The story of the New Four Kings – Part Nine: Estrada vs Cuadras II

As the long-awaited rematch between Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada approaches, Boxing Social’s Luke G. Williams is revisiting, fight-by-fight, the nine-bout series between Gonzalez, Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Carlos Cuadras, which has provided boxing fans with a 21st Century equivalent of the 1980s Four Kings series… Today the series concludes with a re-examination of the rematch between Estrada and Cuadras from December 2020… 

Juan Fransciso Estrada WTKO11 Carlos Cuadras, October 23, 2020, Mexico City.

Juan Francisco Estrada is a man whose life has been touched by death, but the Mexican has always resolutely refused to allow himself to be defined by the tragedies that have befallen him.

“At some point something bad has to happen, because life is not all happiness,” he once said. “They are tests that God sends us. It’s something you need to learn how to overcome. One must learn to endure pain.” 

At the age of seven, Estrada’s mother died of cancer. His father passed away when he was 14 and his selfless and loving aunt – who nurtured and raised him and his siblings after the passing of his mother – was killed when he was 21, struck, unexpectedly and devastatingly, by a car.

Estrada was left bereft and gasping for breath by each of the body shots that fate swung at him, but on each occasion he fought back.

A pattern of setbacks followed by triumphs have also defined his ring career. In 2012, he lost his challenge for Roman Gonzalez’s light-flyweight title but rebounded to win two flyweight titles in his next fight against Brian Viloria. In 2018, his tilt at Srisaket Sor Rungvisai’s WBC super-flyweight crown – contested on the anniversary of his mother’s death – also ended in defeat. The following year, however, Estrada triumphed in the rematch.

All of which brings us to round three of his fiercely contested 2020 rematch and defence of his WBC 115lbs title against rival and countryman Carlos Cuadras, behind closed doors at the TV Azteca studios in Mexico City. In round three, Estrada found himself deposited on the canvas by a huge Cuadras left hook.

His legs unsteady and his head fuzzy, what happened next serves as an apt metaphor for El Gallo’s whole life and career.

The Mexican did what he has always done. He dusted himself down, got up and fought back. 

True, Estrada also benefited from a slice of good fortune – the bell ringing 25 seconds early in the round as he covered up desperately on the ropes from a vicious assault from Cuadras – but only the harshest of critics would deny that he deserved such a serendipitous occurrence, after a life that has often otherwise been characterised by ill luck.

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.

For Cuadras, Estrada’s triumph was a corresponding moment of despair. The 32-year-old ‘El Principe’ has overcome deeply troubled times himself, checking himself into rehab in 2018 after admitting he had fallen foul of the temptations of drink and drugs.

As WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman explained recently to Boxing Social, “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 continued. “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. The complete opposite of what a boxer does, which is a life of perseverance and sacrifice and hard work.

“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.”

Although he did not beat Estrada, Cuadras’ performance that stirring night in Mexico demonstrated his ample fighting heart.

Although it is Estrada who now moves into a rematch with Chocolatito this weekend and – possibly – a rubber match with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai beyond that, Cuadras’ recovery from addiction is a hopeful story in its own right – and a further example of what makes these ‘New Four Kings’ of boxing so special, in and out of the ring.

“He’s one of those fighters who can beat anyone in the ring, he can win against any fighter,” Sulaiman insisted. “And he’s still in the mix. He can still get another shot to regain his championship. Overall, he’s a very nice kid who has thankfully recovered from the evils of addictions.”

Cuadras’ career is far from over and the story of the ‘New Four Kings’ also seems sure to have a few chapters left to run, too…