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From Harlem to Guayaquil: Arnold Gonzalez desires to construct up Ecuador boxing

From Harlem to Guayaquil: Arnold Gonzalez desires to construct up Ecuador boxing

Gonzalez walks to the ring at Gimnasio del Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa in Quito for his last fight in September of 2020.
12
Jan
by way of Ryan Songalia

Boxing isn’t the primary activity that involves mind in the event you believe of Ecuador. The nation of over 17 million individuals is, like several of South the us, a soccer-first country. whereas it’s not going that the world’s most usual recreation may be supplanted in Ecuador, Arnold Gonzalez is hoping to create a boxing lifestyle there.

Gonzalez (5-0, 1 knockout) become born and raised in Harlem, N.Y., an area it is wealthy in boxing historical past. but both of his fogeys are from Cuenca, Ecuador, and Gonzalez is determined to construct up the sport in his ancestral native land.

The 26-year-old welterweight will face Colombian journeyman Jose Luis Prieto (27-9, 18 KOs) on Jan. 30 at Fedeguayas activities complicated in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the nation’s biggest metropolis, and where his father at the moment lives. The battle, which should be Gonzalez’s first eight circular project, do not need a reside audience, however might be shown live right through the country on Gamavisión.

Gonzalez is customary with Ecuador, having long past backward and forward to the country in view that he changed into a toddler. He fought there in September, outpointing native upstart Jhordy Mina in the capital city of Quito. 

The altitude (Quito is 9,350 toes above sea level) took some time to modify to, but coming from america to combat a determined local southpaw earned him admire from his countrymen, he says.

“The aspect of combating in Ecuador is to build a fan base,” talked about Gonzalez, who trains with Julian Chua out of the Churchill Boxing club in Santa Monica, Calif. “My intention is to go over to Ecuador, dominate, construct an important fan base and then at last come lower back to the States with a whole country at the back of me, anything like the Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao did with the Philippines.”

Chasing dreams

Gonzalez got to see firsthand what form of fanbase Pacquiao has.

He had an on again, off once more novice profession, and become enrolled in criminal justice classes at John Jay university, when the boxing bug bit him once more. In 2018, he packed his fitness center bag and went out to la to are attempting to provoke legendary trainer Freddie Roach on the Wild Card Boxing club.

Gonzalez hung around the gymnasium day and evening. He at last started sparring with Roach’s combatants, and retaining his personal. When Pacquiao announced that he could be returning to the Wild Card to educate for his combat with Adrien Broner in January of 2019, Gonzalez informed Roach, “i will combat like AB but enhanced.”

The confidence Gonzalez exhibited became ample to pique Roach’s curiosity. Roach advised him to extend his live in California to spar with Pacquiao. the primary day of sparring, Gonzalez confirmed up at the gymnasium an hour early, and became already warmed up and excited to show what he had.

“i was like ‘Yo, I’m gonna smoke Pacquiao, I’m young, I’m quick, Pacquiao is forty years historical,’” remembers Gonzalez. “As quickly as Pacquiao walked into the fitness center…I mentioned holy shit, that’s my first time assembly Pacquiao.”

Pacquiao lands a correct jab on Arnold Gonzalez in sparring. photo by Wendell Alinea

The awe lingered for about a circular, but Gonzalez says he eventually found a rhythm, and he grew to become Pacquiao’s lead sparring partner leading as much as the fight, which Pacquiao won by means of a cushty unanimous decision. 

“I consider like he’s the excellent position model to be in a training camp with as a result of…his work ethic is only insane,” noted Gonzalez of Pacquiao. “I’ve on no account seen a person be within the gymnasium and instruct for 3-4 hours straight via devoid of taking a destroy. Even when he’s taking a smash, he’s bouncing on his toes.” Gonzalez also took observe of Pacquiao’s humility, and the way he didn’t deserve to be boisterous to exude self belief.

Gonzalez turned into capable of make an impression on MP Promotions president Sean Gibbons, who now advises his career.

“The kid is one of the hardest working fighters I’ve ever considered,” observed Gibbons. “[He has] dedication, no unhealthy habits. simply desires a chance.”

Ecuador history

The game in Ecuador dates back as a minimum to the Nineteen Twenties, when kid Lombardo of Quito battled the correct welterweights from round South the us. Ecuador loved its golden age all through the mid to late Nineteen Sixties, when Daniel Guanin, Jaime Valladares and Eugenio Espinoza flirted with becoming the nation’s first world champion. 

