Before he could tap out, Gonzalez found a reason to fight back.
His then-12-year-old son Carlos announced he wanted to be a professional boxer and wanted his father to train him. It took six months of convincing, but Gonzalez took Carlos on as his student, teaching him in the attic of his mother's house with the equipment he kept from his reign as a coach of champions.
"There's a fine line between being a dad and a coach," says Gonzalez. Some fathers live out their dreams of being a prizefighter through their children, he says, but that wasn't his goal. "I was always a fan."
Unlike Jose, who meticulously thought out his attacks, Carlos was vicious. He came in swinging, throwing himself into each jab with lightning reflexes, each punch building off the last. Every day was spent in the attic or out on the streets, running drills and conditioning his body to Gonzalez's liking. But while the two found strength in each other, Gonzalez's illness was still brewing inside him.
One night, Carlos was having trouble sleeping and woke his father for a 2 a.m. training run — Carlos on foot and Gonzalez following on his bicycle. On the way back, Carlos began sprinting, pushing that last quarter-mile as Gonzalez instructed him.
When he arrived back at the house, Carlos realized his father wasn't behind him. He ran back and found his father standing beside the bicycle under a street lamp, wheezing, out of breath and unable to continue.
Weakness wasn't a part of their language. So Carlos grabbed the bicycle and threw his father's arm around his shoulder. The two walked back in silence, knowing they'd do it all over again the next day.
"It showed me he was even more of a fighter than I thought he was," says Carlos. "It made me want to give him his wish, to win a championship title."
Within a year, Gonzalez signed Carlos up to compete in the 2010 Ringside World Championship in Kansas City, Missouri, which draws about 1,400 amateur boxers each year.
Carlos advanced to the semifinals. But just minutes before the bout, the boy was struck with an overwhelming surge of emotions, tears welling up in his eyes, his hands going stiff. He didn't want to disappoint his father.
Gonzalez got down on one knee and looked Carlos in the eyes. "Win, lose or draw, I'm your father first," he said. "I love you."
It was everything Carlos needed to hear. When the referee announced Carlos the champion the next day, he ran to his father and hugged him over the ropes.
"Having that title was important to me," says Gonzalez.
"He doesn't let his sickness beat him," says Carlos. "He fights for us kids. For all of us."
That same year, after a routine checkup at an ophthalmologist, doctors diagnosed Gonzalez with lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase deficiency. The change in his eyes and renal failure were both symptoms of the disease.
Gonzalez began weaning himself off the medication and started peritoneal dialysis — an at-home process that requires an injection of minerals and sugars into the abdomen through a catheter while a machine withdraws the toxins out of the blood overnight.
The process came with new risks. The area in which the solution was injected was highly susceptible to infections and required anyone nearby to wear a mask during the process. But Gonzalez saw it as an opportunity to travel with Carlos to more competitions.
But two months after beginning the treatment, 4 liters of peritoneal solution seeped into his right lung, and Gonzalez was forced to begin hemodialysis.
It's been more than four years. "It can be very daunting," says Taliercio. "He accepts it, moves on and just continues with his life."
But it isn't easy. His blood leaves his body warm and comes back cold, making it difficult to regulate his temperature while in dialysis.
He barely sleeps, pushing himself to exhaustion simply to keep his boxing program alive. With his deficiency, the risk for heart attacks and strokes increases.
According to Taliercio, some studies show there's roughly an 18 to 20 percent risk of death every year for patients in end-stage renal failure. Without dialysis, he would die within 10 days.
In the back of Julia Gonzalez's attic, past the teardrop of the speed bag and the five punching bags of various sizes hanging from the exposed wooden ceiling, there's a shrine. Nine championship belts are on display, tokens of former students who gave them up in the hopes they will inspire other young fighters who come up here looking for strength.
Sitting vigilantly on a ledge above them, a bronze bust of a conquistador stares out from behind the tiniest pair of blue boxing gloves strung on a nail hammered into the wood.
"Those are Jose's first gloves," says Gonzalez. "I got them when he was just a little guy."
Carlos, 18, is tall enough now that he almost hits his head on the ceiling when he gets on the treadmill in the back. The two still come here occasionally to practice.
Over the next year, Gonzalez plans to pull some of the more advanced students out of Cudell to train them privately in this old and archaic place.
"You don't need a boxing ring to make champions," he says, as he laces up Carlos' gloves and takes a step back. "Everything you need is up here."
As Carlos squares off against the heavy bag hanging closest to the shrine, Gonzalez maneuvers around the attic, keeping him in his sights while Carlos dances and jabs — right arm extended beautifully out in front of him without fear, backed by the power-hand he keeps tucked at his side.
"When I put gloves on and put a headgear on, and you see fear but fear being conquered — that's gratifying," says Gonzalez. "They're conquering their fears by entering that ring."
For two years, Taliercio has advised Gonzalez to seek a kidney transplant.
And yet only recently has he even considered being put on a transplant list — the only possible solution in his fight for survival.
"I had to experience everything in between to make sure I could be responsible enough to take care of what someone else sacrificed," says Gonzalez.
There's no cure for his genetic deficiency, so even after the procedure, his new kidney could potentially begin collecting cholesterol deposits again.
Although he'd be given more time and a better quality of life, immunosuppressant drugs required to keep the new kidney alive could also potentially make his body more susceptible to a whole slew of infections.
But Gonzalez is willing to take a chance.
For now, Carlos is setting aside his boxing career to attend Cleveland State University and help coach at Cudell while Gonzalez is in the process of getting on the transplant list.
"You can choose to be strong," Gonzalez says. "That's what I teach: how to be strong."