Mexican super-flyweight Carlos Cuadras has enjoyed – and at times endured – a rollercoaster life and career.
Given the turbulence he had experienced, the 33-year-old is certainly grateful for the opportunity to face Srisaket Sor Rungvisai for the WBC super-flyweight title on 5 February – a rematch of a controversial 2014 bout between the two men for the same belt.
“History repeats itself!” ‘El Principe’ told Boxing Social. “I am very happy with this opportunity that the WBC has offered me, to fight again for a world title and against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. I hope this is a fair fight and that we both come out well. Rungvisai hits very hard. I will have to box, use my legs a lot and, above all, use my head to come out with the victory.”
Cuadras admitted he is relishing the opportunity to once again prove his fighting heart and pride in his Mexican heritage to fans around the world watching on DAZN – as well as those in attendance at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
“For me it is a source of pride to be Mexican,” Cuadras said. “Even more so when I leave my country and I am representing it. I feel very happy and proud of my roots and of being able to show what Mexican fighters are made of.”
Much has happened in the years since ‘El Principe’ defeated Srisaket via an eight-round technical decision I after a tight and tough contest which was called off after a headbutt by the Thai fighter ruled accidental by the referee opened a fight-ending cut over Cuadras’ left eye.
“It was a very difficult fight,” Cuadras replied when asked to reflect on the original contest between the duo. “I felt his punches a lot, but then I started throwing the jab and I realised that I was faster than him. I’d already studied and practiced that in the gym, so that’s what I did and it gave me the fight.
“Rungvisai got very desperate and that’s why he threw [his head forward], so I think the strategy for this second fight is the same: make him desperate so that he loses his mind.”
Cuadras successfully defended the title on six occasions before losing a thriller to the great Roman Gonzalez in 2016. Two fights later he lost a razor thin non-title contest to Juan Francisco Estrada on points and then suffered a decision loss to McWilliams Arroyo in 2018.
Later that year, Cuadras checked himself into rehab after admitting he had fallen foul of the temptations of drink and drugs. As WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman explained last year to this writer “with money and fame comes temptations and distractions” and Cuadras for a while “fell into the evil of drugs and alcohol”.
“We worked very closely with him to support him because he and his wife, they have a beautiful family,” Sulaiman said. “He’s a very sweet kid a very nice person, but when the effects of alcohol and drugs came that seemed to change him into a person who had no will.“We put him into a rehab centre. He was there six or eight months. But he’s been clean since then, thanks to the love and the dedication and the sacrifice of his wife.”
After returning from the brink of self-destruction, Cuadras faced Estrada for a second time, for his old WBC super-flyweight title in October 2020. Although he did not win, his performance that stirring night in Mexico City demonstrated his ample fighting heart.
Indeed, Cuadras was arguably unfortunate not to win. In round three he deposited Estrada on the canvas with a huge left hook. ‘El Gallo’ looked unsteady and fuzzy-headed but the bell rang 25 seconds early to end the stanza as he covered up desperately on the ropes from a vicious assault from Cuadras.
By the eleventh round of a bruising and breathless contest, Estrada was in control, punishing Cuadras with a succession of hard shots to the head and body and knocking him down twice. Both times the gutsy Cuadras rose and both times he came back swinging, until a further succession of heavy Estrada shots finally forced the referee to intervene and stop the fight.
Reflecting on this reverse, Cuadras displayed no bitterness, only pride and a little bit of regret.
“It was a great fight, by both of us. Fights between Mexicans are always wars. I showed that I can fight as well as box. I just think that at the end of the fight I stopped boxing. I have thought about it a lot, I should have boxed more.”
Estrada retained the WBC title after facing off against Roman Gonzalez in a Fight of the Year contender last year – the second meeting between the Mexican and his Nicaraguan rival.
“I think it was a great fight,” is Cuadras’ assessment of that mighty showdown. “It was very close indeed, it could have gone either way, although I though Francisco won slightly by one or two points. I think he closed the rounds well and although Roman started the rounds very strong, the ‘Rooster’ always won the closing of the round. I think that is what made the fight very difficult to score.”
Estrada’s subsequent elevation to ‘franchise’ champion for a planned third fight with Gonzalez (which has now been postponed as ‘El Gallo’ suffers from the after-effects of Covid-19) freed up the WBC’s 115lbs title, with the sanctioning body nominating Cuadras and Srisaket to fight for it.
“A third fight between them is more than deserved for both of them,” Cuadras said, speaking before the news of Estrada’s withdrawal. “But above all it made me very happy because it gave me the opportunity to dispute the world title against Rungvisai. Hopefully whoever wins faces the winner of Roman and Francisco. The most important thing now is for me to become world champion again and then beat those who have defeated me, who are Roman, Francisco and Arroyo.”
Cuadras-Srisaket 2 represents the eleventh instalment of the unofficial round robin tournament between Gonzalez, Estrada, Cuadras and Srisaket – an astonishing sequence of fights that began on 17 November 2012 when Gonzalez and Estrada met for the WBA light-flyweight crown. It’s a compelling series which shows no signs of drawing to a close any time soon.
It’s also a four-way rivalry that has captured the imagination of true boxing fans, some of whom have labelled this quartet of fighters ‘the new Four Kings’. (By way of comparison, the ‘original’ Four Kings – Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran shared the ring a total of nine times).
“We have all shown what we are made of and that has led to more and more matches between us where we just want to show who is the best in the division,” Cuadras reflected of this remarkable series of fights. “We have all won, but we have also lost so I think this rivalry will continue as long as we continue to box.”