Forgotten Legends: Miguel Ángel González

By: Steve Gallegos

Mexico has a very rich boxing tradition. The fighters and fans take great pride in the sport and Mexico has produced many hall of famers over the years. The most famous Mexican fighter is without a doubt Julio Cesar Chavez. He ruled the 140 lb division for many years and notched over 100 victories in his career. During the mid to late 90’s when Chavez was on the decline, there was another fighter who yearned for respect while hoping to have the torch passed down to him as Mexico’s next great champion. His name was Miguel Ángel González.

González was a very tough technician with great skill and technique who made a name for himself amongst the elite of Mexican fighters throughout the 90’s. González was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico and took up boxing at age 15. As an amateur, he had a successful record of 63-3 while representing Mexico in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. He made his professional debut in January of 1989 at the age of 17 and would score a fifth round TKO in his pro debut.

In 1990, he would relocate to Tokyo, Japan and would fight on the Japanese circuit for about a year in which he would earn the moniker “Santa Tokyo”. He would win his first 25 fights, 23 by KO before fighting for his first world title. He would face Columbian challenger, Wilfrido Rocha on 08/24/92 in Mexico City for the vacant WBC lightweight title. It was an exciting fight in which González was in trouble early, being knocked down in the second round, but was able to weather the storm and take control in the middle rounds. In the ninth round, González was able to cut Rocha and the fight was stopped in the same round due to the cut. It was a great win for Gonzalez, who joined the list of world champions hailing from Mexico.

González would successfully defend his title 10 times over the next three years including KO victories over future world champions Jean-Baptiste Mendy and Leavander Johnson. After winning a very close majority decision over Lamar Murphy on the Mike Tyson vs Peter McNeeley undercard in August of 1995, it was then decided that Gonzalez would move up to Jr. Welterweight. After winning three fights at Jr. Welterweight over the next year, González was in line for another title shot, this time against the “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya.

The fight was billed as “For Pride and Country” and they met on 01/18/97 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas for the WBC super lightweight championship. The fight was dominated for the most part by De La Hoya’s agression with his piston-like jab and left hook. González held his own with the “Golden Boy” by landing his own jab and left hook with much success. He even busted up De La Hoya’s left eye, causing it to swell badly. The end result would be a 12 round unanimous decision for De La Hoya. De La Hoya would move up to the welterweight division and would vacate his super lightweight title, putting González in line for another title shot, this time against Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez.

They met in front of a huge crowd of over 50,000 fans at the Plaza de Toros in Mexico City on 03/07/98. The huge crowd was mostly there to support Chavez, despite González being the hometown fighter. It was an unusual night as the lights went out moments before the two fighters were set to walk out to the ring; however they were restored shortly after González made his way into the ring. González controlled the first half of the fight by using his jab to setup combinations and avoiding dangerous exchanges with the very dangerous Chavez. González frustrated Chavez early on, causing Chavez to resort to dirty tactics such as using his elbows and forearms as well as landing low blows. Chavez began to come on the seventh round by landing hard shots and he dominated in the same fashion in the eighth round.

In the eighth, the pro- Chavez crowd was starting to get frustrated with the fight and began throwing debris into the ring. González regained his composure in the ninth and took the round by once again outboxing Chavez and avoiding exchanges. The 10th and 11th rounds were very close in which Chavez would come racing out to land hard shots and attempt to steal the rounds by flurrying in the last 10 seconds of the round. González knew he needed a big 12 round and he went out and closed the show like a champion, using his jab and landing combinations. It appeared as if the torch was close to being passed as the final bell sounded. It was clear that González did enough to win the fight and in a perfect world he deserved the decision and the championship; however the judges had the final say.

One judge scored the fight 115-114 for Chavez, another scored it 116-114 for González and the third judge had it scored even at 115-115 making the final decision a draw. The pro-Chavez crowd was very upset and began throwing cups and seat cushions into the ring. Chavez, who wasn’t known for giving his opponents credit, had a moment of humility afterwards. He said that the fight was very close and González fought a very good fight. He also said he had a hard time making the weight limit of 140 lbs and he wanted a rematch. After the disappointing decsion in the Chavez fight, González split from promoter Don King and signed with America Presents.

After winning his next fight by KO, González was once again in line to fight for the vacant WBC super lightweight title, this time against the very hard hitting Kostya Tszyu. They were scheduled to fight on 11/28/98 in Indio, CA; however due to an injury 10 days before the bout, González was forced to withdraw. Instead, Tszyu faced Cuban Diosbelys Hurtado and claimed the WBC title by fifth round TKO. Although Tszyu was now the interim champion, he was still obligated to face González. After once again having the fight postponed due to contractual disputes with promoters, the two finally met on 08/21/99 in Miami, FL.

González was coming off of a 14 month layoff and the ring rust showed inside the ring. The two fighters collided heads in the first round which caused a cut over González’s eye. González, frustrated by the headbutt, began resorting to dirty tactics such as intentionally headbutting Tzsyu as well as hitting with his shoulder. Tszyu dominated the fight by landing hard shots such as his straight left hand. After taking punishment for 10 rounds, González’s trainer Abel Sanchez finally stopped the bout.

González would be inactive for 14 months and he would return to the ring in December of 2000 in which he scored a first round KO over Alex Lubo. He would then suffer another setback three months later as he dropped a very close split decision to fellow Mexican Manuel Gomez. He would be out of the ring for another 14 months and would return in May of 2002 in which he would win five straight bouts all by KO before getting another shot at a world title. This time he met Cory Spinks for the “Undisputed” welterweight title.

They met on 09/04/04 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV. González gave a good account of himself in this bout; however Spinks was at the top of his game and outboxed González en route to a lopsided unanimous decision victory. Despite losing, González would get another title shot in his next fight against WBA welterweight champion Luis Collazo in August of 2005; however he would lose on an eighth round TKO. It was the end of the road for Miguel Angel González as a serious contender although he would fight twice more in 2006, winning both bouts.

He retired with a record of 51-5-1 with 40 KO’s. There were talks of González making a comeback in 2012; however it never came to fruition. It’s unfortunate that Miguel Ángel González didn’t get the level of respect that he deserved. He fought during an era in which Mexico wasn’t ready to let go of their hero Julio Cesar Chavez. It is also unfortunate that he fought during a time in which a new generation of Mexican fighters such as Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barerra were beginning to stamp their name amongst the Mexican elite. Although González didn’t reach the stature of Chavez, he will always be remembered for his skill, heart, determination and class. He forever remains another of our “Unsung” heroes of the prize ring.

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