This will go down as a year to forget for Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the WBO junior flyweight titlist has fallen ill and was forced to withdraw from a title defense versus Gerardo Zapata. The two were due to meet atop an All Star Boxing, Inc.-promoted ESPN+/ESPN Knockout show that will still move forward this Friday from Polideportivo Alexis Arguello in Managua, Nicaragua.
The previously scheduled Rene Santiago-Kevin Vivas co-feature will now move up to the evening’s main event. Boxing Scene has learned that plans are being explored for the bout to serve as an interim WBO junior flyweight title fight.
Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14KOs) is now left without a fight for 2023, after having been twice scheduled to fight this year. The 32-year-old southpaw from Caguas, Puerto Rico was previously due to face Japan’s Kenshiro Teraji, only to come down with pneumonia ahead of their planned April 8 lineal/WBA/WBC/WBO unification bout in Tokyo. Gonzalez was replaced by promotional stablemate Anthony Olascuaga, whom Teraji stopped in the ninth round.
An undisclosed ailment has once again shut down Gonzalez’s planned road title defense, this time as he already made his way to Nicaragua. His health condition was learned shortly after Wednesday’s press conference, with event planners left to scramble in a bid to salvage the rest of the show.
Gonzalez was originally due to face Nicaragua’s Leyman Benavides, who ironically fell ill last month and was pulled from the show. He was replaced by Zapata (14-1-1, 5KOs), a Miami-based Nicaraguan who is now left without an opponent after previously looking forward to a title shot in his birth town.
With the effort to elevate Santiago-Vivas to interim title status, Gonzalez will likely have to face the winner for his first bout of 2024. He will be out of the ring for more than a year upon his return, having not fought since a twelve-round, unanimous decision over Shokichi Iwata last November 1 in Saitama, Japan.
Santiago (11-3, 8KOs) previously sought to challenge Gonzalez, given the long-standing rivalry between the diminutive Boricuas. The 31-year-old from Humacao now has the opportunity to position himself for a mandatory shot at the title. He has won his last two starts since a ten-round points loss to Yudel Reyes last April in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Santiago last fought in a ninth-round knockout of Carlos Ortega on April 14 in Panama City, Panama.
Nicaragua’s Vivas (7-0, 2KOs) enters his biggest fight to date just shy of his three-year pro anniversary. The 28-year-old from Nindiri has gone the distance in each of his last four contests, including back-to-back split decision victories over countryman Byron Castellon.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox