Juan Francisco Estrada unified the WBC and WBA super-flyweight titles via a controversial split decision verdict against Roman Gonzalez after a magnificent and unrelenting 12 rounds of action for the WBC and WBA super-flyweight titles in Dallas on Saturday night.
One judge saw the fight 115-113 for Estrada and another for Gonzalez by the same score, but it was a highly questionable card of 117-111 in the Mexican’s favour that swung the fight his way. Boxing Social saw it 116-112 for Gonzalez.
Regardless of the debate surrounding the verdict, this was a stirring contest that will be hard to top for fight of the year honours come the end of 2021.
Gonzalez is already a lock for the Hall of Fame, but the Nicaraguan maestro somehow found a way to further enhance his greatness by producing a level of performance – at 33 – that was inconceivable back in 2017 when he was KO’d by the sledgehammer blows of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
As for Estrada, the body of work the Mexican has now assembled – including this revenge victory against a man who defeated him for the WBA light-flyweight crown in 2012 – has surely also punched his way to Canastota.
Boxing fans were also winners tonight. We had waited nearly nine years for a rematch between these two wonderful warriors and – that 117-11 card aside – this return did not disappoint.
The bout pitted Estrada’s surgical precision and masterful combination punching against Chocolatito’s swarming but always artful aggression.
The first round was the quietest of the contest, providing the calm before the magnificent storm. Chocolatito operated behind a high guard, while Estrada was up on his toes and probably edged it with the crisper work.
Gonzalez found his rhythm in the next four rounds, taking them with his ceaseless forward momentum, clever footwork and head movement, as he scored with smooth, bruising combinations and forced Estrada out of his flow, on to the back foot and towards the ropes.
The fourth was particularly relentless. Big rights from Chocolatito forced El Gallo back before the Mexican replied by hurting the Nicaraguan to the body and head.
Chocolatito shaded this breathless stanza on the Boxing Social card, as he did the fifth, his short, rapid combinations and fluid movement enabling him to create and then exploit openings from angles, preventing Estrada from getting into his stride or rhythm.
Just as Gonzalez looked to be assuming control, however, El Gallo roared back. Round six saw Estrada land a big uppercut and his slashing attacks – including a big right cross and punishing work to the body – closed Chocolatito down and slowed his forward movement.
In the seventh, Estrada scored repeatedly to body and head, outworking and outlanding Gonzalez. The eighth was a tight round, both men finding openings, and Chocolatito landing a good left towards the end.
Heading into the final four rounds the contest was still up for grabs but the momentum seemed to rest with Estrada, with Chocolatito looking like he had slowed down.
However, the Nicaraguan took the ninth courtesy of another big left as he once again showed the ability to blunt Estrada’s offence through the rhythm and relentlessness of his own attack.
Estrada’s corner showed concern before the tenth, urging their man to go for the knockout, indicating that the sheer volume of Gonzalez’s punching thus far had caused them concern.
Estrada tagged Gonzalez with a big counter right in round ten, but again Gonzalez appeared to shade the stanza with his effective agression, while also on occasions cleverly swaying out of the way of Estrada’s ripostes.
Estrada began the eleventh aggressively, landing a hard right and working Gonzalez to the body. The Nicaraguan responded, tagging Estrada with a short right. By now, both men were clearly tired but they continued to throw leather with punishing and relentless regularity.
Estrada surely needed a big final round and he kept punching throughout, but Gonzalez matched him punch for punch and, as an almost desperate looking Estrada opened up, Gonzalez tagged him heavily on several occasions.
Punch stats told the story of an incredibly intense contest – the two men combined to throw a super-flyweight record of 2,529 punches, with Gonzalez outlanding Estrada 391-314 and also scoring with more shots in eight of the 12 rounds.
For this writer, the Nicaraguan four-weight champion clearly deserved the nod.
However, after a fight of such brilliance, heart and endeavour from two brilliant boxers it seems somewhat churlish to carp about the scorecards.
Instead, I’ll leave the final words to two men who represent everything that is great about boxing.
Estrada declared: “I think I did enough to win. Chocolatito is a great figher and I think he deserves the trilogy.”
Of the fact his corner told him he needed a knockout prior to round ten, Estrada admitted: “I knew it was a close fight, I didn’t know if I was up or down.”
Asked whether he wanted to fight his mandatory Srisaket next or have a third fight with Gonzalez, Estrada said: “Rungvisai is the mandatory so I’ll look at that. But I’ll take a third fight with Chocolatito any day.”
Gonzalez, for his part, was movingly magnanimous in defeat and refused to complain about the judging.
“Whatever happened had to happen,” said the 33-year-old. “I gave a good fight. I would have been happy either way with the result.
“It was a better fight than the first one. I felt strong and I felt I won. The last round I gave it my all. But the result is what God wanted. I’m happy because I’m going home to see my family. I’m very happy with my performance.”
On the undercard, the bout between WBA light-flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (15-0, 10 KOs) and Mexican Axel Vega (14-4-1, 8 KOs) was warming up nicely when the challenger injured his right hand in the fifth.
The diminutive Vega turned his back in agony and referee Raul Caiz waved it off realising he could not continue. The Mexican had been impressive up to that point.
Main image: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom USA.