Saturday, May 18, 2024  |



FIGHT PICKS: Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez II

Estrada (right) and Gonzalez went to war in fight one.
Fighters Network

On Saturday, The Ring and WBC junior bantamweight titleholder Juan Francisco Estrada will face WBA titlist Roman Gonzalez in a rematch at the American Airlines Center, in Dallas, Texas.

The eagerly anticipated unification matchup will be shown live on the DAZN and the broadcast will begin at 10:00 p.m. ET/ 7:00 p.m. PT.

Estrada, who is rated No. 8 by The Ring pound-for-pound, first came of age in a losing effort to Gonzalez (UD 12) in November 2012, but rebounded to win WBA and WBO 112-pound titles from Brian Viloria (SD 12).

After making five defenses, Estrada abdicated his throne for a move up to junior bantamweight. After losing to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (MD 12), he outboxed the big-punching Thai to claim the Ring and WBC junior bantamweight titles in the rematch. He has since defended his titles twice, including a terrific off-the-canvas stoppage of Carlos Cuadras (TKO 11) in October 2020.

Gonzalez, who is rated No. 2 by The Ring at 115-pounds, annexed titles at strawweight, junior flyweight and flyweight, before moving north once more. In 2016, “Chocolatito” dared to be great when he stepped up to junior bantamweight in a bid to surpass his idol and mentor, the late great Alexis Arguello, by becoming a four-weight world champion. Gonzalez edged the bigger Cuadras (UD 12) to claim the WBC title.

He then put a pair of losses to Sor Rungvisai behind him when he rolled back the years to claim the WBA title via a ninth-round stoppage of Kal Yafai in February 2020. He has since successfully defended his title against Israel Gonzalez (UD 12) in October 2020.

Can Gonzalez (50-2, 41 knockouts) summon one more herculean effort from his body? Will Estrada (41-3, 28 KOs) be able to off-set Gonzalez’ all-action style with his boxing skills or get drawn into a shootout? Although Gonzalez looked to have seen better days a few years ago, he has been able to revive his career. But is this a challenge too far? Who will deal with the expected war of attrition better?

Online gambling group William Hill lists Estrada as an 8/13 (-163) favorite, while Gonzalez is priced at 13/10 (+130); the draw is 16/1 (+1600).

Here’s how the experts see it:


Roman Gonzalez earned his 50th victory vs. ‘Jiga.’ Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.


“I absolutely detest making a pick on this fight because I admire and respect both champions so much. The first battle was closely contested and brilliant to watch, but the timing of that matchup suited Gonzalez. I expect the rematch to be closely contested, full of amazing action, but I think the timing of this one suits Estrada. Nothing would surprise me, though, and if any fighter can pull off a win it’s ‘Chocolatito.’”


“Wonderful fight, several years in the making. Both fighters are in a much different place than when they fought in November 2012. Gonzalez went on to become the pound-for-pound king and Estrada used that experience to also become one of the best fighters in the world. To me it very much depends who has more left at this stage of their respective careers. That will decide who wins. A year ago, I’d have thought Estrada. However, he’s had a lot of tough fights. The Carlos Cuadras rematch was particularly taxing. You never know when a fighter will no longer be able to reach deep within themselves to find a huge effort. Chocolatito did that against Kal Yafai. He seems to have found that spark again. I think the fight will be very close throughout with both having their successes. At the end of the fight, I just feel while both are pound-for-pound caliber fighters, one is truly an all-time great and will show that to edge a close-run battle. That man is Roman Gonzalez by close unanimous decision.”


“Had it not been for Errol Spence Jr.’s return to form following a harrowing automobile accident, Chocolatito probably would have been 2020’s ‘Comeback Fighter of the Year’ thanks to his regaining a piece of the junior bantamweight crown against Khalid Yafai on Leap Day and his dominant points victory over Israel Gonzalez last October. Gonzalez had fallen far from his pound-for-pound perch, but he improbably enters this fight in excellent form. But Estrada is a much better and more seasoned fighter than the one Gonzalez defeated by exciting-but-comprehensive decision in 2012, and he has been pointing toward his rematch ever since. The desire for vengeance is a powerful motivator, and, for Estrada, this intangible could be the factor that will lift him to victory. This war will fulfill all expectations, but the younger and more versatile Estrada will use his height and reach advantages and his multiple skills to find the holes in Gonzalez’s defense that Yafai and Israel Gonzalez couldn’t exploit as well as reduce Chocolatito’s work rate enough to make the level of remaining talent, not pure industriousness, the deciding factor. Both men will produce their best effort, but, at this point, I believe Estrada’s best may be slightly better than Gonzalez’s best right now.”


“This is an interesting rematch that is difficult to sort out. Gonzalez, at 33, is three years older than Estrada and at an age where smaller fighters tend to slip. Yet, he is on an impressive run and holds a win over Estrada with 8 years of dust on it. Estrada looks like the fresher fighter and he should be, but that only matters if he can survive the first half of the fight. His power has not carried with him as he’s moved up in weight and that could be a determining factor. There was a time when Gonzalez was clearly the superior fighter but age has closed the margin. Although this is likely to be a dog fight that could go either way, I’ll take youth over power and take Estrada in a hard-fought decision in which he rallies from an early deficit for the win.”


