Jonathan Gonzalez rides second half of boom and beats Barriga to defend WBO title

A strong second-half surge by Jonathan “Bumba” Gonzalez was enough to spare Puerto Rico the feeling of not having a single male boxer to hold a major title.

The Puerto Rican-based Caguas rejected Filipino Marc Anthony Barriga’s challenge, claiming a twelve-round unanimous decision in defense of the WBO junior flyweight title. Judges Rose M. Lassende (115-113), Evren LeBron (117-111) and Alex Levine (117-111) all scored goals for the defending champions in the ProBox TV main event Friday night from Osceola Heritage Park (OHP) in Kissimmee, Florida.

Gonzalez returned home to Central Florida more than eight months after his shock victory over Elwin Soto to win the WBO title last October in Fresno, California. The title defense marks his fourth appearance in the OHP, as he was a crowd favorite among the frantic Boricua base.

Both fighters savored each other’s strength in the opening round. Gonzalez tied with his long left hand but walked straight into a right reverse hook from Barriga. Gonzalez ditched the sequence and seemed to enforce his will as the bigger guy, claiming to rev up up to a little lightweight after weight. Barriga showed excellent resistance to the puncture, absorbing the incoming to bypass the list of defenders.

Barriga came out behind heavy guard to start the second round, and moved forward as Gonzalez looked to use the corners. Gonzalez sat on his punches more, fired his right punch and followed with his left hands on the body and right hooks wherever he found an opening.

Time was called early in the third round, with Gonzalez absorbing a hit very low. The sequence was inevitable by Barriga, who was trying to shoot the body. Boricua southpaw was pulled over the back of Barriga’s head, altering the trajectory of the punch. Gonzalez resumed work after spending three minutes recovering, although he also had to deal with swelling around his right eye.

Barriga pumped out a three-stroke to start the fourth round. Gonzalez quickly adjusted, connecting with a headshot but missing with his next left hand. Gonzalez escaped capturing Barriga’s head from behind, despite the accident occurring directly in front of referee Samuel Burgos.

Barriga spent the rest of the round defending himself and making Gonzalez miss the goal. A similar strategy was used in the fifth round, though Gonzalez managed to slow the tempo down enough to force his will at his pace.

The time was called just before the start of the sixth round, as the doctor in the ring checked Gonzalez’s right eye. The match was allowed to continue, with both southern paws looking to reinstall the jab. Barriga got a drop on Gonzalez, connecting with a big stride and following up with his straight left hand. Gonzalez punches Barriga in the face in the last ten seconds, which Barriga passes to connect with the left counter.

Gonzalez jumped to a fast start in the seventh round, although the action slowed quickly. Barriga spent much of the round with his back against the ropes, but Gonzalez often overdid his ring punches.

Both boxers were warned of repeated victories in the eighth round. Gonzalez modified his attack, introducing more movement and angles to prevent Barriga from planting his feet and landing with correct hooks. The punch was working again with Gonzalez, who was able to keep movement at distance and speed for his first time in combat.

Gonzalez resumed control of the movement in the ninth round, albeit in a frame where he had to go through several low hits. Barriga fell twice in a row below the belt at one point, with Gonzalez spared in pain but instructed by the referee – who mistook the fouls – to keep fighting. Boricua had to pump a jab and frustrate Parega to the point of forcing him to grab him repeatedly.

The wheels started falling for Barriga, who was wild and unsteady in the 10th round. Gonzalez made his way inside with a steady punch and used smooth foot motions to immediately avoid the incoming.

The eleventh round saw both boxers stick more with their punches, possibly due to a mistake. Barriga was largely missing out with his powerful shots, while Gonzalez was willing to sacrifice attack in order to control the movement with his superb footwork.

Barriga showed signs of fatigue in the twelfth and final round. Gonzalez flaunted the super motor, fighting through his bulging right eye and slicing through his left cheekbone to bring Barriga out completely below the span. The visiting Filipino challenger was too exhausted to respond, and instead stuck out whenever Gonzalez let go of his hands. Gonzalez scored consistently with two classic goals, which Barriga scored well but was unable to provide a response.

A late fading by Barriga led to his second defeat for the title, dropping to 11-2 (2KOs). The setback ends a modest two-fight winning streak for the 29-year-old Filipino, whose only other defeat came in a 12-round split decision against Carlos to be in their vacant fight in December 2018.

Puerto Rico can breathe a sigh of relief as Gonzalez remains the sole owner of the island. The win raised his record to 26-3-1 (14KOs), winning his fourth straight and retaining the WBO junior flyweight title he is likely to defend next November.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox

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