(Original Image: ESPN)
On March 13th 2021, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX, WBC champ Juan Francisco “El Gallo” Estrada (41-3, 28KOs) gets a long awaited second shot at besting WBA title-holder, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (50-2, 41KOs).
Gonzalez and Estrada first met on November 17th, 2012. This was Estrada’s first championship fight, and Gonzalez’s eighth title defense, his fifth at Light Flyweight.
It was a fight that, on paper, was a wide unanimous decision in favor of the champion Roman Gonzalez. The judge’s scorecards alone didn’t tell the story of the cerebral back-and-forth, drama-laden display of fortitude that was “Chocolatito” vs Estrada I.
Estrada started out boxing well and moving in and out of range with his blistering hand and foot speed. Gonzalez, as is typical for him, pressed on the young Estrada with short powerful punches and ring generalship. Though he was boxing incredibly and picking his spots, Estrada would occasionally succumb to Gonzalez’s methodical footwork and take hellacious combinations to the body and head while trapped in a corner, or against the ropes. The last few rounds were fought in the proverbial phone booth; The output of both men was exhausting, even for the viewer. Combination met with combination. Chocolatito appeared to be doing more damage with his compact power, but Estrada’s combos were longer, smoother, and faster. Most of the rounds seemed to be swing rounds that would come down to what the individual judges were looking for. It was a true, but unbelievable, example of grit and talent in both fighters. A preview of the wars to come for both men, as they would make their respective climbs to the Super Flyweight division. As stated before, the scorecards were not representative of the battle that took place. 118-110, 116-112, and 116-112, all in favor of the defending champion Roman Gonzalez. Many spectators felt that both men did enough to win, or at the very least, neither deserved to lose.
Plenty of time has passed since then. Each fighter has accrued multiple belts and moved through multiple weight classes in the more than 8 years since the first fight. Since 2012, Gonzalez had made the harrowing ascension to the very top of the pound-for-pound list. With his skills, IQ, power, and unrelenting pressure, “Chocolatito” cleared out the rest of Light Flyweight, and made his way through the next two weight classes, Flyweight, and Super Flyweight. He became the first boxer in history to win a world title in all of the four lowest weight classes, having started his career at Minimumweight. With his propensity for getting into fan-friendly wars and bringing the best out of his opponents, then beating them, he was dubbed by HBO “Little Drama Show” and was often featured just before “the Big Drama Show” Gennadiy ”GGG” Golovkin. The world was recognizing, even in the smaller weight classes, what a force this man had become.
In 2016 he lost his long time trainer, Arnulfo Obando to a stroke, shortly thereafter, in March and September of 2017, Gonzalez took two losses in a row to Wisaksil Wangek(a.k.a. Sirisikat Sor Runvisai, a.k.a. SSR)49-5-1 (42 KOs). One by contested majority decision, and one by vicious and sobering KO. “Chocolatito” was dropped from the pound-for-pound list, and written off quickly and unceremoniously.
He made his return to the ring September 2018, just over a year after his last fight with Rungvisai. He would plow through Moises Fuentes(47-2) and Diomel Diocos (48-2) on his way to WBA Super Flyweight Champion Kal Yafai (49-2). Though many doubted he still had what it took to be a champion in the weight class some said was one rung too high, he bested Yafai and became a champion once more. in October of 2020 he defended the title he worked so hard to get back to against Israel Gonzalez (50-2).
Juan Francisco Estrada, after the loss to Gonzalez, has done some climbing of his own. He moved up to flyweight and became unified champion with the WBA and WBO belts.
After five defenses, he moved to Super Flyweight. His first shot at a belt at this weight was in February 2018, against none other than Sirisikat Sor Rungvisai. He was fighting for the WBC belt Rungvisai had taken from Gonzalez just months before. Estrada fought tooth and nail, but fell just short on the scorecards (114-114, 115-113, and the surprising 117-111) in favor of Sirisikat.
Though he had yet another loss on his record, he was not dissuaded from realizing his potential at Super Flyweight. He fought twice more in 2018 and eventually worked his way back to a second chance at the powerful Wangek in April of 2019. On this occasion, the night was his. He used his quickness and intelligence to befuddle SSR, and won a relatively close, but unanimous decision. He has defended these belts twice since, and made his own way into the top ten pound-for-pound himself, though he hasn’t yet cracked the top five in most people’s eyes.
Now the time has come for these two world-class champions to come together once more. Gonzalez vs. Estrada II is almost certain to be an exciting event. One man there to prove he still has what it takes to be on the pound-for-pound list, the other there to show why he is there currently. Will Roman win back the titles he lost to Rungvisai, and show Estrada that he is still a fighter to be reckoned with? Has Estrada improved enough since the first fight to best Gonzalez and finally avenge this loss, as he has done all his others? One thing is certain; both of these fighters consistently put on fan-friendly fights, and show the heart, grit, and determination it takes to be a champion in the famed “Superfly” division. Regardless of the outcome, the fans will win.