|Cloud's Lightning Electrifies Crowd As Gonzalez Bravely Faces Downpour
By Coyote Duran at ringside, DoghouseBoxing.com (Aug 11, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
As boxing fans and observers, we live in a time where it takes something...or someone...to remind us what the word 'fortitude' really means. On Friday night, Julio Gonzalez was that someone.
If alphabet rankings made much sense, there might have been two entirely different fighters gunning for the privilege to face the winner of October's clash between IBF titlist Antonio Tarver and former WBC titleholder Chad Dawson but, for whatever reason, the organization opted to pair a veteran who lost his previous two fights in Gonzalez, the former Linear Light Heavyweight Champion and WBO light heavyweight titlist, and Tavoris Cloud, a largely untested young gun. Dubious ratings methods notwithstanding, Chicago's Aragon Ballroom and an at-home ESPN2 (broadcast on 'Friday Night Fights') audience witnessed a crossroads battle for the ages; tentative number one ranking or not. And it was a battle that left viewers with their hearts in their collective throats.
Whether or not promoter Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Promotions based their sell on a sanctioning body ranking is irrelevant. What transpired had transcended anyone's - and I mean, anyone's - imagination and expectations as one of their finest main events ever unfolded. Gonzalez came to win and, at the very least (despite the diplomacy demonstrated in a Doghouse Boxing discussion the day before), quell the mystique of the highly-touted prospect. If the past two or so years are any indication of how hype can backfire, then there was a strong chance that the Huntington Beach, California native was the wrong opponent for the Tallahassee, Florida native.
The only wrinkle involved was Gonzalez' reluctance to acquiesce.
The evidence bled through the fabric of the fight as early as the ring introductions. Businesslike and stoic, Gonzalez entered first to a raucous reception. Seconds later, Cloud would enter the ring; excitedly drinking in the cheers of his adopted Chicago fans.
Although, deep down, Gonzalez was unaffected by the daunting task that awaited, his countenance, as always, portrayed a sensitive worry. Cloud was all smiles; as if to indubitably know that Friday night's paycheck was easy money. For all he believed in, Tavoris Cloud was wrong.
FIRST SHOTS FIRED
The opening bell served as a harbinger of sorts as Cloud came out aggressively; fending off Gonzalez' jabs. Cloud would expend such enthusiasm and energy without really even trying. Cloud cornered Gonzalez for the first time in what would seem like dozens throughout the course of the fight; tagging the body and uppercutting with impunity. Cloud would then connect with a huge right uppercut that shook Gonzalez terribly. Although Gonzalez survived the scare, Cloud worked the jab; stunning Gonzalez before landing an explosive right hand that almost gave the young man the rest of the night off. It was agreed by most of Press Row that the longest three minutes in history may have just transpired.
In the second heat, Cloud enters the fray with a visible hunger but meets a jabbing Gonzalez. For all the early punishment absorbed, Gonzalez seemed to exit the first round with new downloaded info. As if the case, Gonzalez opted to dictate the pace, attempting to usurp center ring; working the jab and keeping Cloud on the perimeter. Tavoris soon takes the lead and pursues Gonzalez; cornering him once again. Both fighters trade in the corner with Gonzalez seemingly controlling the pace once in the corner. The script would flip when Cloud connected with a hot left hand; leaving Gonzalez with no escape route. Dazed, Gonzalez would eat a right/left near the end of the round as Cloud surges in dominance.
Caution would soon be dashed to the wind as both fighters would engage each other at extremely close range in the third, desperately trying to make short, vicious uppercuts inflict the damage necessary to own the round. Once distance was established, Gonzalez would smartly resume jabbing, then fire a left to Cloud's head; making Cloud motion to referee John O' Brien that Gonzalez may have connected the back of his head with the punch. The concern was brief, however, and a short back-and-forth melee was punctuated by a left to Gonzalez' head. A subsequent left uppercut from Cloud would open up another joint trip to the corner where Gonzalez used his jab to attempt escape; only eating Cloud's jab in return. Once out of the corner, Cloud cut off the ring; effectively siphoning away Gonzalez' strategic options. Although logic should dictate that Gonzalez' best work would be from the outside, Cloud used that distance to stay out of Gonzalez' reach long enough to continually whittle away at the veteran. Soon enough, both warriors would lock up tight again; banging away on the inside and throwing wildly after the bell.
