth,” and plans to finish Harris early. “A lot of fans may think it’s a step-up fight for me,” Gonzalez said. “They’re looking forward to seeing us in the ring together. I’m just confident with the skill and the conditioning that I’m bringing to the ring.”


Through the challenges, Gonzalez has stuck with his father, the man who showed him everything. For some fighters, there comes a time when they feel they need to make a move in their coaching to advance their careers. For Gonzalez such a move hasn’t become a necessity. In the ring he still exuberates confidence and boxing ability.


“I have always given him the opportunity to train under other people, but he always wants me by his side,” Sonny Gonzalez said. “I’m the one who showed him how to fight – and he’s happy with what I’ve shown him and proud that I am in the corner.”



Last May when he faced veteran Chris Fernandez, Gonzalez dominated the fight using his jab to control the distance – as Fernandez attempted to smother him – and strong hooks the body to slow him down. He put Fernandez down with a body shot in the third, and again with a combination that started downstairs and finished up in the eighth. Gonzalez styles himself after Pernell Whitaker – a style which he honed with his father and in the streets.


“(People) would see this little 13-year-old in the neighborhood whooping on the bigger guys and just being real smooth in there,” Gonzalez said. “They would say, ‘Wow this kid, he’s real smooth,’ and they’d say, ‘man he’s real silky smooth, you know he’s smoother than silk, that’s his name, Silky Smooth.’ It just stuck with me.”


For now, Gonzalez is doing more of the necessary things it takes to be a champion. It takes more than just being “Silky Smooth” in the ring. Mistakes made in the past have to be learned from.


“(The earlier mistakes) do bother me, if I told you it didn’t I’d be lying,” Gonzalez said. “I take this career of mine serious. I know its talent that I have and I’m capable of being a world champion.”


The elder Gonzalez agrees. “If he continues like this, he’s going to be crowned a world champion,” Sonny Gonzalez said. “As I told my friend that he was going to be an Olympian, he did it. And now, I was telling his manager that’s he’s going to be a world champion; as long as God permits it.”


With good management and better decision making Miguel Gonzalez has been able to avoid the stigma as a lost prospect. Many people write off a guy with early losses on his ledger, but Gonzalez and his team haven’t given up hope. The fight Saturday will be his seventh of the year. Keeping Gonzalez active has clearly been part of their formula.


As for what other people think about his potential, it doesn’t bother Gonzalez, ultimately in a cut-throat sport such as boxing, he has to prove himself.  “What do the other people think, I don’t know but it hasn’t set me back,” Gonzalez said. “If they feel like they have a chance with me losing the two early losses, hey I’m sure a lot of them thought that and you can see the results with those fights.”


Whether opponents, or fans, overlook him or not, Gonzalez believes in his dad’s latest prediction.


“I believe my talents will show, the opportunity is the only thing I’m waiting on,” Gonzalez said. “I’m good with the way it’s going. It doesn’t stop anything I do; I’m going to continue to perform at my greatest and continue to strive to be the best I can be.”


Follow José Santana Jr. on twitter or email him at


August 11, 2011

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