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Estrada-Gonzalez II: Chocolatito’s 5 Finest Performances

Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

This weekend one of the most anticipated fights of 2021 will take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX.

Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (50-2, 41 KOs) will defend his WBA Super Flyweight title against WBC Super Flyweight champion Juan “El Gallo” Francisco (41-3, 28 KOs) Estrada in a unification match that has been years in the making.

The two men first faced each other in 2012 at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles for Gonzalez’ WBA Light Flyweight title. That night Gonzalez would escape with a unanimous decision that would be debated over the next few years.

Their first battle proved Gonzalez to be an elite fighter at the top of his game, and Estrada earned a victory in defeat with his performance showcasing his future as a world champion.

For fighters that fight under the Featherweight limit of 126 pounds, the boxing world’s spotlight rarely shines on them. Over the last decade, Estrada and Gonzalez have proven to be the exception.

When Floyd Mayweather retired in September 2015 following his bout with Andre Berto, Gonzalez rose to the number one spot on the majority of many publications’ pound-for-pound list.

The 33-year old Gonzalez had already been through three weight classes by the time a vast amount of boxing fans were introduced to him in 2015. He would prove to be worthy of his lofty ranking for most. There was, however, a vocal segment of doubters due to Gonzalez’s weight class and because many of his fights were outside of the United States.

Now that the rematch is upon us, it will be essential to reflect on some of the highlights of each man’s career. The focus this time will be on the Nicaraguan four-division champion.

Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

5. Edgar Sosa (53-11, 31 KOs) May 2015 WTKO2

WBC Flyweight Title

First impressions can take you a long way.

Looking at the start of HBO’s 40-plus year tenure in boxing, its Boxing After Dark series may not have been successful if the first bout showed wasn’t Marco Antonio Barrera’s classic encounter with Kennedy McKinney.

On the undercard of Gennadiy Golovkin’s Middleweight title defense against Willie Monroe Jr., Gonzalez stole the show by stopping former Light Flyweight champion Edgar Sosa in two rounds in his HBO debut.

While Sosa was no longer in his prime when he faced Gonzalez, he was an accomplished fighter, having made 10 defenses of his WBC Light Flyweight title with victories over Brian Viloria, Giovanni Segura, and Ulises Solis.

Gonzalez’s demolition of Sosa is a template of how boxing can be done on the front foot while applying pressure.

Photo: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

4. Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16 KOs), September 2014 WTKO9

WBC Flyweight, Ring Magazine, and Lineal Flyweight titles

Before invading the United States, Gonzalez was a prominent fighter in Japan. He won his first world title in 2008, stopping Yutaka Niida to capture the WBA Minimumweight title with a fourth-round stoppage.

Gonzalez would defend his WBA 105-pound title three times before winning another title in Japan when he stopped Francisco Rosas with a second-round knockout to become the WBA Light Flyweight champion in 2010.

In total, the Nicaraguan has fought 10 times in the country of Japan.

Arguably, his most complete performance came in 2014 when he scored a dominant 9th-round stoppage over three-division champion Akira Yaegashi.

At the time, Yaegashi was the lineal Flyweight champion looking to make the fourth defense of his title. However, Gonzalez had other plans scoring two knockdowns before stopping the Japanese fighter.

While Gonzalez would face more well-known fighters in the United States, his victory over Yaegashi in Japan stands as the one performance where one could say that he was at his absolute peak.

The victory over Yaegashi would earn Gonzalez the WBC, Ring Magazine, and Lineal Flyweight titles.

Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA

3. Khalid Yafai (26-1, 15 KOs) February 2020 WTKO9

WBA Super Flyweight Title

A comeback is always part of a great story.

Heading into the bout with the United Kingdom’s then-undefeated Khalid Yafai, the former pound-for-pound fighter was the considerable underdog. Many fans and pundits had written Gonzalez off after his brutal knockout loss to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017.

With the death of his longtime trainer Arnulfo Obando in 2016 and multiple surgeries to his knee, the prevailing thought throughout the boxing industry was that Gonzalez’s best days were behind him.

However, against Yafai, the Nicaraguan turned back the clock and once again exhibited his stellar offense overwhelming the British fighter to a ninth-round stoppage.

With so much doubt surrounding Gonzalez at the time, the victory over Yafai stands out in his Hall-of-Fame bound career.

Photo: The Ring Magazine

2. Juan Francisco Estrada (41-3, 28 KOs) November 2012

WUD12 (116-112, 116-112, 118-110)

WBA Light Flyweight Title

The following two entries may be controversial; however, regardless of how close a fight may be, if the performance is still stellar, it should be included.

At the now-defunct Sports Arena in Los Angeles, a lesser-known Juan Francisco Estrada challenged Gonzalez for his WBA Light Flyweight title. At the time, Gonzalez was looking to make the fifth defense of his title, and what he got may have been more than he expected.

Estrada put on a valiant effort fighting on even terms with Gonzalez throughout the entirety of the match, producing one what would have been the fight of the year if not for the fourth and final bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Watching the fight back, you can hear former Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes doing commentary. As the rounds continue, you can listen to his admiration and respect grow larger for both fighters as he initially seemed dismissive of both men due to their size.

While Gonzalez would win a unanimous decision, Estrada gained a vast amount of respect, as many observers believed that he could have been awarded the decision.

Similar to Floyd Mayweather’s victory over Saul Alvarez, with Estrada going on to become a unified Flyweight champion and the current lineal and WBC Super Flyweight champion, the victory for Gonzalez has aged like wine.

Photo: Ed Mulholland/HBO

1. Carlos Cuadras (39-4-1, 27 KOs) September 2016

WUD12 (115-113, 116-112, 117-111)

WBC Super Flyweight title

Winning a boxing bout is hard enough, but if you can make history while doing so, it makes it that much better.

When Gonzalez first moved up to the Super Flyweight division, he immediately went after one of the top fighters in the division in Mexico’s Carlos Cuadras.

Cuadras at the time was undefeated and had made six defenses of his title, including a victory over Rungvisai. Although this would be the first fight that showed the wear and tear on Gonzalez’s body, it was a fantastic match that showed the quality of both men.

Gonzalez started the fight fast, unleashing combinations on Cuadras while applying pressure. However, as the bout went on, Cuadras began to assert himself in the match landing clean punches of his own.

Similar to the bout with Estrada, Gonzalez earned a unanimous decision, but Cuadras also earned respect for going toe-to-toe and holding his own with one of the best in the world.

Gonzalez’s victory was historic in that he became the first fighter in history to win titles at 105, 108, 112, and 115 pounds. He also eclipsed his mentor Alexis Arguello by becoming Nicaragua’s first four-division champion.

When Gonzalez faces off against Estrada this weekend, he will be given an opportunity to enhance his legacy in the sport further. In many respects, a victory over Estrada now will mean more than it did in 2012.

In an era where streaming services, rival promoters, and fighter apathy halt fights from happening, fans should be thankful that there are fighters still out there willing to fight the best.

Win or lose, Gonzalez will be headed to the Hall-of-Fame in Canastota.

“Life has been hard and difficult with sacrifice,” Gonzalez stated to Boxingscene.com “My family, my children, what makes me get up in the morning is to keep reaping victories in boxing. Not on that, but many young guys that want to be like the champ, like Chocolatito.

Estrada-Gonzalez 2 will be broadcast on DAZN. Coverage starts Saturday March 13th at 8:00PM ET/5:00PM PT

“But in the end, it’s what gives you your happiness in life. What you want to achieve in your life. When I retire, I will leave very satisfied and very happy to have been able to have so much success for my kids and my family, and also for the people of Nicaragua.”

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