The fourth would open with a less kinetic Tavoris Cloud feeling out Gonzalez as the latter used the former's break to surge, firing uppercuts and testing the body; keeping himself hunched in the process in an attempt to dilute Cloud's options. Cloud would get in close to fire off uppercuts of his own but Gonzalez wouldn't have it; firing back and letting Cloud know he wasn't to be categorized with the Chicago transplant's previous 18 victims. Another phone booth episode occurs, interestingly enough, since both men were hacking away with Superman-like vigor. Witnessing this, I couldn't help but wonder if fellow boxing scribes/comic book nerds Cliff Rold and Dougie Fischer (from Boxing Scene and Maxboxing, respectively) were comparing such an epic exchange to Superman's battle with the murderous goliath Doomsday; some 16 years ago. As if to offer evidence to the mighty forces at play, Gonzalez, would shoot a wild, mighty left and miss; almost stumbling over in the process. Gonzalez would regain his composure and come back strong and face Cloud head-to-head; throwing whenever a possible-yet-rare opening emerged. The round would conclude but not until Cloud herded Gonzalez to the ropes; inciting more brawling.
Round five saw Julio fire his jab with moderate success; backing off his younger challenger until Cloud took an opportunity to return the favor. Gonzalez, undeterred, would continue jabbing; setting up a modicum of control and connecting with a right uppercut. Cloud's jab would return, however, and Gonzalez seemed more and more susceptible as the seconds wore on. Whether intentional or not an apparent low blow would catch referee O' Brien's attention as he would briefly halt the action and administer a warning to Gonzalez; who wore a frustrated countenance as a result.
Then, as if to act upon the incessant play on his name that many boxing writers (this writer included) have administered in the days building up to this fight, Cloud would explode with unequalled thunder as he would go to the body; cracking Gonzalez' defense, then going upstairs with hyper-violent lefts and rights. Gonzalez looked absolutely gone as he reeled almost unconsciously in the wake of Cloud's onslaught. The term 'saved by the bell' was never more apropos then it was at the end of the fifth round. If this wasn't a 10-8 round on everyone's scorecards, then nothing short of a knockdown would be.
In the sixth, as if to make a bluffing statement, Gonzalez left his corner on the balls on his feet; throwing the jab. Cloud extended the psychological impression built in the fifth round by goading Gonzalez while controlling the ring. Gonzalez fires the jab but Cloud counters with a right followed by a left hook. Once again, Cloud corners Gonzalez and relentlessly hammers away at the ex-champ while writers Ray Flores and Joe Harrison shared my disbelief at Gonzalez' superhuman resistance. Cloud would fire off a huge right bomb that sickeningly shakes the foundation of the Huntington Beach, California native but still does not drop him. By this time, the truth was blatantly staring one and all in the face: Julio Cesar Gonzalez wouldn't quit. Someone...anyone else...would have to capitulate for him.
Before the start of the seventh, the ringside doctor was giving Gonzalez the hairy eyeball but stilled deemed him fit to continue. It was evident that a one-minute rest period wasn't enough to shake the cobwebs from the sixth. Cloud comes with the jab and Julio returns the favor by digging to the body. Both fighters trade jabs before Gonzalez lunges with a right uppercut. Cloud would counter with the jab; working Gonzalez to the corner where he would counter with a jab of his own. Cloud then mauled Gonzalez; inciting a desperate initiative by Gonzalez; who threw jabs whenever he could catch a second to respond. Tavoris jabbed back; splitting Julio's guard, giving way to deep inside uppercuts by both. Both men throw wild haymakers before Cloud connects with a left hook.
Tavoris came out stalking in the eighth and immediately cornered Gonzalez who jabbed out. Cloud shoots the jab but Gonzalez responds by trudging forward with his own jab, followed by a left and a right. Both fighters trade jabs with Julio firing more; not so much caring whether he connected or not, minutely diluting Cloud's punch output. Gonzalez finds another wind from who-knows-where and stays as busy as inhumanly possible but Cloud resists; moving Gonzalez back. The fatigue is permeating Julio as he eats a right but comes close in the pocket, shooting the uppercut. A quick one-two from Cloud landed but Gonzalez just kept coming forward, tying up Cloud as the young lion fired to the body in hopes of backing off the cement-legged veteran.
