Roman Gonzalez fights Julio Cesar Martinez
Veteran Roman Gonzalez (left) fights Julio Cesar Martinez. Photo by Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing

Boxing fans from both sides of the border enjoyed a thrilling night of world class competition on Saturday at Pechanga Arena, even if the local favorite couldn’t deliver a win in the main event.

Super flyweight Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua delivered a master class, winning an impressive unanimous decision over world flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez of Mexico (18-2, 14 KOs). The 34-year-old Gonzalez, the only person to win championships in boxing’s four smallest weight divisions, was too skilled, too fast, and too nimble for the 27-year-old Martinez.

Martinez took the fight on short notice when the original opponent, Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico, bowed out due to falling ill with COVID-19. The support of the crowd, including boxing’s biggest star, Mexican countryman Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who lives and trains in San Diego, wasn’t enough to compensate for Martinez’s inexperience compared to the veteran champion Gonzalez.

“Salutations to everyone. I hope you had a great night,” Gonzalez said to the crowd after the fight. “My corner told me not to give him any rounds. When I felt that I had him, that’s when I needed to pressure him and that’s what I did.

“He took a lot of punches. I’m very surprised, that indicates he comes in really great condition,” said Gonzalez of his opponent.

Promoter Eddie Hearn of the UK-based promoter Matchroom Boxing said he was pleased with the results of the organization’s first event in San Diego. “I want to thank everyone in San Diego for the incredible atmosphere.

That was just an incredible performance of a pound for pound legend,” said Hearn of Gonzalez. “He just seems to be getting better and better.”

Broadcast worldwide via the streaming network DAZN, the event featured nine bouts, many with Mexican and Mexican-American athletes.

Featherweight Mauricio Lara of Mexico City (24-2-1, 17 KOs) came out at the opening bell like he was shot out of a cannon. He took down a tough Emilio Sanchez of Los Angeles (19-2 12 KOs) with nine nonstop minutes of action, winning by knockout at 2:59 of the third round.

Lightweight sensation Angel Fierro of Tijuana (19-1-2 15 KOs) got a career building experience from veteran and fellow Tijuana resident Juan Carlos Burgos (34-6-3, 21 KOs) fighting to a majority draw. It may not have been thrilling, but it will pay off for Fierro as his career advances.

Super welterweight Souleymane Cissokho of France via Senegal dispatched Roberto Valenzuela Jr. of Mexico by lopsided scorecards of 100-90 X 2 and 99-91.

Undefeated super middleweight Diego Pacheco of Los Angeless made a big impression with a second-round knockout win over Genc Pilana of Maryland. Pacheco, age 20, is a good-looking power puncher with 10 knockouts in 13 fights who is now training in San Diego.

Australian Olympian Skye Nicolson made a successful pro debut against previously undefeated Jessica Sanchez of San Diego at super featherweight by unanimous decision. Scores were 60-54 X 2 and 59-53. Nicolson made her first ringwalk to “New Sensation” by Australian rock band INXS.