What was it like growing up in Managua, Nicaragua?
It was great because all the people in our country are very welcoming and kind people. Even before I was a boxing champion, when I was selling insecticides and detergents door to door with my father at the early age of eight years old, people would be nice to us and always respect us. The hardest part about growing up in Managua was the specific neighbourhood that I came from. Since it had poor resources, you had to live by the law of the jungle in order to survive. I used to play a lot of soccer, and sometimes the older kids would take our ball and we’d have to fight them in order to regain our place on the streets where we were playing. My family struggled economically as I was growing up, but they always managed to find a way to feed us, which at that time, was the most important thing.
What was your record as an amateur?
My amateur record was 88 wins and no losses. Back when [late Nicaraguan boxing idol] Alexis Arguello was the Mayor of Managua, the city would stage big amateur boxing events and the prize was a basket full of food, so all the kids were really motivated to box in order to win the prize. Every time I fought I’d think of how happy my family would be if I won and brought the food back, so it really motivated me from the beginning – the fact that through boxing I could help my family.
Where did the nickname “Chocolatito” come from?
My grandfather, Fraçois Gonzalez, was a famous boxer in Nicaragua. My uncle, Cali Gonzalez, was also a really good boxer, as well as my father, Luis Gonzalez. Due to his dark skin complexion, everyone called him “Chocolate”. So when I started boxing, people called me “Little Chocolate”, which is where the word “Chocolatito” comes from.
Alexis Arguello helped train you early in your career. What were the main things you learned from him?
The main thing I learned from him was to always be humble, no matter how many times you’ve won or what titles you’ve collected, you should always treat your peers the same way. He’d always tell me that to
be a champion, you first have to be humble. He also taught me the most important factor of a fight is the training, and when you train you have to train hard and never limit yourself, because often your hardest opponent is yourself. He taught me the values of discipline at an early age, which was very important to me because it made me take boxing even more seriously. I always made sure I was on time for training and sparring sessions.
After previously reigning as WBA king at strawweight and light-flyweight, you recently secured the WBC flyweight belt to become a three-weight world champion, just like your hero, Arguello. How proud did this make you?
It was an amazing feeling. I never thought I’d be able to get to this point in my career, so now that I have, I feel overwhelmed with happiness. I’m very grateful to God because He was the one who helped me train, be healthy and obtain the victory.
Do you rate the Akira Yaegashi win as your best?
Yes, because apart from the fact that it resulted in me becoming a three-weight world champion, I felt he was my toughest opponent. He hits really hard and has the heart of a lion. I kept thinking that he’d surely get tired at some point during the fight, but he never quit. He always found some extra energy and threw some really hard blows [27-year-old Gonzalez triumphed via ninth-round stoppage in Tokyo in September].
There has been talk of a unification rematch between you and Mexico’s double world flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada. Do you think Estrada has improved since you outpointed him in 2012, and would you like the return?
Yes, I believe he has improved. Becoming a champion like he has gives you a lot of self-confidence, which is very important in boxing, so I think he’s definitely on a high in his career right now – he’s certainly not the same fighter I fought. I’d really like a rematch because I know everyone talks about it a lot and I believe we could provide a really exciting fight for all the boxing fans around the world.
You have not received the attention your achievements deserve outside of Nicaragua and Japan. Does this bother you?
No, not at all. God has a plan for everybody and when the time comes for me to be known more around the world, I’ll be ready to receive the attention in the most positive manner possible. I don’t let attention get to my head. God is my centre, not fame.
Do you think you will have to keep moving up in weight in order to gain major attention in the USA? Is breaking into the American market something that is important to you?
I would like to move up in weight in the future to try and win another title, because I love boxing and taking my body to its limits, but not in order to get attention in the USA. As a matter of fact, I’d actually like to fight in the UK, as the British people have been very nice to me. They write fan mail, which is a blessing and overwhelms me. I’ve heard so much about the UK, yet I’ve only spent one day there, on the way to Japan.
How far up in weight do you think you can realistically move in your career? Can you see yourself fighting at super-flyweight and beyond?
I believe ultimately God will let me know, but I think super-flyweight is probably the highest weight class I could venture to. Only God knows for sure, though.
You have a great knockout ratio of 85 per cent. Do you think you will be able to maintain this power as you move up in weight?
I hope I can keep my power as I move up in weight, because that’s an important part of my success. If you can keep your power as you move up, then the sky’s the limit. Hopefully God keeps installing the same power into my punches.
What do you hope to achieve in boxing before you retire? Do you think you can leave a lasting legacy like Arguello?
I feel I’ve achieved a lot of goals and I thank God for each and every one of them – the most important one was to help my family, and I believe I have. In regards to leaving a legacy like Arguello, I don’t think I will, because in my heart, he’ll always be the greatest boxer who ever lived.
At least I feel I’ve made him proud from the heavens where he’s watching and taking care of me. I’m more than happy with that.
You will however be able to see Gonzalez this Saturday (May 16) on the Gennady Golovkin bill in Los Angeles