Guanin, prevalent for his different attack and means to steer clear of punches, changed into the no. 1 contender at a hundred and forty kilos in 1966, and had been coming into his top by 1969 after defeating future middleweight champion Rodrigo Valdes, when a coronary heart arrhythmia forced him to retire. in contrast, “Chico de Oro” Valladares turned into a straight forward slugger who broke on to the area stage in 1968, coming from at the back of to knock out the no 1 contender Don Johnson in three rounds. Valladares broke Johnson right down to the ribs, scoring two knockdowns at a Quito bull ring in front of 20,000 enthusiasts. Valladares did get his title shot, losing a unanimous decision to Hiroshi Kobayashi for the junior light-weight championship.

Eugenio Espinoza holds wins over former champs Flash Elorde and Ismael Laguna. photograph from Boxrec

Espinoza become the beneficiary of Valladares’ trepidation about fighting one selected travelling opponent. When former junior light-weight champion Gabriel “Flash” Elorde traveled to Ecuador in 1969, Valladares declined to combat him, asserting he hadn’t been counseled about taking the combat. Espinoza stepped in and pounded out a unanimous decision over the Filipino legend. Espinoza adopted that up three months later with a choice win over former lightweight champ Ismael Laguna, however couldn’t replicate his success abroad.

the first ever world championship battle in Ecuador became in 1994, when Segundo Mercado scored two knockdowns against Bernard Hopkins in Quito for the vacant IBF middleweight title. Muhammad Ali changed into in attendance and had predicted that Mercado would win, however the battle ended in a draw. Hopkins settled concerns here yr with a seventh circular stoppage win to begin his historic middleweight championship reign.

Ecuador’s greatest victory of fresh instances came a month ago, when Carlos Gongora knocked out Ali Akhmedov in 12 rounds to win the IBO tremendous middleweight belt. Gongora, a 2008 and 2012 Olympian from Napo who is now primarily based in Boston, highlighted the country’s advantage for grassroots boxing construction. The 31-12 months-old southpaw changed into outsized, however confirmed a rock solid chin and strong counterpunching to place Akhmedov down twice on DAZN, making him a participant in the 168-pound division.

Gongora is far from Ecuador’s first ever Olympic boxer, but the country has not ever medaled at the world stage, with Gongora’s quarterfinal defeat in 2008 being the highest quality conclude via a boxer. The nation has handiest received two Olympic medals overall, with both a gold and silver gained through Jefferson Perez in the guys’s 20 km walk in 1996 and 2008, respectively. 

Ecuador had its foremost boxing showing on the Pan American games in 2011, incomes four medals in Guadalajara, Mexico, together with Italo Perea, who received the super heavyweight gold, however the country managed simply two medals on the 2019 Pan An games in Peru.

Gongora sees loads of skills for Ecuador boxing, however says the game is overshadowed via soccer. “Boxing isn’t as excessive as soccer on account of the sponsorship of the govt. They care extra about soccer than another sport,” mentioned Gongora.

Carlos Quipo, a 2012 and 2016 Olympian from Quijos Canton in Napo province, is now the President of the activities Federation of Napo. He says there’s lots of professional fighters waiting to be found out in Ecuador.

“What they want is to elevate cognizance amongst athletes with a view to basically train to be world champions,” mentioned Quipo.

“There must be extra help from inner most organizations, and of course from the media so that they disseminate and make [boxing] usual to all citizens.”

Boxing tradition

Gibbons has built his profession making a choice on overlooked ability from abroad and placing them in situations to prevail. What he says is the key to constructing a fan base abroad is getting the appropriate alternatives, and being visible in the nation.

“[Gonzalez] is the ideal guy to start increase boxing there once more as a result of he’s a really charismatic personality, he speaks well, he represents himself, his household, his country,” talked about Gibbons.

“in the future it’d be awesome if he can convey lower back a world title fight there.”

Gonzalez has seen how Ecuador unites as one every time the countrywide soccer crew has a big healthy in the Copa the us or World Cup. He hopes at some point to evoke the identical emotion in the boxing ring.

“I need to put Ecuador on the map within the boxing world,” referred to Gonzalez.

Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the ny day by day information, Rappler and The Guardian, and is a graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate faculty of Journalism. He can be reached at [email protected].

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