By Cliff Rold
The plot thickens in the red-hot Jr. bantamweight division.
26-year old former unified flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada (35-2, 25 KO), 115, of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, won his ninth straight and second in a row in his new division with a fifth-round stoppage of Colombian Anuar Salas (20-4, 12 KO), 114 ½. Salas was down twice in the fifth, the second time for the count.
With the win, Estrada won a lesser WBC belt in the division and gets himself in line for what could eventually be a rematch with champion Roman Gonzalez. Estrada lost to Gonzalez in a classic affair in 2012 at Jr. flyweight, Estrada’s last defeat. He currently waits in line behind mandatory Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, who faces Gonzalez next week, and former titlist Carlos Cuadras.
The referee was Helacio Garcia.
The difference in class didn’t take long to emerge. After taking most of the first round to feel out his prey, Estrada went about the business of methodically breaking Salas down. Quicker, more accurate, and far more skilled, Estrada broke through with his body attack in the fifth. Two knockdowns on shots to the body left Salas in crippling pain, the second time unable to beat the count. The referee finished the count at 2:01 of round five.
The defeat ends a six-fight winning streak for Salas and hands him his third stoppage defeat. Estrada, who missed more than a year with a hand injury between 2015 and 2016, appears fully back to form. Given the likely wait time for a shot at the WBC title, it will be interesting to see how he stays busy or if he pursues other titles in the class. A showdown with undefeated WBO titlist Naoya Inoue could be one for fans to hope for in the meantime.
The televised card got started with an important clash at bantamweight.
22-year old Luis Nery (23-0, 17 KO), 118, of Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, earned a mandatory shot at long reigning WBC bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka with a fifth-round stoppage of Colombian Jesus Martinez. Martinez took a beating through rounds three and four and was kept on the stool prior to the fifth. The referee was Abdiel Baragon.
Nery was a picture of pinpoint punching as the fight warmed up, swelling the right eye of Martinez as he worked away in combination. Nery stalked patiently throughout, taking some occasional shots but doing an effective job slipping and rolling to set up counters. In the third, he had Martinez in trouble and got him there again in the fourth. In the closing seconds of the latter, the abuse sent Martinez to the floor but the referee ruled a slip. It didn’t matter as Martinez was deemed unfit to continue in the corner.
Nery notches his fourth straight stoppage and now can turn his attention to the 34-year old Yamanaka in what could be a fascinating fight. Japan’s Yamanaka (27-0-2, 19 KO) has defended the WBC belt 12 times, eight times inside the distance, but has been on the floor in two of his last three fights. The younger Nery could present a serious threat to his crown and is a fight to look forward to later in the year.
The card was televised in the US on BeIn Sports Espanol, promoted by Zanfer.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]