By Lyle Fitzsimmons
The fighters are as tall as an American middle-schooler.
And the weight of a model who’s just scarfed a sundae.
Nevertheless, promoter Tom Loeffler has no qualms suggesting Saturday's card in suburban Los Angeles -- dubbed "Superfly 2" -- will leave a TV mark far greater than the weight of its little man parts.
Two world title fights, one at 115 pounds (super flyweight) and another at 112 (flyweight), will be part of HBO's "Boxing After Dark" tripleheader, while a vacant belt match at 112 serves as a final appetizer to be carried on the international broadcast and streamed at RingTV.com.
It's the follow-up to last September's "Superfly" show that occurred 13 miles to the southeast in Carson and allowed its main-event winner -- Thai veteran Srisaket Sor Rungvisai -- to legitimize his claim as 2017's most transcendent fighter with a brutal KO of former pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez.
Rungvisai ended the Nicaraguan's run atop the sport with a narrow and disputed (by some) decision six months earlier at Madison Square Garden, a thrilling fight that wound up topping many lists as the year's best. Gonzalez's lingering star power was enough to build the September show around, but it was the quality of the fights -- all at 115 -- that's propelling the concept through the subsequent show, sans the ex-headliner.
"Chocolatito opened the door for the flyweight divisions to be showcased on premium cable in the U.S. After he opened the door, fans realized that the flyweight divisions are more exciting than heavier weights and the best fighters are willing to fight each other," Loeffler told Boxing Scene. "Where we see in heavier divisions, like welterweight, for example, the top fighters won’t fight each other. This show sells itself on the quality of the matchups, with three world title fights and one silver title fight for the top rating. Four world champion-caliber fights are something we only would see on pay-per-view a long time ago."
Rungvisai will face former two-belt flyweight champ Juan Francisco Estrada in Saturday's finale, following a show opener involving three-weight champion Donnie Nietes and a middle bout featuring ex-115-pound claimant Carlos Cuadras -- who dropped a reed-thin decision to Estrada on the Carson card.
The aforementioned appetizer comes in the form of two-decade veteran Brian Viloria, a 2000 U.S. Olympian who'll face unbeaten Ukrainian Artem Dalakian for the WBA's vacant title at 112. Dalakian is the WBA's No. 1 contender, while Viloria, entering his 15th career title fight -- including losses to Estrada (SD 12 in 2013) and Gonzalez (TKO 9 in 2015) -- is slotted No. 2.
"The tickets have sold very well, on pace to beat the first Superfly show," Loeffler said. "The buzz has been building as people have been saying this is the show they are looking forward to the most so far this year, and once we start the fight-week events it should reach an even higher pitch. Fans (are) flying in from across the country for this show."
And unlike recent and imminent offerings on premium cable, he said, this headline fight's result isn't a foregone conclusion.
"The oddsmakers have Rungvisai as a pick-em fight," Loeffler said. "The main event last week was 30-1 and the week after this show is 25-1, so the fans have shown the most interest in Superfly 2 with the most competitive matchups."
Indeed, Estrada is the WBC's No. 1 contender at super flyweight, and the Independent World Boxing Rankings -- which include all active fighters in a weight class, regardless of the belts they hold -- have them at Nos. 1 and 3 at 115, respectively.
Japanese slugger Naoya Inoue, who was a TKO winner on the first Superfly show, is ranked second; and Gonzalez, who is reportedly planning a springtime return, is fourth. Cuadras, who was beaten by Gonzalez in 2016, is a slot behind at No. 5.
Meanwhile, Nietes is the IWBR's top-rated flyweight and Viloria is seventh.
"With all the great fights on the show, I think Rungvisai vs. Estrada is the fight that everyone is looking forward to with the two best fighters in their division fighting each other," Loeffler said. "Rungvisai has become a national hero in Thailand as WBC champion headlining HBO here in the U.S. and Estrada would become a hero if he can bring the WBC title back to Mexico."
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This week's title-fight schedule
IBF flyweight title -- Inglewood, California
Donnie Nietes (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Juan Carlos Reveco (No. 1 IBF/No. 8 IWBR)
Nietes (40-1-4, 22 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten in 16 title fights (15-0-1) in three weight classes
Reveco (39-3, 19 KO): Twelfth title fight (9-2); Held WBA belts at 108 and 112 pounds (six total defenses)
Fitzbitz says: It's illogical a 35-year-old is this solid, but Nietes hasn't lost since 2004 and he's too good here. Nietes by decision
Vacant WBA flyweight title -- Inglewood, California
Artem Dalakian (No. 1 WBA/No. 35 IWBR) vs. Brian Viloria (No. 2 WBA/No. 7 IWBR)
Dalakian (15-0, 11 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Ukraine
Viloria (38-5, 23 KO): Fifteenth title fight (8-5, 1 NC); Held belts at 108 and 112 pounds (five total defenses)
Fitzbitz says: Viloria has gone up and down many times in a 17-year run, but this seems a pretty solid up moment. Viloria in 9
WBC super flyweight title -- Inglewood, California
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Juan Francisco Estrada (No. 1 WBC/No. 3 IWBR)
Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40 KO): Second title defense; Also held WBC title in 2013-14 (one defense)
Estrada (36-2, 25 KO): Eighth title fight (6-1); Held WBA/WBO belts at 112 pounds (five total defenses)
Fitzbitz says: The hunch, barely, is that Estrada presents a better test at 115 than Gonzalez did. Estrada by decision
Last week's picks: 2-1 (WIN: Beltran, Benavidez; LOSS: Eubank)
2018 picks record: 14-1 (93.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 935-305 (75.4 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.