Juan Francisco Estrada had every excuse to head down the wrong path.
Rather than dwell on the loss of both parents by age fourteen, he instead sought—and found—stability.
The two-division and reigning lineal junior bantamweight champion will enter the ring with Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez for a third time this weekend. The fight will mark the 47th of his storied career, all with the guiding presence of head trainer Alfredo Caballero guiding his corner.
The relationship predates Estrada’s near 15-year pro career, having met the trainer at age 15 upon moving to Hermosillo from Puerto Penasco, Mexico. More than seventeen years later, the relationship remains one of two constants in Estrada’s life.
“I feel like all the sacrifice, the effort and hard training sessions because boxing isn't easy. I think it's one of the most difficult sports out there and I'm happy and grateful to my trainer Alfredo Caballero who has been with me since I was 15. My wife and family have also supported me, and I think that allows me to keep moving forward.
“It makes me very happy because I feel I've achieved a lot more than I expected to.”
Estrada (43-3, 28KOs) will attempt the fifth defense of the lineal 115-pound crown in his third meeting with Nicaragua’s Gonzalez. The vacant WBC title is also at stake for their rubber match this Saturday on DAZN from Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
The night will mark the fourteenth career championship fight for Estrada (11-2, 6KOs in title fights), who previously served as the unified WBA/WBO flyweight titlist with a twelve-round win over Brian Viloria in April 2013. The win came less than four months after his first meeting with Gonzalez, dropping a hard-fought unanimous decision to the Nicaraguan legend in their November 2012 junior flyweight title fight.
In defeating a U.S. Olympian in Viloria, Estrada reaped the rewards of the many sacrifices made as a child. The Mexican star lost his mother at age seven and father by age 14, by which point he was raised by his aunt and uncle. A decision was made to head to Hermosillo, where he would further his amateur boxing career by joining the Sonora boxing team after linking up with Caballero.
The relationship is still going strong nearly two decades later. So too is his 15-year relationship with his wife, whom he met at age 17 as they raise their four children together.
“When I moved at 15, that's when I thought, ‘This is going to be my career,’ recalled Estrada. “I finished secondary school, I started upper secondary but as I was moving around to fight a lot in different towns in Mexico, I'd miss lots of classes, so I decided to fully commit to boxing. I left upper secondary, signed up to an English course, dropped out of it, and to be honest I was more focused on boxing than studying because I set myself the goal of becoming world champion one day.
“As I say, from 15 years of age, that was my goal. I said, one day I'm going to be world champion and that was the reason for going to Hermosillo.”
Seventeen years and two divisional championship reigns later, Estrada is still going strong, He enters Saturday’s bout as the king of the loaded junior bantamweight division, though seeking to settle unfinished business with Gonzalez. Both boxers have one win each in their series, with Estrada claiming a disputed split decision victory in their lineal/WBA/WBC unification bout last March 13 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
The trilogy clash comes after two previous failed attempts, as both boxers tested positive for Covid on separate occasions. It’s merely the latest obstacle that Estrada has been forced to overcome to have made his mark as among the sport’s elite talents.
“Back then at 15, when I went to Hermosillo, my family, my siblings and I would say, ‘Well, I have no parents. I have to give it everything to become someone in life,’ noted Estrada. “And I've always prepared myself psychologically on my own. Now I've got four children. They motivate my every day, my wife who always supports me. I met her at secondary school, we've been together since we were 17 and thank God we're still together today.
“They are what motivates me. They came to visit me a week ago because I'd not see them for a month and I was happy because my kids are growing up and all of them are my motivation and when I go into the ring and even in training, I'm doing it for them. They are the ones that always motivate me.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox