Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez has a small window of opportunity to revisit a title unification bout.
The reigning WBO junior flyweight titlist received his marching orders for 2024, should he prevail in his upcoming title defense. Puerto Rico’s Gonzalez is due to face Gerardo Zapata atop an October 27 ESPN Knockout show from Polideportivo Alexis Arguello in Managua, Nicaragua.
A win that night could immediately put into motion resurrected plans to face lineal, WBC and WBA champion Kenshiro Teraji in the year ahead.
Anything short of that will leave Gonzalez—or Zapata, should he pull off the upset—on the hook to honor his next ordered mandatory title defense. The ruling was made on Thursday by the WBO during the ratings portion of its 36th annual convention in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
For now, Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14KOs) will attempt the third defense of the title he claimed in an October 2021 twelve-round points win over Elwin Soto in Fresno, California. He has since outpointed Mark Anthony Barriga and unbeaten mandatory challenger Shokichi Iwata in 2022 but the 32-year-old southpaw has yet to fight this year.
The win over Iwata came on the same November 1 show as Teraji’s stunningly one-sided seventh-round knockout of unbeaten countryman Hiroto Kyoguchi in Saitama, Japan. Both bouts were intentionally placed on that same card with the hope on their promotional side that Gonzalez and Teraji would win, as a tentative agreement was in place to meet earlier this spring.
Teraji and Gonzalez fully agreed to a three-belt unification bout on April 8 at Ariake Arena in Tokyo. However, Gonzalez fell ill during training camp and was forced to withdraw. He was since granted an optional title defense, though as one-time exception as his next bout must be a mandatory or a title unification as the only acceptable alternative.
Teraji (22-1, 14KOs) went on to face Anthony Olascuaga, Gonzalez’s promotional stablemate who stepped in on short notice for his first career title fight on that April 8 event. A valiant effort was offered by the young Los Angeles native, who was stopped in the ninth round.
It was one of three defenses during Teraji’s second WBC junior flyweight title reign since he regained the belt in a third-round knockout of countryman Masamichi Yabuki last March 19 in Kyoto. The feat saw Teraji avenge his lone career defeat in a September 2021 eleventh-round stoppage to Yabuki in Kyoto, Japan. He since added the WBA belt and the division’s lineal championship.
Teraji’s most recent came in a ninth-round knockout of WBC mandatory challenger and former two-division titlist Hekkie Budler on September 18 at Ariake Arena in Tokyo. He is now in the voluntary stage of his second title tour.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox