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Estrada-Gonzalez II: A Rivalry at the Crossroads

Gallo-Chocolatito
Suministrada/Levi Luna

The long-anticipated rematch between Mexico’s Juan “El Gallo” Francisco Estrada (41-3, 28 KOs) and Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (50-2, 41 KOs) is set to take place in 2021 on March 13.

A venue has not been chosen; however, regardless of where the fight takes place, fans can expect an action-filled night of boxing.

The stakes could not be higher for both fighters as the two pugilists have something to prove against each other.

When Estrada–age 30–and Gonzalez–age 33–first stepped in the ring in November 2012, it was Estrada’s first major world title bout and his first fight in the United States.

Gonzalez was in his prime and arguably at his peak as the WBA Light Flyweight champion making the fifth defense of his title.

Estrada would be moving down from Flyweight to Light Flyweight to challenge the Nicaraguan for his WBA title, and the results would prove to be memorable.

In an all-out war where both fighters had their share of moments with numerous momentum swings, Gonzalez won a unanimous decision over Estrada at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in a fight that many argue could have easily been scored for the Mexican.

Similar to how Estrada’s fellow countryman Juan Manuel Marquez chased rival Manny Pacquiao up the weight scale following their second encounter, Estrada would seek a rematch with Gonzalez for years.

“It was my first attempt at a world title,” said Estrada to Ring Magazine.” I dropped down from Flyweight (112) to fight at 108 pounds. No one wanted to fight him at that time. It was a great fight, and I think that’s why people have been asking for the rematch for the last eight years.”

Following his victory over Estrada, Gonzalez would continue to prove himself to be one of the best fighters in the world.

He would head to Japan to stop Akira Yaegashi in nine rounds in September 2014 to win the WBC Flyweight title. Gonzalez would end up making four defenses of his WBC title, winning three of the four by stoppage, including wins over Brian Viloria and McWilliams Arroyo.

By the time the Nicaraguan was featured on a national level on HBO, playing the role of Robin to Gennadiy Golovkin’s Batman in 2015, Gonzalez was no longer at his peak but still operating at an elite level.

During his run on HBO, Gonzalez made history by becoming the first Nicaraguan fighter to win titles in four weight classes when he defeated Carlos Cuadras in a fight of the year candidate for the WBC Super Flyweight title in September 2016.

The victory over Cuadras would also garner Gonzalez with the distinction of being the first fighter in boxing history to win titles at Minimumweight, (105) Light Flyweight (108), Flyweight (112), and Super Flyweight (115).

The Cuadras fight would prove to be a turning point for Gonzalez in his career and life. At Super Flyweight, Gonzalez had reached his ceiling, as his power no longer had the same impact as it did at Flyweight and Light Flyweight.

In November 2016, Gonzalez’s longtime trainer Arnulfo Obando passed away from a stroke that resulted in him being declared brain dead when he arrived at the hospital.

Gonzalez would then run into Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.

Numerous great fighters run into one fighter in their career that will always give them trouble.

At Madison Square Garden in March 2017, Gonzalez would suffer the first defeat of his career, losing a majority decision to Rungvisai.

Marilyn Paulino/RBRBoxing

The fight was one of the best of the year, with most ringside observers and media scoring the fight in favor of Gonzalez. However, it seemed that something was missing from Gonzalez’s performance.

The Nicaraguan’s reign as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world came to an end that night against Rungvisai. He was ranked at the top spot with The Ring Magazine from September 2015 to March 2017.

In a rematch later that year in September 2017, Rungvisai would quell any doubts about his victory as he brutally stopped Gonzalez in four rounds.

Many fans and pundits would largely write-off Gonzalez following his losses to Rungvisai. This, compounded with inactivity due to injuries, including surgery on his right knee in 2018, contributed to Gonzalez being somewhat forgotten.

For Juan Francisco Estrada, the bout with Gonzalez would be a launching point that would lead to more world titles.

The Mexican technician would travel to Macao, China, to win the WBA and WBO Flyweight titles with a split decision over Brian Viloria.

Estrada would then make five successful title defenses with wins over the likes of Giovanni Segura and Hernan Marquez. Along with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Estrada has become known as the best fighter currently out of Mexico.

On the same night of Gonzalez’s destruction at the hands of Rungvisai, Estrada would make his debut on HBO in a fight with Carlos Cuadras.

Tom Hogan/K2 Promotions

The bout was as close as can be, with a knockdown by Estrada in the 10th round being the difference on all three judges’ scorecards.

All three judges scored the bout 114-113 for Estrada.

In 2018 and 2019, Estrada would enter into his own pair of bouts with Rungvisai. He lost the first bout by majority decision in a fight of the year candidate that could have been scored for either man.

The rematch in April 2019 was much more one-sided. Estrada seemingly figured out the Rungvisai puzzle, winning a unanimous decision and the WBC Super Flyweight title.

Estrada would go on to make two defenses of his WBC title, including an 11th round TKO over Cuadras in a rematch that was every bit as entertaining as their first match in October 2020.

While 2020 has been a terrible year for boxing and the world at large, Gonzalez made a come back showcasing that he was not ready to hang up the gloves.

In February 2020, he stopped the United Kingdom’s Khalid Yafai in a dominant performance. Gonzalez scored a ninth-round stoppage against the then-undefeated fighter to win the WBA Super Flyweight championship.

Gonzalez would then defend his title against Israel Gonzalez on the same card as Estrada’s rematch with Cuadras. The Nicaraguan showed glimpses of his former self-winning a unanimous decision.

The stage is now set for a rematch between Estrada and Gonzalez.

The circumstances are vastly different from their first encounter. Both men have gained more experience facing adversity and are now in inverse positions.

“I think he has gained has helped him in his career,” said Gonzalez to Ring Magazine. “He’s a different fighter because of the level of opposition he has faced and what he has learned in those fights.

“I get asked if there is a thorn in my side. People have even said that Estrada beat me in the first fight. I do think that a rematch against ‘Gallo’ will be a great fight. I’ve always said that the fighter who prepares himself the best will be the winner of the rematch.”

Estrada is now in the top position at Super Flyweight and is considered one of the best fighters in the world, pound for pound. A victory over Gonzalez will cement him as one of the best fighters out of Mexico in this era.

“I have three losses, and I’ve avenged two of them,” stated Estrada. “The only one I haven’t avenged is the loss to Roman.”

A victory over Gonzalez for Estrada would add to his credentials as one of the best in the world.

However, for Gonzalez, a win over Estrada would prove historic and further cement him as one of the best fighters of the last 25 years.

Estrada-Gonzalez II will see two fighters at different stages of their career. Gonzalez at the tail end of an already Hall-of-Famer career, and Estrada putting together a resume that will one day lead him into the Hall-of-Fame.

The circumstances may be different regarding their rivalry; however, the one thing that can be guaranteed is that the sequel is likely to be just as good as the original.

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