He was big, he was talented, his was able to get under even the thickest of skin with his trash-talk, and he had the weirdest hair-do ever seen in a boxing ring.
You remember Cuban heavyweight Jorge Luis Gonzalez, all 6’7″ and approx 240 pounds of him. A superb amateur – Gonzalez winning super-heavyweight gold at the ’83 Pan-Am Games, as well as at the ’87 Games; the Cuban also defeating top talent such as Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis and the one and only Teofilo Stevenson – the man from Havana escaped communist Cuba in the early 1990s and was seemingly set for a glorious pro career.
Instead, Gonzalez became vivid proof of how vastly different amateur and pro boxing can be; how vastly different they are. After having compiled his hugely impressive 220-13 amateur record, a 26 year old Gonzalez fled Cuba and arrived in Miami in the summer of ’91. It was evident quite early on that Gonzalez had a big head (and a wild hair-style).
Refusing to either accept or believe that he could possibly be taught anything, Gonzalez mistakenly thought he knew it all and he had the amateur gold to prove it, and he went through a number of trainers as he set about trying to climb the pro rankings.
Gonzalez clubbed his smaller, often over-matched foes to defeat, not exactly looking like a supreme boxing talent as he did so. Still, fan interest was pretty big and Gonzalez was an attraction – soon enough a world ranked attraction.
Often fighting in Las Vegas, Gonzalez built up a glossy-looking 23-0(22) record, his biggest win being an awful to watch, sustained hammering of faded former heavyweight title challenger Renaldo Snipes.
This fight further made Gonzalez the bad guy, the big bully (I can recall watching the fight, on the under-card of Evander Holyfield’s revenge win over Riddick Bowe, hoping that Snipes would somehow be able to crack the boastful fighter who was taking great delight in beating up a smaller, older man).
This win was followed by a legit fight for Gonzalez. While Lennox Lewis had been afforded the opportunity of gaining amateur revenge over Gonzalez, Bowe had not. Now, in a fight dubbed “Mortal Enemies,”
Bowe would get his chance. Some exerts picked Gonzalez to defeat Bowe, Bowe being a fighter who had by this time received criticism for gaining a good deal of weight between fights. But Bowe was in shape for the June, 1995 fight.
The fight was no contest from the start; the pre-fight hype proving far more entertaining to anyone who didn’t enjoy seeing Gonzalez get smacked around and then deposited face-first on the mat for a sixth round KO. Plenty of fans did enjoy seeing the big, bad bully get his comeuppance, though. The hype-train had crashed and burned.
Gonzalez carried on fighting, but he was no match for seasoned pros like Tim Witherspoon and Ross Puritty, who both knocked him out. Gonzalez was then stopped by another fighter who would one day find himself exposed as a hype job, with a 25-0 Michael Grant taking him out in a round in November of ’97.
The late ’90s saw Gonzalez manage a six-fight win streak, his biggest wins at this time being bully jobs on a faded Alex Stewart and an out of shape Greg Page. There was, though, talk of a Mike Tyson fight around this time.
Luckily for the now 37 year old Gonzalez, Tyson look-a-like Cliff Couser flattened him in three rounds in August of 2000, this loss almost certainly saving Gonzalez from a far, far nastier fate. Indeed, one can only imagine what even the 2000 version of “Iron” Mike would have done to Gonzalez, especially if the Cuban had been dumb enough to have mouthed off at Mike (which may well have been the case).
Two fights later, both stoppage defeats – to Joe Messi and then Derek Bryant – Gonzalez was done. His critics said he had been done a long time before then. By this stage, there wasn’t even any fan satisfaction in seeing a bully get his ass handed to him. Gonzalez was a shot fighter, something he had built his winning record against.
Who knows where Gonzalez is today (or if he still has that silly hair-do). Gonzalez might have been a superb amateur, but he was not at all suited for the pro game. Not one bit. Gonzalez, 31-8(27) wound up being ruthlessly exposed.