Juan Francisco Estrada has never taken a shortcut in training at any point over the course of his incredible career.
By his own admission, however, he had to cheat the system ever so slightly just to preserve plans for the third entry in an already memorable ring rivalry.
The two-division and reigning lineal junior bantamweight champion found a way to move forward with his already twice-rescheduled rubber match with Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez. The two meet for a third time this Saturday atop a DAZN telecast from Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, the bout coming just three months after Estrada’s twelve-round win over countryman Argi Cortes on September 3 in his hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico.
Estrada (43-3, 28KOs) prevailed by unanimous decision but was visibly marked up after the surprisingly grueling championship clash. An immediate announcement revealed that plans were in place for a December 3 meeting with Nicaragua’s Gonzalez (51-3, 41KOs), which required Estrada to get creative in order to get in a full training camp.
“When we went for the post-fight medical checks, we were told to not train for a month after that fight,” Estrada revealed to BoxingScene.com. “We kind of sped up things and returned to the gym two weeks later. We adjusted accordingly, we had to tweak a couple of things during those two weeks that we weren’t supposed to be in the gym.
“After that, we went full strength so it was still a full training camp and once again at high altitude. We thought we worried that it would have been a longer wait and another delay to this fight. Thank goodness, we were able to improvise and get in the training that we did while waiting to fully heal.”
The third meeting comes nearly 21 months after Estrada claimed a disputed split decision win over Gonzalez in their epic rematch last March 13 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. A gap of more than eight years preceded that bout and the November 2012 entry into their memorable series, when Gonzalez outpointed Estrada in the final defense of his WBA junior flyweight title.
Estrada’s split nod over Gonzalez took place two weight divisions higher. Estrada successfully defended his lineal and WBC junior bantamweight crown for the third time while adding the WBA belt to his collection.
Original plans for Estrada-Gonzalez III were in place for last October 16 in Fresno, only for Gonzalez to test positive for Covid. Estrada was struck by the infectious disease earlier this year, shutting down training camp and bowing out of a rescheduled March 5 date that saw Gonzalez instead face and beat WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez in a non-title fight.
Neither physical alphabet title was any longer in Estrada’s possession by the time he faced Cortes. Instead, he defended his lineal championship for a fourth time and WBC ‘Franchise’ belt for the first time in a brutal slugfest that nearly once again derailed plans for a third fight with Gonzalez.
”It was obviously a very difficult fight,” Estrada admitted of his most recent win and the subsequent recovery process. “We trained really hard for the fight. We expected it to be easier than it was that night but we were still very well prepared for anything, training in high altitude. Argi was very inspired when he fought me that night. We couldn’t knock him out like he wanted but we were able to get the victory.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox