When Adan Gonzales signed on to face two-time Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez in Ramirez's professional debut, he really had no idea who Ramirez was, or what he was up against.
While Ramirez had a decorated amateur background, most notably defeating Shakur Stevenson in the bantamweight finals of the Olympic boxing tournament in 2016, to Gonzales, Ramirez just represented another payday.
"I'm a single father -- I've got to work, I support my kids, I've got no sponsor. I do this s--- myself. My bills, my dad helps me with what he can, and that's about it," said Gonzales, who was given a few months to prepare for the first Ramirez bout.
About six weeks into camp, a curious Gonzales finally decided to research his upcoming foe.
"I Googled his name and sure enough, he's a f---ing two-time Olympic gold medalist from Cuba," Ramirez recalled. "So I'm like, 'Oh s---, let's do this, let's go. I'm ready, already. I'm already doing this."
Gonzales entered the ring on Aug. 10 at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia with a modest record of 4-2-2 and pulled off one of the most surprising upsets in recent memory by outhustling Ramirez to earn a split decision by scores of 40-35, 39-36 and 37-38. A first-round knockdown scored by Gonzales off a left hand turned out to be a pivotal moment because in a short fight, a 10-8 round is very difficult to overcome on the cards.
While many believe the first-round trip to the canvas was the turning point, Gonzales said the difference for him happened the day before at the weigh-in.
"When I looked at his eyes, I could tell he wasn't ready to feel how hard I hit, my power," Gonzales said. "They underestimated me, they thought I was some pushover. I'm not."
On Thursday night's Top Rank Boxing card in Las Vegas (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), the pair will meet once again -- and both fighters will have a much better sense of what to expect from their opponent.
Like many other fighters who are tabbed to face highly touted young boxers early in their careers, boxing isn't Gonzales' main source of income. He's a father of two, living in Denver, and landscaping is how he makes ends meet. His normal daily shift starts at 7:30 a.m., and then after he clocks out at 5 p.m., Ramirez heads to the gym.
Gonzales was offered the fight two weeks ago and took that time off to prepare. Short window or not, he understands his perceived role in this fight, and he knows he isn't being brought to Vegas to beat Ramirez for a second time.
"The f---ed up thing about it is, I just signed the contract and everything yesterday," Gonzales said this past Saturday. "Honestly, if you ask me, I should've had good notice for this fight. They should've been telling me, 'All right, we're out of this quarantine, we're going to start these fights back up, start getting ready for July.'"
While Ramirez fought on June 9, stopping Yeuri Andujar in one round, Gonzales has not stepped into the ring since his first encounter with Ramirez 10 months ago. "I feel like they're trying to catch me off-guard, but that's cool. They have to use every tactic they can to protect their little baby," Gonzales said. "This time it's different. I know what it is. He ain't nothing special, at all."
Mestas believes it's simply a matter of putting on fights with a compelling narrative.
''I know it's not Top Rank's fault, I know it's because of COVID and the way things have been going," Mestas said. "I know they need content for TV. So honestly, I just think they need content for it, and everything was just them getting everything together, and it was the right time to happen. He's in the gym, he's training. No excuses.
"I just don't think Robeisy is the same guy he was in the Olympics. This ain't the Olympics, it's pro boxing, and Adan's a solid, solid kid. He'll win this fight again."
Gonzales understands Ramirez has racked up knockout wins in his three subsequent bouts after switching trainers following his debut loss. Ramirez and his team believe this is their opportunity to erase the early blemish and prove that this was just an aberration.
So how will it play out the second time around, given it's safe to assume Ramirez will come in with a chip on his shoulder Thursday night?
"I know what's going to change," Gonzales said. "He's going to come with more pressure, he's going to try and prove a point. He can't prove that point with me. I'm not that person to prove that point with. I'm not going to change anything. I'm going to do everything the same, just like I did the last time."