By Jake Donovan
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Kal Yafai’s year was supposed to begin with a unification bout. With any luck, it will at least end that way.
Up next for England’s unbeaten super flyweight titlist is rest and relaxation to heal several injuries suffered in a clear-cut win over Norbelto Jimenez in his fifth successful defense Saturday evening. Yafai suffered a cut for the first time in his career, along with a punctured eardrum and yet more damage to his oft-injured hands in retaining his title.
As the healing process begins, the Matchroom Boxing-promoted titlist can take in summer action on DAZN—which carried Saturday’s contest—with the company’s latest signing. World 115-pound champion Juan Francisco Estrada became the latest to join the stable, set to debut with Matchroom later this summer in his native Mexico.
“Estrada will box August 24 and we’re looking to put him in straight away with Kal after that,” Hearn told BoxingScene.com. “Kal suffered some damage tonight, he’s got to heal up but he just wants the big fights. We owe him that and we are really going to push for this unification clash later in the year.”
The pair of 115-pounders were supposed to appear on the same April DAZN show in separate bouts, but several circumstances changed those plans.
Yafai (26-0, 15KOs) was due to collide with Donnie Nietes in a title unification clash but suffered a hand injury and was unable to honor the April date. The bout was due to take place on the same show as the scheduled rematch between Estrada and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, which landed in late April and with Estrada scoring a 12-round decision to avenge a loss to the Thai boxer 14 months prior.
The fallout in the intended chief support resulted in Nietes having to commit to a mandatory title defense versus Aston Palicte, instead opting to vacate his title in pursuit of bigger game. The delay in Yafai’s schedule was long enough to have to honor his own mandatory challenge in facing Dominican Republic’s Jimenez before moving forward.
Another mandatory challenger is waiting in the wings in Australia’s Andrew Moloney, but Yafai’s side seems confident that such a bout won’t be ordered in the near future. Assuming that Estrada prevails in his August 24 hometown appearance, a title unification bout could be up next.
“I want that fight,” insists Yafai. “I want all the big fights.”
His longtime promoter is prepared to deliver them.
“This was Kal’s 5th title defense,” noted Hearn of England’s current longest-reigning titlist. “It’s time to gamble. I’m so proud of how much he’s already made. When you sign a 115-pound fighter, you think of how little money used to be available for these guys.
“But you look around today, and a big fight here can really secure his legacy, provide his family with a fortune. It’s time to gamble. A unification bout with Estrada straightaway would be massive.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: JakeNDaBox