It’s not a new thing to notice the buzz in an arena before a big fight.
It was impossible to miss tonight. Fans showed up knowing what they were going to get. Two of the greatest sub-bantamweight performers of all-time were locking horns for the third time. It was special twice already.
This one wasn’t quite as special but it was still one hell of a show. Lineal Jr. bantamweight king Juan Francisco Estrada kept history’s crown for the fifth time by employing a strategy rich with movement and accentuating his edge in youth and speed.
Gonzalez started slow in the first two rounds, seemingly warming up in real time. He looked like the older man and as the fight wore on his volume offense never really got on track. That little step lost from even 2021 was apparent. So was a smart approach from Estrada to make Gonzalez work harder to get to him.
Eventually Gonzalez did. Estrada increasingly went to the rope in the second half and Estrada was hit with heavy shots. Estrada kept his hands moving. Gonzalez kept his more impactful. In the last two rounds, rounds where Gonzalez often has an extra kick, he didn’t quite have the sort of finish he has in the past. Estrada dug deep, met Gonzalez head on, and when it was over they were talking about chapter four.
The score here read seven rounds to five for Estrada. None of the three judges saw the same fight; it appears the debates will continue online as well. So be it.
The fans leaned to Estrada in the arena on the night but at the end they gave both men their applause and respect. These aren’t just run of the mill champions. What they saw, what these two have given for more than a decade apiece, is genuine greatness, earned in blood and sweat. Their first fight played as an undercard feature to a small crowd on Wealth TV. Their third packed thousands into an arena.
They weigh 115 lbs.
In the US market, that sort of staying power and esteem doesn’t come often. They’re special. This era around their weights is special.
We were all lucky to see it.
Futures: Will they fight a fourth time? The money might be there but it’s hard to see Gonzalez getting better in a fourth fight. Sand runs out of the hourglass eventually and Estrada has other mountains he can conquer. Estrada versus the winner of Kazuto Ioka-Joshua Franco is a better destination for Estrada and the sport. He’s earned the right to try to collect the rest of the belts.
Gonzalez isn’t done and likely will get more chances but it’s not going to get easier. An intriguing fight might be an old man showdown with former titlist Donnie Nietes. They never faced off in their prime.
Regardless of what either man does, one element of the future is clear. Gonzalez and Estrada are headed to the Hall of Fame. They earned their place with the immortals.
As to the rest of the night…
Undercard Action From Glendale
The first world championship fight of the night could have dovetailed perfectly into the main event. WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (19-2, 14 KO) stepped in earlier this year to test Chocolatito and ultimately bridged the gap between the second and third Estrada fights. It didn’t go well that night for Martinez in a one-sided loss that resembled a teacher and student as much as two adversaries, but here was a chance to reset his career.
Instead, we got Martinez versus Spain’s Samuel Carmona (8-1, 4 KO).
Carmona had spots where it appeared he could sit down and box Martinez silly. Martinez had spots where he landed big, single shots fans could hear in the rafters. Around those spots was a non-fight that drew hostile boos from the crowd. There can be a fine line between movement and outright running. Carmona made a case that he was doing the latter.
Carmona’s hand may have been hurt. Fans still had to watch it. When the decision came in for Martinez, one could have thought he’d really accomplished something. The boos moments before when Carmona dared to raise his hands at the closing bell, signifying victory, told a different story.
Sometimes, an approach that is ‘working’ gets punished for being attempted. The roar for Martinez may have been as much a celebration of Carmona’s approach being discouraged as it was Martinez’s hand being raised.
On a night of exciting fights, it was the one between.
In a night filled with fighters below the bantamweight limit, super middleweight hopeful Diego Pacheco (17-0, 14 KO) made the most of the spotlight afforded him. His right hand dropped Ricardo Luna (24-9-2, 16 KO) early in the second and Pacheco followed up with another knockdown not long after.
What made the fight memorable was the way Luna got up after the second knockdown. Luna had already been stopped three times in his career. He was clearly overmatched. Luna, banging his gloves together, didn’t come forward after the second knockdown to accept the inevitable. Luna tried to find a bomb. He dug in hard to the body. Pacheco finished him, dropping Luna a third time before the referee, Luna corner, and ringside doctor combined to halt the action.
But Luna finished a man who could have packed it in with less punishment and didn’t. Fights like these are there to build fighters like Pacheco for bigger tomorrows. They’re better, for fans and young fighters, when the Luna’s of the world come to win despite the odds against them.
As the primary portion of the card kicked off, it was hard to miss the ovation 2016 Mexican Olympian Joselito Velasquez (15-1-1, 10 KO) made his way to the ring. Cheers transformed to chants of “Mexico!” at the start of the second round as Velazquez got off to a solid start. What became a fantastic opener to the primary card airing on DAZN and pay-per-view changed in round three and the chants would come and go from there.
When they went away, it was clear former WBC flyweight titlist Cristofer Rosales (35-6, 21 KO) was doing the better work. It wasn’t until the tenth round that Rosales’ fans chimed in with their own unison cries of “Nicaragua!” as they sensed an upset in the air.
The judges saw what the crowd did, unanimous at 97-92 Rosales. Rosales, now 6-1 since suffering a stoppage loss for his title to Julio Cesar Martinez in 2019, showed off his grit and experience. He wasn’t the harder hitter but he was the smarter boxer, eventually turning Velazquez’s aggression against him. It left Velazquez, who entered undefeated, in the position of trying to play catch up in the second half of the fight.
Those fabulous ten rounds hinted at the night ahead.
Some others thoughts on the weekend that was…As expected, Tyson Fury retained the lineal heavyweight crown with this third win against Dereck Chisora. It set the stage for ringside theatrics with former undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk. Usyk, who holds three alphabet titles at heavyweight, could well be Fury’s next foe…On the undercard in Glendale, neither Marc Castro nor Ammo Williams did much to stand out from the crowd but they both won and that’s enough for now…Brazilian Olympian Betriz Ferreira looked like a problem at her weights as a professional. Don’t be surprised to see her move quickly toward contention at Jr. light and lightweight in the next year or two.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org