In the ninth, Gonzalez opens up; backing up Cloud with the jab. Gonzalez would corner Cloud then throw a short left to the head. Cloud escaped and began circling; making Gonzalez the pursuer while catching a breather. At this juncture, Cloud knew he was so far ahead that he could take off a round or even two, not factoring that, sometimes in the glow of respite, one can lose his way or become lax; opening himself up to explicit danger. Perhaps Tavoris Cloud considered this but knew or accepted as fact that even the wily Julio Gonzalez wasn't taking away his zero, no matter what he did.
A left from Cloud would connect but Gonzalez found a rare advantage when Cloud found himself backed up to the ropes, fielding shots to the body before tasting a left hand. Cloud remedies this by jabbing from the body upwards then landed a mean hook to the body. A right cross to the left ear staggered Gonzalez but shortly afterward, Cloud would find himself in a corner warding off Gonzalez' jab. Cloud escapes the corner with Gonzalez in pursuit; moving in, digging to the body, then going to the uppercut. Meanwhile, a mouse over Gonzalez' left eye was noticeably growing up to become a full-blown sewer rat. Nonetheless, Cloud's rest period gave Gonzalez a winning round made from consistent work and guts.
Gonzalez emerged into the tenth round working his trusted jab then dropped into a shared sporadic pace with his opponent. Both fell into close quarters once again but Cloud jabbed and connected tightly with a short left hand. By now, Julio Gonzalez looked like he had fought 90 rounds; his face marred with bruises and breathing laboriously. Cloud jabbed again with extreme prejudice as Gonzalez tired even further and Cloud got stronger and faster. Gonzalez would try to connect with a right hand but Cloud saw it coming and countered sharply and viciously with his own right hand. Suddenly, there seemed to be a simultaneous sense of urgency as both fighters went to the body; testing each other's will. Cloud's shots were just as damaging as the tenth as they were in the first and Gonzalez, chin and legs still intact and lasting past their warranty, wore thinner; refusing to go away. As if to ask himself "What do I have to do to take out this man?", Cloud again backed Gonzalez into a neutral corner, throwing everything he had, and then some; but still not breaking his most notable nemesis. Caught in this same predicament many times throughout the course of this fight, Gonzalez ate the punches in an onslaught that seemed like it lasted forever. Then, unfathomable to Julio Gonzalez, the punishment stopped altogether 10 seconds short of the bell sounding the end of the 10th round.
It was over. The fight was done. Referee John O' Brien had stopped the bout at 2:50. Elation swept through Tavoris Cloud as disappointment enveloped Julio Cesar Gonzalez. It had been the first time Gonzalez had been stopped and the reality of the situation was more crushing than all of Cloud's punches combined. As the crowd went wild for Tavoris Cloud, the same crowd shared an empathic moment for Julio Gonzalez; then erupted with respect and admiration for a man who won the hearts of Chicago by making a simple statement: I will not give up.
The celebration continued in the ring as the new IBF number one light heavy contender would face an ESPN camera; openly and giddily challenging current IBF titlist Antonio Tarver as the ring became clogged with friends, photographers and family. Heavyweight fringer Mike Mollo could also be seen in the revelry. Julio Gonzalez, however, was missing.
MOMENTS OF MELANCHOLY
As the walk-out bouts (and bikini contest...I'm not making that up) went forth, Gonzalez was in his dressing room; out of his work clothes and in blue jeans, remaining shirtless. He walked down the hall to a washroom as friends handled his belongings. Gonzalez then turned on a sink faucet and moistened his face with the cold tap; touching the reddened protrusions as he rinsed. His arms would fall to the sides of the sink and brace him as his head would forlornly drop to face the sink drain. Seconds ticked for what seemed like an eternity before Julio sighed, walked out the washroom to sign some papers and return to his dressing room. Door opened, a rotation of well-wishers congratulated Gonzalez, posed for pictures and tried to boost his spirits, in general. Meanwhile, his cornermen and friends would patiently gather equipment and see that Gonzalez had whatever he needed before taking their collective leave from the Aragon Ballroom. No matter how frustrated and beaten Julio felt, it wasn't difficult to summon the generosity to talk to Doghouse Boxing about the war he had survived less than 30 minutes before.
