ESPN Friday Night Fights was a great boxing platform during its on network TV. Many fighters of yesterday and today got their start on there. Some of course would go on to bigger things. Others would be mainstays who had a reputation of getting into great TV fights. That was definitely the case of Julian “Mr. KO” Letterlough. After a 7 year stint in prison, he was released and turned pro as a light heavyweight. His first 16 fights all but 1 ended in a knockout. A lone draw would break the KO streak. Nevertheless his punching power was a force to be reckoned with. Julio Cesar Gonzalez turned pro in 1997 after representing Mexico at the 1996 Olympics. He would win his first 25 fights prior to this fight with Letterlough. A good fight on paper but no one expected what would transpire in the ring.
The fight itself was a back and forth war. There were a total of 5 knockdowns in the whole fight. Gonzalez would be the first to strike dropping “Mr. KO” to the canvas in the first round. Resilient as always, Letterlough would fight back and in the third round returned the favor. A brutal left hand followed by a counter right hook would send Gonzalez down to one knee. Gonzalez popped back up immediately but still had to take that standing eight count. The bombs continued in close quarters. A pattern of ebb and flow now firmly established in the heat of combat. In the early moments of round 5, Letterlough detonated one of his patented left hooks on Gonzalez sending him face first to the canvas near the ropes. This time Gonzalez didn’t pop back up immediately, wisely taking the full count before returning back to war. They continued to trade bombs in close quarters. Absolutely vicious fades were being handed out by both fighters.
The fight almost ended in round 10, when Gonzalez backing up a retreating Letterlough into the ropes and walked into another flush right hand counter. Gonzalez went down like he was shot with a violent impact. His head slammed into the canvas and his eyes rolling around his head. I watched this like “Damn!!!…Mr. KO is a hellacious puncher”. Teddy Atlas mentioning Gonzalez fighting the wrong fight. Gonzalez somehow gets to his feet almost similar to Fury waking up against Wilder in the 12th round. He absorbed a terrible beating in the process as Letterlough smelled blood while Teddy Atlas saying “Mr. KO is about to get a KO!!” loudly. Gonzalez managed to survive and his corner worked furiously to revive him sufficiently for round 11. In the 11th round, Gonzalez mustered a left hook/right hand combination that sent Letterlough sliding to the canvas. Letterlough argued to the ref that he slipped but to no avail. The audience was going absolutely nuts from what they were seeing. They continued trade until the final bell. I was exhausted just watching this classic fight. Unbelievable war. Gonzalez would prevail winning the UD with the scores of 114-109 x 2, and 113-110. When do you usually see a fighter going down 3 times roar back like he did to win a decision? Nothing but pure class and sportsmanship from those 2 fighters. In my humble opinion, there were no losers. Everybody was a winner that night.
Julio Cesar Gonzalez would go on a couple fights later to face the great Roy Jones Jr for the WBC/WBA/IBF 175 belts coming up short in an admirable effort. In 2003, he scored the biggest win and upset of his career outpointing Dariusz Michalczewski to win the WBO and Lineal Light Heavyweight Titles. Unfortunately his reign would not be long lived as he would lose to Zsolt Erdei in his first title defense. After winning a title eliminator against Montell Griffi , he would receive a title shot losing to then champion Clinton Woods. A couple of years later he would receive on what would be his final title shot in a rematch loss to Clinton Woods. Followed that fight, Gonzalez would go winless in his final couple of fights losing to the likes of Reggie Johnson & Tavoris Cloud. He would finish with a final record of 41 wins and 8 losses with 25 KO’s. Julio Cesar Gonzalez would pass away tragically in a motorcycle accident in 2012.
Julian Letterlough later on in the year would receive a title shot at then IBF cruiserweight champion Vassiliy Jirov but fall short. He would continue to fight on for the next 3 years but never regained any career momentum he had with mixed results here and there. He would finish with a record of 21 wins, 5 losses, and 3 draws with 20 knockouts. Unfortunately Julian Letterlough, after a night out with his wife, was murdered outside of a bar in Reading PA in 2005.
Thank you Julian Letterlough and Julio Cesar Gonzalez for the great in ring memories during your careers that you provided and continue to rest in perfect peace.
Written by Patscorpio for RingGangRadio.com