It’s easy to forget about boxing’s many ills whenever Juan Francisco Estrada or Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez steps between the ropes. Put them together and you can’t think of anything else.
Eight-plus years after their classic 2012 scrap at junior flyweight, they put on another magnificent battle at super flyweight on Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Estrada won a split decision by scores of 117-111, 115-113 and 113-115 to unify the WBA and WBC super flyweight belts.
These two will go down in history like Leonard and Duran, Gatti and Ward and like Morales and Barrera. What they lack in size they make up for in boxing skill and heart.
They combined to throw 2,529 punches according to CompuBox, but this wasn’t just a battle royale where they threw punches indiscriminately and hoped to hit something. This was a high-level chess match where each of them created, and then took advantage of, their own openings.
Gonzalez entered the night a certified legend and is all but a lock to be elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame the first time he’s eligible. He’s one of the 25 greatest fighters in the sport’s history, and that doesn’t change with the ever-so-close defeat against one of his greatest rivals.
But Estrada, for as good as he’s been in his career, still needed a little bit more to take that next step. He did that by landing the biggest scalp of his career, toppling Gonzalez in a match that could wind up being the 2021 Fight of the Year.
He now has wins over Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Carlos Cuadras twice, Tyson Marquez, Giovanni Segura and Brian Viloria. He’s the classic boxer-puncher who never seems to rattle despite what’s going on.
Rungvisai is his mandatory, so it sets up an interesting option. An Estrada-Rungvisai rematch would be fascinating, but after all the drama between he and Gonzalez, who wouldn’t want to see that a third time?
Gonzalez didn’t show any signs of slowing, but being a super flyweight at 33 is like being a heavyweight at 53. He most likely doesn’t have a lot of time left before his legs give out on him and it becomes impossible to make 115 pounds any more.
Given that, it makes sense for Estrada to fight Gonzalez next, even if it means sacrificing one of the belts. This, though, is a situation where neither decision would be the wrong one.
“Rungvisai is the mandatory so I’ll look at that, but I’ll take a third fight any day with Chocolatito,” Estrada said.
After that battle, in which they went downstairs almost as often as they sought out the head, neither will be fighting any time soon. Each needs a long rest. That will give the business folks the time to figure out the best move to make.
This fight, though, was a celebration of boxing the sport, not boxing the business. They put on a classic battle because of the inner warrior inside each of them. They are competitive and determined men who hate to lose and who pour their guts out in the ring.
All of the nauseating b.s. you listen to when you only want to hear the best fighter calling out the best is absent with these two.
They are throwbacks in every sense of the word.
They could fight 10 times and I’d never miss it.
Though, if I called for it too loudly, I might get in trouble. That would be the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment, putting those two against each other too often.
It was a fight they’ll talk about years from now. And it was put on by fighters who are among the best who have ever done it. Appreciate what you are seeing because this is as rare as it is special and compelling.
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