WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman explains to Boxing Social the rationale behind Juan Francisco Estrada’s elevation to WBC super-flyweight ‘franchise’ champion, and why he is “extremely excited” about the sanctioning body’s forthcoming 115lbs tournament…
With memories of the pulsating rematch between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez still fresh in boxing fans’ minds, the prospect of three further showdowns involving the aforementioned duo and their perennial rivals Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Carlos Cuadras is almost too good to contemplate.
And yet that is the scenario that is set to unfold after the WBC’s recent decision to elevate Estrada to the position of ‘franchise champion’, enabling the Mexican to broker a third fight with Chocolatito, while Srisaket will face Cuadras – a rematch itself of a controversial and memorable 2014 showdown – for the main WBC title. The winners of these two enticing bouts will then face each other to determine super-flyweight supremacy.
“We are extremely excited,” WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman told Boxing Social by telephone from Mexico City on Friday. “We at the WBC created the concept, the ability to create special champions through the franchise champion idea. This concept enables us to grant fighters special rights and benefits which recognise their importance.”
The concept of franchise champions has had its critics, but Sulaiman persuasively argues that it is a designation that if applied strategically enables big fights to be made – or in the case of the super-flyweight division, three big fights.
“Canelo was the first one to be awarded that designation and then [Vasiliy] Lomachenko,” Sulaiman explained. “That decision made it possible to create Lomachenko versus Teofimo Lopez for all the titles in the lightweight division.
“When Chocolatito and Estrada signed to fight a rematch after eight years it was a match-up the boxing world had been waiting to see. It was a sensational fight the first one. We waited eight years to see the second one and in order for that fight to happen Sor Rungvisai had to step aside with the condition that he would fight the winner.
“But in March when the bell rang to end this unbelievable rematch, we all wanted to see round 13 between Estrada and Chocolatito. The whole world wanted to see the continuation of what had happened that night. So the WBC immediately began a process – Estrada contacted the WBC and requested to be awarded the designation as franchise champion.
“We agreed a special ruling designating him as franchise champion, enabling him to fight a third fight with Chocolatito while also ordering Sor Rungvisai to face Cuadras. The winners of those fights will meet each other to determine who will be the one champion in the division.
“This tournament gives us at least three great fights. Sor Rungvisai-Cuadras and Estrada-Chocolatito plus the two winners against each other. It also opens up the possibility of further great matches in the super-flyweight division. We are happy and looking forward to these great matches.”
Sulaiman emphasised that this special quartet of fighters are relishing the upcoming tournament. “They are ecstatic. They cannot wait for the fights to be announced and to take place.”
Remarkably, Estrada, Gonzalez, Cuadras and Srisaket have already faced each other a total of 10 times, beginning with a WBA light-flyweight showdown between ‘Chocolatito’ and ‘El Gallo’ in 2012.
The following nine fights involving the quartet have all been fought at super-flyweight, with the WBC 115lbs title on the line on eight of these occasions.
Such is the intensity of the fights that have unfolded between these four boxers over the course of nearly a decade, that they have been labelled in some quarters the ‘new Four Kings’ – a nod to the spectacular nine-fight series involving Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler in the 1980s.
The new Four Kings:
Gonzalez W12 Estrada, November 17, 2012, WBA light-flyweight title.
Cuadras WTD8 Srisaket, May 31, 2014, WBC super-flyweight title.
Gonzalez W12 Cuadras, September 10, 2016, WBC super-flyweight title.
Srisaket W12 Gonzalez, March 18, 2017, WBC super-flyweight title.
Estrada W12 Cuadras, September 9, 2017.
Srisaket WKO4 Gonzalez, September 9, 2017, WBC super-flyweight title.
Srisaket W12 Estrada, February 24, 2018, WBC super-flyweight title.
Estrada W12 Srisaket, April 25, 2019, WBC super-flyweight title.
Estrada WTKO11 Cuadras, October 23, 2020, WBC super-flyweight title.
Estrada W12 Gonzalez, March 13, 2021, WBC/WBA super-flyweight titles.