Joshua Franco has waited a year for a title consolidation clash with Juan Francisco Estrada.
A fight never came of the ordeal, though his patience is at least rewarded with his first full major title.
BoxingScene.com has learned that Mexico’s Estrada has been relieved of his WBA ‘Super’ junior bantamweight title reign. The development comes months after the lineal champion was ordered to face San Antonio’s Franco, in line with a WBA ruling made a year ago almost to the day.
Franco receives an upgrade from his secondary WBA title, as he is now the sanctioning body’s sole titleholder at junior bantamweight. The significance of the move means that he is now free to unify against the division’s other title claimants, an opportunity not previously afforded since the WBC, IBF and WBO do not recognize WBA secondary titles in terms of unification bouts.
Estrada (42-3, 28KOs) claimed the WBA ‘Super’ title following a highly questionable 12-round, split decision win over Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez in their Fight of the Year-level slugfest last March 13. The fight came more than eight years after their equally epic November 2012 clash which saw Gonzalez (51-3, 41KOs) earn a twelve-round, unanimous decision to defend his junior flyweight title.
Efforts to stage the rubber match have proven problematic, and with Franco (18-1-2, 8KOs) left to suffer through multiple delays. The WBA approved a third Estrada-Gonzalez fight, on the condition that the winner next face Franco per a ruling last August 15. Estrada-Gonzalez 3 was due to take place last October 16, only for Gonzalez to withdraw after testing positive for Covid.
The rescheduled date of March 5 also took a hit when Estrada tested positive for Covid in mid-January, shutting down training camp in the process. Gonzalez went on to face and beat WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar ‘El Rey’ Martinez (18-2, 14KOs), who moved up in weight for their non-title affair in San Diego.
BoxingScene.com has learned that efforts are being made for Estrada-Gonzalez 3 to take place in December. Estrada is eyeing a return later this summer, likely to take place September 3 in his hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico.
Franco now joins younger brother Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez (15-0, 11KOs) on the full title stage. ‘Bam’ won the WBC junior bantamweight title earlier this year in a 12-round win over Carlos Cuadras, since defending in an eighth-round knockout of former lineal champ Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on June 25 in the family’s San Antonio hometown.
The IBF title is currently held by Fernando ‘Puma’ Martinez, who dethroned long-reigning beltholder Jerwin Ancajas earlier this year. The two are due to run it back on an October 8 Showtime card from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Kazuto Ioka (29-2, 15KOs) has held the WBO junior bantamweight title since June 2019, when he became Japan’s first-ever male boxer to win titles in four weight divisions. The 33-year-old from Osaka—who now lives and trains in Tokyo—is coming off a dominant twelve-round win over Donnie Nietes in July, avenging a defeat from New Year’s Eve 2018.
Next steps for Ioka have not been made known. A title unification bout with Franco would be an attractive proposition, whether on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo, or later this fall in the U.S.
Whatever the case, Franco remains eager to get back in the ring—especially with his newfound major title status.
The 26-year-old has not fought since a repeat win over Andrew Moloney in their trilogy clash last August 14 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Franco claimed the secondary WBA title in a 12-round win over then-unbeaten Moloney in June 2020, with the two fighting to a bizarre no-contest in their November 2020 rematch. Franco remained a step ahead in their third fight last summer, though yet to return to the ring while Moloney has since fought and won three times.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox