After multiple delays in making the fight, and then additional delays for COVID, this week the rubber match between Jr. bantamweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez fell apart one last time. Estrada is sick.
The fight is off.
It could revive again later this year. As good as their first two fights were, fans can certainly hope so. A hell of an obstacle has risen from the ashes of what was to be Estrada-Gonzalez III.
Tired of sitting on the sideline, and at age 34 likely not wanting to waste a training camp, Gonzalez has opted for a dangerous new opponent. Gonzalez (50-3, 41 KO) will face 27-year old WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (18-1, 14 KO) on March 5 in a fight that screams fireworks on paper.
Given his form against Khalid Yafai and Estrada in their rematch last year, Gonzalez will be favored but this is a serious fight. Martinez is ranked number one at flyweight by TBRB and The Ring with solid wins over Andrew Selby and Cristofer Rosales. Martinez may never get a bigger chance to get a big chance.
A Martinez win could put the Estrada-Gonzalez rubber match out of reach for good. If that happens, next Saturday could end up being even more interesting than it already is.
In DAZN’s main event on February 5, former lineal Jr. bantamweight king Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (50-5-1, 43 KO) will meet former WBC super flyweight titlist Carlos Cuadras (39-4-1, 27 KO) for a vacant WBC belt. It’s a rematch of a 2014 encounter that came to matter more over time.
In that fight, Sor Rungvisai was defending his first WBC belt and fell behind on the cards against the quicker and more elusive Cuadras. The bout was hotly contested and Rungvisai was starting to get to Cuadras but cuts from head clashes sent them to the cards early. It was a good fight that left some wondering about what might have been had the last third of the fight played out.
In broader context, it was the second chapter of what would become to date a ten-fight series between Sor Rungvisai, Cuadras, Gonzalez, and Estrada. We didn’t know that then, just like we didn’t know in 2012 that the first Gonzalez-Estrada fight was the genesis of a golden age near their weights.
History unfolds at its own pace. Those first two fights were almost a prologue, a preview, of what would come beginning in 2016. Gonzalez defeated Cuadras for the WBC title in a classic bout and since then we’ve seen the four square off eight times. There hasn’t been a bad fight in the bunch. Several were in the running for fight of the year. It appeared 2022 could add at least three more fights to the story.
It may still add two.
A Sor Rungvisai win would leave the door open for a third clash with Estrada. A Martinez win over Gonzalez would instantly make it the most logical fight on the table for both. Estrada’s official mark in the series is the best right now with losses against all three rivals (twice against Cuadras) and losses to Gonzalez and Sor Rungvisai. Sor Rungivsai has two wins over Gonzalez, a win in his first clash with Estrada, and the losses to Estrada and Cuadras. Avenging the loss to Cuadras and Sor Rungvisai matches the series mark of Estrada at 4-2.
A third fight between the two would be a double tiebreaker.
But what if Cuadras wins?
In a scenario where Gonzalez loses to Martinez, Cuadras isn’t likely to see Estrada again after two previous defeats. It could make chapter eleven the epilogue to an era.
As long as these four are active, their names will be linked and they can spin a few more paychecks out of it but age is reality. Sor Rungvisai is 35, Cuadras 33, and Estrada 31 and they’ve all put miles on each other. Given their size, only Estrada isn’t really pushing it yet in terms of what history says about how long they can go at the top level.
Mandatories will arise and new faces will arrive.
This probably isn’t the end. Gonzalez-Estrada III is still too lucrative for both as long as Gonzalez wins in March. Still, there is a scenario where it could be and it should make everyone watching more appreciative of what they’re getting next weekend.
They’ve given the fans everything they could ask for in their series.
Cherish every second they’ve got left together.
This situation at heavyweight appears chaotic but the reality is probably that Anthony Joshua-Tyson Fury is still too big to fail even if Joshua fails against Oleksandr Usyk again. They’re likely going to face off someday, even if in a non-title fight should Usyk manage to win a Joshua rematch and then unify against Fury…ESPN reports Saul Alvarez has been offered Jermall Charlo or a two-fight possibility with Dmitry Bivol and Gennady Golovkin. Both options sound good, though Alvarez holds so many cards it’s hard to see it as an either/or. What, if he fights Charlo first, Bivol is off the table? Or if he takes the Bivol/GGG split first, the Charlo fight won’t still be there afterwards? If those are the only three choices, they’re all good and so the order isn’t a big deal.
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.