Notebook: Estrada: Rematch vs. 'Chocolatito' will be better than first fight
Berchelt-Valdez prelims set; Quick hits; Show and tell
If junior bantamweight world champion Juan Francisco Estrada is correct in his assessment boxing fans are in for a serious treat.
That is because Estrada said he believes his 115-round title unification fight with rival Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez on March 13 (DAZN) at American Airlines Center in Dallas — where a limited number of spectators will be permitted — will be better than their first epic encounter nine years ago.
They first fought in Los Angeles in 2012 and Gonzalez won a decision in an action-packed slugfest to retain his junior flyweight world title. They have since moved up two divisions and both had tremendous success along the way with a rematch talked about for years.
Now it is set and Estrada feels confident and excited.
“We are fighting two weight classes above the first fight, so it is already very different,” Estrada said this week. “I know that I can win this time. I know it’s a tough fight and I think it will be a better fight, but I have already faced him. I know his qualities and I feel that I can beat a fighter who has been knocked out.”
After Gonzalez lost his title to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai by controversial decision in their all-out battle in March 2017, they met in an immediate rematch six months later and Sor Rungvisai scored a brutal fourth-round knockout victory.
Some wrote former pound-for-pound king Gonzalez off at that point, but he has overcome injuries and won all four of his fights since, including winning another junior bantamweight belt in a dominating, ninth-round knockout of then-undefeated and highly regarded titlist Kal Yafai last February.
Estrada (41-3, 28 KOs), 30, of Mexico, and four-division champion Gonzalez (50-2, 41 KOs), 33, of Nicaragua, both retained their titles on the same card on Oct. 23 to finally set up the long-awaited sequel. Estrada stopped former titlist Carlos Cuadras in the 11th round of a sensational fight of the year contender in the main event and Gonzalez outpointed Israel Gonzalez in the co-feature.
“I am stronger and have more desire than the first fight,” said Estrada, a former unified flyweight titlist before vacating to move up to junior bantamweight in 2016. “We are both champions and we are going to want to win this fight. In the first fight, I was 21 years old and I had no experience of big international fights. He was a pound-for-pound star at that time, but now I think this time it favors me.”
The card also includes two other world title bouts. Undisputed women’s welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill (9-2, 3 KOs) meets former longtime undisputed champion Cecilia Braekhus (36-1, 9 KOs) in a rematch of McCaskill’s mammoth upset in August and Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9 KOs) will defend his junior flyweight title against Axel Vega (14-3-1, 8 KOs).
Berchelt-Valdez prelims set
Middleweight contender Esquiva Falcao and top prospects Elvis Rodriguez and Xander Zayas will be featured on the ESPN+ portion (6:45 p.m. ET) of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card headlined by junior lightweight world titlist Miguel Berchelt against mandatory challenger and former featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez on Feb. 20 inside the bubble of the conference center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Falcao (27-0, 19 KOs), 31, a 2012 Brazilian Olympic silver medalist, will face fellow southpaw and two-time world title challenger Artur Akavov (20-3, 9 KOs), 35, of Russia, in a 10-rounder.
“I am ready to face the best in my division. My opponent is a good boxer, but I am better and I am ready to become a world champion,” Falcao said. “No fighter will stop me. I'm training very hard with Robert Garcia. I’m sparring with the best because I am one of the best. I will show the world once again that I am ready to become a world champion.”
Two of Akavov’s defeats came in middleweight world title fights. He lost a disputed decision to Billy Joe Saunders in December 2016 and was stopped in the 12th round challenging Demetrius Andrade in January 2019.
One of boxing’s hottest prospects, junior welterweight Rodriguez (10-0-1, 10 KOs), 25, of the Dominican Republic, will face Luis Alberto Veron (18-2-2, 9 KOs), 28, of Argentina, who has never been stopped, in a six- or eight-rounder.
“I want to show that I am ready for the big fights,” Rodriguez said. “I think I deserved to be the prospect of the year (in 2020). Not being named prospect of the year has motivated me more than ever. I am here to become a world champion. I am going to show who I am through my actions in the ring, not through words or social media.”
Zayas (6-0, 5 KOs), 18, of Sunrise, Florida, will fight James Martin (6-1, 0 KOs), 23, of Philadelphia, in a six-round welterweight bout.
