Juan Francisco Estrada vs Felipe Orucuta
Juan Francisco Estrada may be one of the most accomplished fighters in boxing, not just his weight class. The former unified flyweight titlist is an excellent counter-puncher blessed with fight-ending power, a great chin and superb boxing skills. He gave a prime Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez the toughest fight of his title reign and his resume reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the lighter weight divisions. In his last contest, headlining the Super Fly 2 card, he lost a close majority decision against Chocolatito-conqueror Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, but once again gave a great account of himself in an excellent fight.
Fellow Mexican Felipe Orucuta is not a high-profile name and does not stand up to Estrada’s pedigree and body of work on paper, but he’s a legitimate contender at super flyweight. Twice he failed narrowly in challenges against long-time titlist Omar Narvaez, losing first a split decision and then a majority decision on the road in Argentina. Orucuta has a very high knockout percentage for a man fighting at 115 pounds, although most of his stoppage victories have come against Mexican club fighters. Estrada took the bombs of Sor Rungvisai, probably the hardest hitter in the division, so Orucuta’s power is unlikely to come as a shock to him.
When two Mexicans square off in the ring, a barnburner is usually the expected outcome. Estrada is rarely in a dull fight and Orucuta will be motivated like never before for what represents the biggest opportunity of his career in terms of public exposure. There are levels however in boxing, and Estrada holds the edge in every conceivable department going into this contest. Expect a wide points-victory or late stoppage in favour of ‘El Gallo’ who will surely turn his attention to a highly-anticipated rematch with Sor Rungvisai.
Kazuto Ioka vs McWilliams Arroyo
Kazuto Ioka announced his retirement last year at the age of only twenty eight, but later reversed this decision and will be making his comeback on the Super Fly 3 card. Ioka is a three-weight world champion who has fought at world class level for seven years and his only loss came by split decision to a then-streaking Amnat Ruenroeng in 2014. Although he has been out of the ring for almost a year and a half, he is still in his prime years and is looking to make another championship run in a fourth weight division.
McWilliams Arroyo will be no easy out for Ioka. The hardnosed Puerto Rican is a former amateur world champion and is unlucky not to have been crowned a world champion in the professional ranks, having also dropped a razor thin split decision to Ruenroeng for the IBF flyweight title in the latter’s native Thailand back in 2014. Arroyo went the distance with Chocolatito in the former pound-for-pound king’s last fight at flyweight and caused a mild upset in his last fight by taking a well-deserved majority decision over former super flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras.
Before his surprise retirement, Ioka had been showing signs of vulnerability, being dropped early by eighteen-year-old Thai novice Stamp Kiatniwat in 2016 before battling back to stop his opponent in the middle rounds. After a year and a half away from the ring, he is jumping straight back into world class level in the hope of securing a title fight at super flyweight. It could prove to be too early. Arroyo has the ring intelligence, durability and power to cause Ioka some serious problems. Don’t be surprised if he pulls off the win and leaves Ioka contemplating retirement once more.
Donnie Nietes vs Aston Palicte
Donnie Nietes has been one of the most consistent fighters of his generation in the lighter weight classes. The diminutive ‘Snake Man’ has been undefeated since 2004, his sole career defeat, and is a three weight world champion. On Saturday night, he will aim to make history and join compatriots Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire by winning a fourth world title in as many weight classes against Aston Palicte in an all-Filipino clash for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight title.
Despite his impressive achievements which also include holding The Ring magazine light flyweight title from 2014 to 2016, Nietes has flown under the radar of mainstream boxing for most of his career, almost all of which has been spent fighting in his homeland. He has fought in seventeen world title contests, but has never faced a marquee opponent. He did impress US fans in his last outing; showcasing skills and power to thoroughly dominate and stop experienced former champion Juan Carlos Reveco on the undercard of the Super Fly 2 card. Nietes will be hoping to reproduce the same kind of form when he returns to the Forum on Saturday to face what could be his toughest professional assignment to date.
Aston Palicte is by far the less-experienced man, but has some decent wins to his name, including taking Oscar Cantu’s ‘0’ and stopping former WBA light flyweight interim titlist Jose Alfredo Rodriguez last year. Nevertheless, neither is even close to being on Nietes’ level, so Palicte will need to produce a career-best performance to pull off the upset. He does however have youth and freshness on his side, being nine years younger than Nietes. With twenty knockouts from twenty four wins, he brings serious firepower to the table. Moreover, the Pinoy puncher is huge for the super flyweight limit. He possesses significant height and reach advantages over Nietes and will probably outweigh him considerably by fight night.
A betting man would have to go with Nietes, the more skilled and proven fighter, but the sheer size difference will ask some serious questions of a man who started off his championship career at minimumweight.
Photos by: Tom Hogan
Article by: Paul Lam
Follow Paul on Twitter at: @PaulTheWallLam