Without a lengthy amateur background or the unwavering support from the city he grew up in, Cido Hoff knows the only way to prove he’s a legitimate contender in the featherweight division is to take the fights others won’t.
Next Friday at Twin River Casino, the Providence native faces Irvin Gonzalez, a decorated amateur, who, along with stablemate Jamaine Ortiz, is one of two fighters from Worcester, Mass., who qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials in Reno, Nev., on the undercard of CES Boxing’s 2016 Twin River Fight Series season finale.
While Hoff (1-0-1) may be short on amateur experience – only 30 fights or so, compared to Gonzalez’s lengthier background – he’s overflowing with confidence as he faces the toughest test of his young career in a four-round regional showdown that could steal the spotlight from the Chris Chatman-Khiary Gray main event.
“I can’t knock him. He’s in shape. Good fighter, but if he makes a mistake, we’ll definitely take advantage,” Hoff said. “He’s good. I can’t deny that, but I don’t think he’s faced anybody like me. I don’t think he’s ready for me, honestly. We’ll find out what he’s got.”
Hoff made his professional debut in December of 2015, right around the same time Gonzalez and Ortiz were in Nevada competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. He fought to a draw against Timmy Ramos, another well-publicized amateur who already had two pro fights under his belt, despite knocking Ramos to the canvas in the early rounds. Six months later, he defeated the previously unbeaten Julio Perez, dominating all four rounds in the biggest upset of the night.
The 25-year-old Hoff has thrived as an underdog, but Gonzalez, now 3-0 with all three wins coming by first-round knockout, isn’t concerned about falling into the same trap as Ramos and Perez, even if this fight is a legitimate step up in competition from his previous three bouts.
“I’m not scared of him,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not worried because I know I’m going to be able to handle it and I know I’m going to be able to take him out in a few rounds.
“The thing is he has to be ready for me. He hasn’t fought a fighter like me. He hasn’t fought a fighter who has the amateur background I have. Those other fighters aren’t like me – not at all – and he’s not like me. We’ll see what happens. I don’t really think it’s going to be that big a test for me, just a tougher opponent that I’ll take out.”
Gonzalez fell in love with boxing at the age of 10, which is when he first stepped foot in the gym despite his father’s initial restraint. Ten years later, Gonzalez’s father, Irvin Gonzalez Sr., is now his son’s biggest supporter, or, as the younger Gonzalez puts it, “the one who keeps me on my toes.”
“Of course, since we’re father and son we’re always arguing,” Gonzalez said, “but we know when it comes down to business we need to do what we need to do and we handle it.”
After losing to two-time national champion Ruben Villa, Gonzalez failed to make the 123-pound weight limit for his next bout in Reno and was disqualified, ending his Olympic dream, but he turned pro shortly thereafter, stopping Gilvan Santos in his debut in March.
There’s definitely pressure on Gonzalez to keep winning and keep developing as a pro, especially considering his amateur background, but Hoff faces a different challenge, more of an internal struggle to prove to himself he’s every bit as good as his peers despite his limited experience.
“On paper, I’m nothing spectacular, but I’m pretty confident and I’ll fight whoever,” said Hoff, who trains with Jose Santos out of 401 Boxing.
“Jose and I make a point of being ready because you never know when the call might come. I understand that the opportunity can come along and they may underestimate you and that’s when you can come in and beat these guys. You’ve got to stay ready. I always want to get better, so I’m always in the gym.
“I always feel like I have to show how much I’ve improved. A lot of people have counted me out, so I want to show them I have what it takes. If you doubt me, you’ll see.”
After his last fight, a first-round knockout win over Mike Heffelfinger in September, Gonzalez was adamant he wanted a test in his next bout. He’ll get one on the 21st against the underdog who’s made a habit of pushing his opponents to the limit.
“After taking those first three guys out in the first round, I want to see if I can go the distance,” Gonzalez said. “Not that I want to go the distance, but, then again, if I can take someone out in the first or second round, I’m going to take them out.”
Tickets for Oct. 21st are priced at $47.00, $67.00, $102.00 and $152.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesboxing.com, www.twinriver.com or www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Casino Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
Headlining the Oct. 21st fight card is the eight-round Universal Boxing Federation (UBF) Junior Middleweight International and Northeast title bout between the champion Gray (13-1, 10 KOs), also of Worcester, Mass., and the challenger Chatman (14-5-1, 5 KOs) of Chicago, Ill.
Worcester middleweight Kendrick Ball Jr. (3-0-1, 3 KOs) aims for his fourth win in his fifth pro fight in a four-round bout against Oregon’s Rafael Valencia (3-4-1, 2 KOs) and Worcester super middleweight Ben Peak makes his professional debut in a four-round bout against Jose Rivera (1-0, 1 KO) of Hartford, Conn.
Former amateur standout Anthony Marsella Jr. (1-0) of Providence makes his Rhode Island debut against Philadelphia’s Bardraiel Smith (0-1) in a four-round junior welterweight bout and Ortiz (2-0, 2 KOs) puts his unbeaten record on the line against veteran junior welterweight Isaiah Robinson (3-3, 2 KOs) of Durham, N.C.
New London, Conn., junior welterweight Cristobal Marrero (1-0, 1 KO) takes on Woburn, Mass., vet Bruno Dias (0-1) and junior welterweight Jonathan Figueroa (1-0, 1 KO) of Hartford, Conn., faces Florida’s Irvin Veloz, both in four-round bouts.