Roman Gonzalez has work cut out vs. Julio Martinez

Like Michael Carbajal before him a generation earlier, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez has been one of the boxers who has helped build whatever interest there is in the U.S. in the lightest weight fighters.

Purists have long known how great fights at bantamweight and below have been, but television networks in the U.S. didn’t embrace them and acceptance has been stunningly slow.

Gonzalez is among the greatest fighters who ever lived, period, end of story. If he’s not elected to the Hall of Fame on the first time he’s eligible, it’s a problem with the system, not him.

He’s 34 now, hardly ancient but exceptionally rare for a super flyweight who is still fighting at the elite level. Gonzalez is one of those fighters who hasn’t lost much off his fastball despite a long, glorious and difficult career.

It doesn’t get any easier for him on Saturday when he meets ex-flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez at Pechanga Resort in San Diego, California, in a bout streamed on DAZN.

Almost by virtue of being a flyweight, Martinez is a virtual unknown in the U.S. But Martinez is 18-1 with 14 knockouts and is 4-0 with two no-contests in flyweight world title fights.

He’s an accurate puncher and has enough pop on his punches to make Gonzalez respect him. Gonzalez is a -140 favorite at BetMGM, while Martinez is even money.

Gonzalez, who was supposed to meet Juan Francisco Estrada in the rubber match of their great rivalry, is +240 to win by decision and +225 to win by knockout.

Curiously, Martinez by decision is about the same as Martinez, at +250. He’s +333 to win by KO.

Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, shown here in 2018, faces Julio Cesar Martinez on Saturday in San Diego. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Gonzalez, who is 50-3 with 41 KOs, is the better boxer, has more experience and has fought better opposition. Martinez, though, has faced quality opponents and is no pushover.

I expect Gonzalez to pile up points while boxing. He could get a finish late via an accumulation stoppage, but this is a big spot for Martinez and he’ll be primed to put on his best performance.

So I’ll lay two units on Gonzalez at -140 to win, and I’ll lay one unit on him at +240 to win by decision. So I’ll risk $380 with the hope of making $440.

Other boxing bets

• I like Jose Ramirez by decision at -150 over Jose Pedraza.

• I will play Joet Gonzalez by KO at +150 over Jeo Tupas Santisima.

• I like Olympic silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr. to win by KO over Alan Melson in his pro debut.