A LITTLE over three years ago, Juan Francisco Estrada and Carlos Cuadras combined to produce a thrilling, back-and-forth battle, with Estrada prevailing by just a solitary point on all three of the judges’ scorecards.
Heading into their rematch at the TV Azteca Studios in Mexico City, fight fans were hoping for, and expecting, much of the same. The two warring Mexicans did not disappoint. Estrada and Cuadras put forth a tremendous example of boxing at its best – skill, courage, intensity and incessant two-way action.
The real drama began as early as the third round, when a crafty right uppercut-left hook from Cuadras caused Estrada to stumble backwards and touch down on the canvas. Upon the resumption, the same clever combination connected on Estrada again and staggered the defending WBC super-flyweight champion. With his rival backed up on the strands, Cuadras flung forward and rattled off blows from both gloves, as Estrada retaliated in kind.
Although he is an intelligent counterpuncher, the versatile Estrada is also able to initiate exchanges himself by fighting on the front foot. It was his front-foot approach that was very much on display in this sequel.
Undeterred by suffering a knockdown in round three, Estrada pressed ahead with mean intentions. In the fifth, the Hermosillo resident targeted Cuadras’ liver with lashing left hooks, supplemented by solid strikes up top. Instead of choosing to retreat and recover, Cuadras’ immediate reaction was to shoot back at his aggressor.
Cuadras forced his foe to swallow a meaty left uppercut, before Estrada responded with a hard left hook. Two clean rights – an uppercut and a hook – pounded into Cuadras’ skull. Competing fiercely to regain a title that he had held from 2014 to 2016, the Mexico City-based contender demonstrated an impressive chin in the face of Estrada’s ferocious raids.
Round after round, Estrada let loose with poisonous body shots in the form of left hooks. Just as putting the miles in on the road during training allows a fighter to build up reserves of energy for fight night, consistently concentrating attacks to the midsection gradually chips away at an opponent and pays off down the line. Like putting money in the bank, Estrada was investing.
Even though the downstairs damage was steadily taking its toll on Cuadras, he never failed to hit back when put under pressure. In fact, he had one of his best rounds in the 10th, when a forceful left hook caught the onrushing Estrada up high. For the remainder of the session, Cuadras smartly sidestepped around the ring and peppered Estrada with double jabs and fast flurries.
Going into the 11th, the signs of war were etched across the bruised and swollen features of both men. Cuadras, 32, was marked up on the right cheekbone and by his right eye. Estrada, meanwhile, was sporting a nasty cut below his left eyebrow, which he had received in the previous round and was now smothered in Vaseline.
If round 10 was a good one for Cuadras, then round 11 was a definitive one for Estrada. The 30-year-old stormed out of the blocks and dropped Cuadras onto his backside by the ropes with a left hook-right hook combo. The fallen challenger rose to his feet and valiantly battled back as Estrada relentlessly hunted him down with spiteful salvoes.
Just as Cuadras was launching a strike of his own, a clobbering right hook from Estrada sent him to his knees and flat onto his face. It seemed as if the ragged Cuadras was completely spent, but incredibly he bit down on his gumshield and somehow found the strength to swap punches with Estrada. Yet when an unanswered two-fisted assault rocked Cuadras’ head back, the referee stepped in to halt proceedings. The official time of the stoppage – the first such defeat of Cuadras’ career – was 2-22.
Having reigned as a unified world flyweight titlist from 2013 to 2016, Estrada is likely to get a chance to do the same at super-flyweight in 2021. That is because he has been heavily linked to a mouth-watering return bout with fellow super-fly standout Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Estrada was unanimously outpointed by the Nicaraguan icon in a competitive and compelling clash at light-flyweight nearly eight years ago. If, as expected, the rematch comes off, it will be extremely fascinating to see who will triumph at 115lbs.
After more than 50 fights and 15 years as a professional, Chocolatito is still going strong. The four-division world ruler, who is in his second stint as a super-flyweight champ, retained his WBA crown in fine style with a unanimous points victory (118-110, 117-111 and 116-112) over game Mexican Israel Gonzalez.
Despite having to contend with disadvantages in height and reach, the Managua marvel belied his 33 years by outworking his 23-year-old opponent. Maintaining a torrid pace and making expert use of angles, Chocolatito’s controlled aggression and eye-catching variety proved too much for Israel, even if the man from Los Cabos did occasionally enjoy some success with his quick hands.
The third world title contest on this Matchroom and Zanfer co-promotion saw Mexico City livewire Julio Cesar Martinez, 25, tear through late substitute Moises Calleros, of Monterrey. Overweight and therefore unable to challenge for Martinez’s WBC flyweight belt, the seasoned 31-year-old touched down on the mat following a trio of rapid-fire hooks within the opening minute.
Martinez continued to punish his countryman with power shots in the second round, leading the referee to intervene at 2-42.
THE VERDICT Bring on Estrada-Chocolatito II next year.
Juan Francisco Estrada (114 1/2lbs), 41-3 (28), w rsf 11 Carlos Cuadras (114 1/2lbs), 39-4-1 (27); Roman Gonzalez (114lbs), 50-2 (41), w pts 12 Israel Gonzalez, (114lbs), 25-4 (11); Julio Cesar Martinez (111lbs), 17-1 (13) 1NC, w rsf 2 Moises Calleros (117 1/2lbs), 33-10-1 (17); Austin Williams (160lbs), 6-0 (5), w rsf 5 Esau Herrera (157 1/2lbs), 19-12-1 (8); Diego Pacheco (167 3/4lbs), 10-0 (8), w rsf 2 Juan Antonio Mendez (164 3/4lbs), 12-3-2 (10); Otha Jones III (130lbs), 5-0-1 (2), d pts 6 Kevin Montiel Mendoza (130lbs), 6-0-1 (3).