Gunning for greatness: Fighter’s uncommon route
by Bryan Fonseca
Sep 26, 2018 | 955 views | 0 0 comments | 70 70 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Behind the masks, crowd-pleasing entrances and flashy color combinations is one of New York City’s rising boxing prospects.

“Lefty Gunz” is making up for lost time, trying to catch counterparts who have enjoyed at least a taste of stardom despite roughly the same success.

This coming Saturday, Mathew Gonzalez (6-0, 4 KOs) will enter his fourth fight as part of a 10-bout agreement with Real Deal Boxing.

That’s not one of the sports premier stables like Top Rank, Haymon Boxing, Matchroom Boxing or Mayweather Promotions, where some of his peers currently reside.

Instead, Real Deal is viewed as an up-and-coming establishment, or “the red-headed step-child” of boxing promotions, similar to how Gonzalez's co-manager and advisor Jenny Badillo described him amongst his peers.

“If anyone is keeping track of his career, we’re like The Ugly Duckling or the Tortoise and the Hare,” said Badillo, who also owns the International Boxing and Fitness Club in Ridgewood, where Gonzalez trains. “Everybody got signed first and Lefty’s still back here. He didn’t win a Golden Glove, we’ve got no national ranking as an adult. But little by little, Lefty is catching up.”

Gonzalez, who is scheduled to fight at Kings Theatre on Flatbush this weekend, doesn’t only think he’s catching his peers, but is right where he should be.

“My career is at a good place right now for only having six fights,” he told BQE Media during his training camp last week. “Everything is going to according to plan.”

Making up for lost time is at least partially Gonzalez’s own doing. The 23-year-old southpaw followed his older brother Juan, who started boxing at age nine, capturing the watchful eye of a curious three-year-old Mathew.

The younger Gonzalez was learning the basics from his brother at home before entering Bed-Stuy Boxing Gym at eight years old. The early start, talent, work ethic and tutelage of those around helped propel him to a wildly successful amateur career of over 50 fights – including several championships – by the age of 15.

And then he put the gloves down for four years to focus on getting his diploma from Grover Cleveland High School.

“As a kid, you don’t really know what you want early on. I guess I lost the love for it a little bit,” he admitted. “But it was always there, that’s why I came back to it after four years. Everything happens for a reason.”

Gonzalez doesn’t carry the usual pugilist plot of a troubled youth, where boxing served as an escape from the streets. But he always felt a return would be imminent, just probably not against one of the nation’s top amateur fighters at the time, Richardson Hitchins, a fellow Brooklynite who owns a 6-0 professional record.

Hitchins won a close fight, with Gonzalez’s corner leaving with optimism having pushed a top amateur prospect to his limit after the lay-off and only three months of training. Gonzalez then trained for 12 months before returning to amateur competition, and ended with a 56-8 record before turning pro.

“When we came back we were upset with the decision, but we were really excited,” Badillo recalled. “His first fight back as an amateur is with a ranked guy, who we arguably beat, and that’s as bad as it was going to get.”

Gonzalez turned pro in May 2017, competing in North Carolina, where he also won his second bout two months later. Unsuccessful in landing high-level amateur acclaim – such as an Olympic bid or a New York Golden Glove – fighting professionally in his own home city required a couple of extra hurdles.

He did earn an opportunity to compete at the Errol Spence-Lamont Peterson undercard in January at Barclays Center while still a free agent. Team Lefty made a statement with a one-sided win and by independently selling hundreds of tickets to his supporters.

“Lefty feels that he’s cutting people’s money short if he doesn’t come in looking right,” said Badillo. “He thinks that it’s the most disrespectful thing that when fighters come in there and look like bums. You guys are paying for this.

“After the fight’s over, he’s out in the crowd,” she added. “I’m literally cleaning off blood and sweat, and I’m like ‘Put on your shirt, you’re not going out there topless!’”

The growing fanfare continues to take shape as the wins pile up. Gonzalez plans to keep things rolling this Saturday: new colors, new mask, more fans and an improved fighter.

“This fight right here, I’m going for the knockout,” Gonzalez said before going for a jog around Highland Park. I’ve got to end it with a bang. It’s a must.”

After all, he is catching-up, little by little.
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