Commentary

Too much, maybe? Gonzalez to test green Cloud

At 18-0 with 17 knockouts, Tavaris Cloud has done no wrong inside the boxing ring. Still, he has his detractors -- namely, his next opponent, Julio Gonzalez.

Originally Published: August 7, 2008
By Joe Tessitore | ESPN.com

"Friday Night Fights" is heading to the William Shatner of venues, Chicago's Aragon Ballroom.

Like Shatner, it bridges three different generations, nearly as definable as Star Trek to T.J. Hooker to Priceline.com.

The Aragon; it's where Frank Sinatra and the big bands swung Chi-town. It's also where 70's rock shows were the glory-day memories of Midwest teens and for a generation of EA Sports gamers, it has been the popular venue option for the "Fight Night" series.

On Friday, the Aragon hosts former light heavyweight belt holder Julio Gonzalez taking on rising unbeaten prospect Tavaris Cloud.

"Julio Gonzalez, he's a big name but I don't feel we'll have any problems winning this fight," Cloud said with a sunny outlook. "I'm the younger, stronger fighter and I trained hard. I'm doing everything right. And it's hard to go wrong when you do everything right."

Cloud is 18-0 with 17 knockouts. That's everything right -- which means, there is a lot of room for him to do plenty wrong. He hasn't faced upper-tier competition. His best win is against Jose Luis Herrera, who scored a shocking upset-TKO of Aaron Williams.

[+] EnlargeJulio Gonzalez
AP Photo/PA/ Peter ByrneJulio Gonzalez, left, has dealt with every type of fighting style in his 11-year career in the ring.
In Gonzalez, Cloud is facing a fighter past his prime, but with much more experience.

"His record shows that they've been putting a lot of babies in front of him," Gonzalez said. "Now he's going up against a man. So we'll see what he's made out of."

Cloud is made of confidence; the kind of confidence that comes around when your power has never allowed you to go past five full rounds. The kind of confidence that blinds your senses enough to make a mistake.

Here's one mistake -- you really shouldn't give yourself a nickname.

"I think I'm leaning toward 'The Beast,' even thought I'm not a beast outside of the ring," Cloud said. "I just thought it up myself."

In my book, the name "Beast" has to be given to you. It's earned when you have the kind of career and performances that demands a nickname.

Gonzalez has a career worthy of a strong nickname. He has topped former light heavyweight titleholders Glenn Johnson, Dariusz Michalczewski and Montell Griffin. He has been in there with Roy Jones, Clinton Woods and Zsolt Erdei. And, in 2001, he won a battle that was among the greatest in "Friday Night Fights" history.

Julian Letterlough was unbeaten when he met Gonzalez. Letterlough knocked down Gonzalez three times. Gonzalez put Mr. KO down twice himself. Julio went on to win a unanimous decision.

"Something good has to come out of this fight, and I have to take advantage of it now," the 32-year-old Gonzalez said.

The "now" fighter is supposed to be Tavaris Cloud. His matchmakers have done everything to make him the "wow" fighter.

Lining up opponents that are easy to get rid of will pad that record, but at some point you have to take a test. It's time for Cloud to sharpen his pencil. Gonzalez is still capable enough to make sure you can't guess at answers.

Should we believe Cloud is a future light heavyweight champ? Should we buy his hype?

"Just tune in," Tavaris says. "Tune in, man. Speed and power."

Many will be tuning in. It's up to a young, untested unbeaten to make sure they don't tune out.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."

Joe Tessitore has been the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" and "Wednesday Night Fights" since 2002 and contributes a weekly boxing column to ESPN.com.