‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez to fight Yafai on Feb. 29

Former pound-for-pound king and four-division world champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez will get a chance to win another title next month.

Gonzalez will challenge junior bantamweight world titlist Kal Yafai on Feb. 29 (DAZN) at the Ford Center at The Star, the Dallas Cowboys training facility in Frisco, Texas, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Thursday.

The fight will be on the card headlined by the previously announced Mikey Garcia-Jessie Vargas welterweight fight.

The WBA issued a resolution on Tuesday that cleared the way for the fight, which interim titlist and mandatory challenger Andrew Moloney objected to and had attorney Pat English write to the sanctioning body to assert his rights. He knocked out Miguel Gonzalez in March in an official eliminator, which the WBA had ruled would give the winner the next shot at Yafai following a defense against Norbelto Jimenez, whom he easily outpointed in June, no later than March 22.

However, the WBA ignored that ruling in its resolution ultimately writing “the WBA has express authority to modify applicable defense periods and otherwise suspend application of various rules under a special permit. Yafai’s special permit request is conditionally granted subject to his compliance with all other WBA rules, regulations, payment of all applicable fees and the following condition: The winner of Yafai/Gonzalez, or Yafai if a draw, must face Moloney as a mandatory defense within 120 days of said bout.”

English wrote back to the WBA to protest the decision, explaining that Moloney (21-0, 14 KOs), 29, of Australia, had twice turned down offers to challenge IBF titlist Jerwin Ancajas as well as a title eliminator in another organization because of his loyalty to the WBA, for whom he has fought in numerous regional title bouts as the title eliminator.

“This application (for Yafai-Gonzalez) has no merit whatsoever,” English wrote to the WBA. “It asks the WBA to violate solemn commitments to Mr. Moloney, both written and verbal. It would injure Mr. Moloney, a fighter who showed his loyalty to the WBA by turning down title bouts and elimination bouts in other organizations. If granted it would make a mockery of the mandatory system. It would be an insult to a country whose sole boxing champion is Andrew Moloney at a time when Australia is beset by terrible tragedy due to unprecedented wildfires. Further, the bout which is requested by Matchroom is an undercard bout, not a bout of ‘great significance’ to the boxing world.

“For these reasons, as well as the reasons set forth in this letter the application of Matchroom should and must be denied.”

Yafai is excited to get a fight with the biggest name in the division in Gonzalez, a lock as a future Hall of Famer.

“I wanted the biggest possible fight available and after the Juan Francisco Estrada unification fell through, I had the opportunity to fight ‘Chocolatito,’ the former pound for pound king,” Yafai said. “Chocolatito is someone that I have idolized as I worked my way up to become world champion myself, so it doesn’t get much bigger than this and it will bring out the best in me. I can’t wait, it is a case of when idols become rivals and I am so honored to share the ring with him but also show the world that I am an elite world champion.”

Yafai (26-0, 15 KOs), 30, of England, will be making the sixth defense of his 115-pound belt and second in a row — and third in his past four — in the United States. He was initially was going to face Estrada in early 2020 to unify 115-pound world titles but that was delayed because Estrada is sidelined with a hand injury.

That opened the door for Gonzalez (48-2, 40 KOs), 32, of Nicaragua, who has won world titles at strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight.

A knee injury that required surgery kept Gonzalez out of the ring for 15 months, but he returned on Dec. 23 in Japan and notched a second-round knockout of Diomel Diocos to shake off the rust and put himself in position for another shot at a junior bantamweight world title.

“God has responded to my prayers once again. I want to thank God and (promoter) Teiken foremost. Also, the champion, Kal Yafai for giving me the opportunity to fight for the championship once again,” Gonzalez said. “I know this will be a very hard fight, but it will be worthy of all our efforts and determination.”

Said Hearn: “This is a brilliant fight on an absolute monster of a show. Kal Yafai has been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time, and now he gets it against a legend of the sport in ‘Chocolatito.’ This card in Texas is going to be epic and you can expect Yafai versus ‘Chocolatito’ to be an all-out war.”

The card will also feature another world title bout that was previously announced. Newly crowned flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (15-1, 12 KOs), 26, of Mexico, who won the belt on Dec. 20, will make his first defense against European champion Jay Harris (17-0, 9 KOs), 29, of Wales.