It took almost a decade to get them in a ring together for a second time.
It took a little more than a year to get one of the best rivalries of the 21st century to a rubber match.
Juan Francisco Estrada announced himself to the world in 2012 when he gave Roman Gonzalez the sort of night no one really had to then and no one would again for several years. By the time they faced off again in 2021, each had moved in and out of pound-for-pound rankings, beating some of the best sub-bantamweight fighters of their generation.
Now, tied at one apiece, and barring an early injury or distance draw, they will resolved their differences once and for all. They have combined for two classics and could well do it again. Will the younger Estrada finally get a decisive win over Gonzalez or will Gonzalez validate those who think he should be up 2-0 in the series? We find out Saturday (DAZN/PPV, 8 PM EST)
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Juan Francisco Estrada
Titles: Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBC “Franchise” Jr. Bantamweight (2019-Present, 4 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBA/WBO Flyweight (2013-Present, 5 Defenses)
Weight: 115 lbs.
Hails from: Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
Record: 43-3, 28 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 11-2, 6 KO
Last Five Opponents: 175-12-6 (.922)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB/Ring Rated Foes: Roman Gonzalez L12, SD12; Brian Viloria SD12; Milan Melindo UD12; Giovani Segura TKO11; Carlos Cuadras UD12, TKO11; Srisaket Sor Rungvisai L12, UD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Juan Carlos Sanchez L8, TKO10; Hernan Marquez KO10
Previous Titles: WBA Minimumwieght (2008-10, 3 Defenses); WBA Light Flyweight (2011-13, 5 Defenses); Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBC World Flyweight (2014-16, 4 Defenses); WBC super flyweight (2016-17); WBA super flyweight (2020-21, 1 Defense)
Weight: 114 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Managua, Nicaragua
Record: 51-3, 41 KO, 1 KOBY
Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB, Ring), #2 (ESPN, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 17-3, 10 KO, 1 KOBY (18-3, 11 KO, 1 KOBY including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 124-12-3 (.903)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB/Ring Rated Foes: Eriberto Gejon KO1; Yutaka Niida TKO4; Katsunari Takayama UD12; Ramon Garcia KO4; Akira Yaegashi TKO9; Edgar Sosa TKO2; Brian Viloria TKO9; McWilliams Arroyo UD12; Carlos Cuadras UD12; Srisaket Sor Rungvisai L12, KO by 4; Khalid Yafai TKO9; Israel Gonzalez UD12; Juan Francisco Estrada L12; Julio Cesar Martinez UD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Juan Francisco Estrada UD12; Francisco Rodriguez Jr. TKO7; Moises Fuentes TKO5
The Case for Estrada: Estrada is both taller and longer than Gonzalez and needs to make both of those things work for him. In the second fight, punch stats favored Gonzalez in nine of 12 rounds. However, Gonzalez often does his best work in volume and at closer quarters. Estrada’s offense might be easier to see for the judges (though the official who scored the rematch 117-111 makes some of that possibility less feasible than a judge just having a bad night). Gonzalez is going to press the action so an Estrada who holds his ground and lands even glancing shots that land hard to the gloves and shoulders of Gonzalez will be catching the eye. Estrada looked rusty in spots earlier this year against Argi Cortes but that can be misleading. Cortes is younger and longer than Gonzalez, and trained by Nacho Beristain. Against Gonzalez, Estrada may want to get off to a strong start and try to land something impactful before Gonzalez can get into rhythm. Gonzalez’s ability to catch and shoot gets better as fights go on but his game can take longer these days to settle in.
The Case for Gonzalez: To these eyes, Gonzalez has won at least eight rounds in both fights with Estrada but in both the first loss to Sor Rungvisai and then to Estrada it’s arguable his volume worked against him. Gonzalez, who can be a big puncher, can sometimes opt for letting punches go at such high volume that it might take some of the sting off his best work. Gonzalez may want to try to land harder shots in spots on Saturday, sacrificing a little bit of his volume to make sure the judges see impact. It would have to be a careful balance because, what Gonzalez does well, he does better than almost any combination puncher who ever lived. Gonzalez remains a subtle, effective defender, who picks off shots and returns fire well. Precision in his return fire will be key to securing rounds in a fight likely to be another long, exacting night.
The Pick: We’ve seen this fight twice. We know what it looks like. Gonzalez and Estrada just match up beautifully, testing each other’s will and skill. If something stands out, it is that neither man has ever hurt the other in a way where the fight felt like it hung in the balance. We’ve never had a moment where one man had to come off the floor or it felt like a stoppage was imminent. The thinking here is that will change this time. Both men are older, a little slower, and with plenty of miles. There is also their intimate knowledge that this, perhaps more than any other fight, may be the statement on their career that lasts the longest. Between great fighters, that matters. Head-to-head, Gonzalez has appeared a little better twice. The thinking is Gonzalez closes the series as winner in a fight that could steal Fight of the Year honors with the calendar winding down.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com