“I was fine. He caught me with a left hook,” Gonzalez, in an amazingly lucid manner, said in reference to the final punch he took before the referee stopped the contest. “Not a great hook. It was just a graze. He didn’t even hurt me at all or anything. He hurt me before but that (final) punch was not his toughest punch.”
When asked if his forward movement helped to stem the flow of Cloud’s work rate by the end of the ninth round, Gonzalez replied, “(Enthusiastically) Yeah! I put on as much pressure as I could. I brought the fight to him. He hit the wall and he was tired! And he was just trying to finish hard the last 30 seconds of the 10th round. He was trying to steal the round in the last 30 seconds. I don’t know if he did…and, yeah! He caught me with the left hook, with one punch, but it wasn’t his strongest punch.”
“I wasn’t hurt!” Gonzalez responded when asked how on Earth he stayed on his feet although, at times, he looked out on his feet. “That’s just my style. You’ll see when I walk, my legs wobble a bit but it doesn’t mean I’m hurt. That’s just the way I box, you know? I’m clumsy. Even when I’m OK, moving around, my legs are loaded, man.”
“I was boxing him great, you know? I was bouncing around and he was tired in the second round!” Gonzalez continued, “I was still jabbing him, jabbing him. I don’t know if I was winning the rounds in the judges’ eyes but in my eyes, I was winning the rounds, you know? He was closing hard in the last 30 seconds but to me, it wasn’t enough to steal the rounds.”
So where does Julio Gonzalez, former Linear Light Heavyweight Champion and WBO light heavyweight titlist go from here? His last three fights have resulted in losses; this being one of major relevance. With the fans’ (not to mention the viewers who witnessed the battle on ESPN2) overall reaction and respect, could Gonzalez truly leave on such a down note?
“I don’t know. I’ve gotta sit back and think about it.” offered Gonzalez, as he calmly enjoyed a well-earned-yet-modest snack in a granola bar. “It’s a hard loss. I’ve been lucky with ESPN. I’ve had two great fights. One win (a 2001 victory over the late Julian Letterlough). One loss.”
Gonzalez’ eyes would suddenly light up once again when he mentally revisited the 10th round. “The thing that took it from me? I was boxing good. I was winning the round. He caught me with that punch. I had two more rounds, you know?…I was gonna win those two rounds. I don’t know what was on those scorecards but I think I would’ve took it all.”
After we bid each other thanks and well wishes, one thing was for certain. There wasn’t a soul on Mother Earth that could’ve beaten the heart out of him.
Aside of gaining more attention than Julio Gonzalez, post-fight, Tavoris Cloud pre and post-fight hangout wasn’t necessarily jumping but a vibe of good feelings and the rush of relief were felt everywhere. Unlike, Gonzalez’ dressing area, there was a line of writers waiting, recorders at the ready, for a unique blurb. Hey, it’s our job. However, Cloud was on a schedule (and nursing what looked like a very sore right paw), so the question output was limited and he offered what he could.
Cloud’s admiration of Gonzalez’ freakish near-invulnerability was clear. “It (Gonzalez’ resistance) didn’t surprise me because I know I hit very hard. You know, it wasn’t discouraging but he was a durable fighter, you know? You can’t knock everybody out. I know that. Thank God the referee was there.”
Cloud went on to declare whether or not either Antonio Tarver or Chad Dawson would be as tough a nut to crack as Gonzalez.
“Actually, I don’t think either one of those fighters cold take the punches that Julio took tonight. Nope. And that’s just on the level that I’m on right now. When it’s time to fight for the World Championship, I’ll be five times better than I was tonight.”
If nothing else, that speaks better for Gonzalez than it does for Tarver or Dawson.
When it came down to wondering, before the fight, if his promotional home would serve as level ground for his Latino opponent, Cloud would keep it simple.
“No. When I get into the ring, I do my thing.”
At a basic level, that’s really what both Cloud and Gonzalez did. There wasn’t pageantry (unless you consider the bikini contest…barely). It was a fight. And maybe a revelation about either man.
You’ll just have to expand upon the latter yourself.
Julio Gonzalez drops his third fight in a row and falls to 41-6 (47). Tavoris Cloud wins the distinction of being the number one contender to whoever holds the IBF light heavyweight title after October 11 battle between titleholder Antonio Tarver and Chad Dawson. He jumps to 19-0 (18).
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