Also, Madera, California, junior lightweight Bryan Lua (7-0, 3 KOs) faces Puerto Rico’s Frevian Gonzalez (4-0, 1 KO) in a six-rounder and there are three four-rounders on the card: Philadelphia heavyweight Sonny Conto (6-0, 5 KOs) versus Arizona’s Waldo Cortes (6-3, 3 KOs); Milwaukee middleweight Javier Martinez (2-0, 0 KOs) versus Billy Wagner (3-1, 1 KO) of Great Falls, Montana; and welterweight Omar Rosario (2-0, 0 KOs), who won the 2020 Puerto Rican Olympic trials at 152 pounds, versus Santa Ana, California’s Uriel Villanueva (1-0, 0 KOs).
Unified featherweight champion Amanda Serrano (39-1-1, 29 KOs), who has won world titles in a women’s record seven weight classes, will defend her belts against junior featherweight titlist Daniela Bermudez (29-3-3, 10 KOs), 31, of Argentina, in the main event of the Ring City USA card (NBC Sports Net) on March 25 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a source with knowledge of the details told Fight Freaks United. Serrano is based in Brooklyn, New York, but is from Puerto Rico, where she has not boxed since 2017. The card, which will take place outdoors (but without spectators) at the Fifth Centennial Square in Old San Juan, will also feature former junior flyweight world titlist Angel “Tito” Acosta (21-2, 21 KOs) against an opponent to be determined in flyweight bout.
MTK Global on Thursday was the lone bidder for the vacant IBF featherweight title bout between British countrymen Kid Galahad (27-1, 16 KOs), 30, and James “Jazza” Dickens (30-3, 11 KOs), 29. MTK offered $202,500, according to the IBF. The fighters will split the bid total 50-50. MTK has two weeks to provide the IBF with signed contracts. Josh Warrington recently vacated the title rather than abide by the results of a purse bid for a defense against Galahad, the mandatory challenger, whom he outpointed in June 2019.
As a follow-up to its stripping binge last week, the WBA elevated Jamal James from its interim welterweight titlist to its “regular” titleholder. Previously, it had stripped “super” champion Manny Pacquiao (instead naming him an “in recess” titlist) and elevated Yordenis Ugas from “regular” to “super” titlist. Also, James was ordered to make a mandatory defense in his next fight against Radzhab Butaev. They have 30 days to negotiate a deal or a purse bid will be ordered. James (27-1, 12 KOs), 32, of Minneapolis, would be entitled to 75 percent of the winning bid and Butaev (13-0, 10 KOs), 27, a Russia native fighting out of Brooklyn, New York, would get 25 percent.
WBC junior flyweight titlist Kenshiro Teraji’s suspension by the Japan Boxing Commission will end at the end of February. Teraji (17-0, 10 KOs), 29, who has made seven defenses but has not boxed since December 2019, was suspended this past December for three months and fined the equivalent of $28,570 U.S. for an incident last July in which he was illegally entered a home and damaged the owner’s car while drunk. Teraji apologized to the victim publicly. No word yet on when Teraji will fight following the end of his suspension.
One of the items on the agenda for the Nevada State Athletic Commission meeting on Tuesday is a request by Canelo Promotions for a license in the state as a promoter.
Show and tell
After probably around 15 years of searching for a high-grade copy of a program from the legendary Salvador Sanchez-Wilfredo Gomez featherweight world championship fight, this one has finally taken its rightful place in my collection. They’re quite scarce and even hard to find beat up, so I am overjoyed to have finally found one in superb condition for a price I could live with. The crazy thing is I also spent years looking for a poster from this fight (which I admit I am somewhat obsessed with) in top condition and in the past few weeks finally acquired not only the program but also the Spanish-language and the English poster. Such wild timing to find all three just a few weeks apart, but the hunts are over. Victory!
More show and tell
A new and glorious era dawned on boxing 25 years ago this past Wednesday night when the landmark series “Boxing After Dark” debuted on HBO from The Forum in Inglewood, California. The series, created by my longtime friend, promoter and former HBO executive Lou DiBella, was generally about competitive, action fights in smaller weight divisions, and it was a rousing success. It kicked off with a bang with an unforgettable first main event in which young future Hall of Famer Marco Antonio Barrera retained his junior featherweight world title with an enthralling 12th-round knockout of former titlist Kennedy McKinney. It was a legendary war and is one of my all-time favorite fights. As the drama was unfolding in the 11th round, I am sure HBO’s Larry Merchant spoke for many watching when he exclaimed, “I could watch this fight for a week!” Here is the HBO poster from the fight in my collection. I don’t know if a site poster exists as I’ve never seen one, but if you have one or know of one, hit me up!