This coming Saturday night, at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, Reno, Nevada, Joet Gonzalez meets the highly rated Shakur Stevenson for the vacant WBO featherweight title. It pitches two young and unbeaten fighters against each other but, in reality, it is expected that Stevenson will capture his first “world” crown on his way to a stellar career. But overlooking someone as hungry and talented as Gonzalez could very well prove to be a costly mistake.
Born in California on 12 October 1993, Gonzalez started boxing aged 10 when he approached his father Jose after he was beaten up in a street fight. His father, then boxing as an amateur, took his son to the local boxing gym so he could learn to take care of himself. Sixteen years on, both are still there and, with his father as his trainer, Gonzalez has gone from decorated amateur, where he was the United States Junior Olympic National champion, to top featherweight contender. On Saturday, he gets the chance to bridge that gap by becoming world champion.
Gonzalez style is pleasing on the eye. On the front foot, he patiently stalks his opponent from behind a high guard, picking his openings before going to work on both head and body. Whilst he doesn’t possess the fastest of hands, his accuracy is particularly on point, especially with his right, and his short, sliding footwork allows him to smoothly move in and out of range.
Since signing with Golden Boy Promotions, he has been manouevred efficiently, developing a ring education that more than a few are denied these days as they are rushed in to title shots with minimal exposure to the professional game. This experience could prove essential against an undoubtedly talented Stevenson who has entered the ring only a dozen times (12-0, 7 KO’s) against Gonzalez 23-0, 14 KO’s record.
But an added twist that could really spur Gonzalez on is that not only has he openly admitted to not liking Stevenson after he accused him of talking bad about his family, but Stevenson is also dating Gonzalez sister Jajaira. Gonzalez has come out and said that he doesn’t think Stevenson is good enough for her and is now in a position of beating his sister’s boyfriend up!! And getting paid for it too!!
Having that genuine personal grudge does add that bit more to an already intriguing match-up. Both men are fired up for this opportunity and the chance to get a piece of championship gold. This could turn out to be a fight of two halves with Stevenson maybe taking the early initiative before the pressure of Gonzalez starts to take its toll later on.
Either way, if anyone thinks this is the “Shakur Stevenson Show” they may be wise to consider where they put their money. Joet Gonzalez is here to win, and with family pride on the line, he may certainly have a lot more to lose.