“I was of the opinion that Chocolatito Gonzalez had one shot the last bullet left in his chamber against Kal Yafai, but a solid follow-up victory against Israel Gonzalez may suggest more hidden firepower. However, it will take more than a bullet to stop the charge that is Juan Estrada, who I see as being close to his prime and maximum punch volume than Gonzalez. Yes, Gonzalez is a master at getting the most out of his punches, but I don’t see Estrada allowing that with his underestimated jab and use of distance. Estrada avenges his loss to Gonzalez by unanimous decision, with a late surge where his volume will make the difference in the judge’s eyes.”


“Chocolatito’s unanimous decision over El Gallo in 2012 was one of the best wins of the decade. I believe the Mexican will flip the script this Saturday in Dallas. The first fight was at 108-pounds, a much better weight for Gonzalez. The rematch at 115-pounds suits Estrada in my opinion. Give me Juan Francisco Estrada on points.”


“More than 8 years have come and gone since they faced each other at a lighter weight. The journey up the scale, from junior flyweight to super fly, has been harder on Roman Gonzalez, the smallest fighter to ever occupy the top spot in The Ring’s pound-for-pound rating. Then, he was 25 and unbeatable at 108 pounds. Estrada couldn’t beat him losing a decision in 2012. But now? The subsequent jump to junior bantam has been problematic for Gonzalez and perfect for Estrada, who is an inch taller and has a two-inch advantage in reach. There are reasons for weight classes and Gonzalez discovered all of them in successive losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017. Estrada lost to Sor Rungvisai, too, but Estrada avenged the narrow scorecard loss with a unanimous decision over the Thai 14 months later. Estrada made the most out of a second chance. Expect him to do so again.”


Juan Francisco Estrada became the first fighter to ever stop Carlos Cuadras. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom


“It will be a very close fight. They both are legendary and pound-for-pound top boxers. I think the one who is most prepared with the best condition will win this fight. I really don’t know who to pick, and I am not confident who will win. It can be either one of the two. But given that it is a requirement to pick one name out of the two, I will pick Chocolatito to win by decision.”


“I had the honor of being in the ring with both of those champions. I’m just excited to see their rematch. I think Estrada has gained enough confidence for him to stand toe-to-toe with Chocolatito. Running didn’t help him in the first fight so I think Estrada’s going to spend a little bit more time in the pocket and try to break Chocolatito down that way. The fight in general is going to start quick and stay at that tempo for eight to 10 rounds and Chocolatito is going to come in and take control of the fight. I think Chocolatito will get the unanimous decision this time.”

“A much-anticipated rematch that has two of the best and biggest hearts in boxing today. This reminds me of Chiquita Gonzalez vs. Michael Carbajal. I have a feeling Estrada will be the boxer and Chocolatito the aggressor. Regardless, expect a great fight; a very evenly contested bout. Estrada is bigger, younger and was in less wars. Gonzalez, on the other hand, is such a gifted fighter and still carries the power to hurt you and his experience is key. My prediction is a close split decision for Chocolatito Gonzalez.”


“Hard to believe it’s been 8-plus years since Estrada and Chocolatito last fought. While Chocolatito is now a fully established 115-pounder, I believe the weight favors Estrada this time. Timing is everything. Estrada by close but unanimous decision.”

“The sad thing is if these two boxers were heavyweights or super middleweight this would decide who is the pound-for-pound king and every other alphabet title going. Rarely do we see a fight of this magnitude between two of the best you’ll see anywhere in the world today. They can both throw every punch in the book, not in the general direction of where they hope they will land, but with pinpoint accuracy. I can’t wait to watch this fight. I feel Estrada will be victorious this time around as his motivation will be revenge, after having lost narrowly in their first meeting several years ago at junior flyweight. This time around, for the junior bantamweight unification championship of the world, Estrada wins a majority points decision.”


“It is an extremely difficult pick because the fight is 50-50. I really don’t know who will win. That is why the junior bantamweight division is so great. Whenever we have any of the two between Estrada, Chocolatito, and Sor Rungvisai in the ring, we cannot really predict the winner. They are all great. For this fight, I think the result depends on which version of each fighter shows up. Chocolatito has been quite consistent with his performance lately, in my opinion. For Estrada, he was at his best when he fought Sor Rungvisai in their second fight. However, he did not seem to be as sharp and as fast in his latest fight against Cuadras. It was an amazing fight between two great warriors, but Estrada (and also Cuadras) did not seem to be their best versions. If Estrada shows up in his best version, like the one in his second Sor Rungvisai fight, I think he can beat Chocolatito. If he shows up in his latest Cuadras fight version, it will not be enough to beat Chocolatito. In boxing, the best predictor of a fighter’s next fight performance is his/her performance in the most recent fight, so I pick Chocolatito to win this fight.”


“Estrada was dominated by Gonzalez when Chocolatito was a top three pound-for-pound fighter in 2012. Now they are both older and fighting in a higher weight class. Estrada had a win over Srisaket. Gonzalez lost twice to Srisaket. Styles make fights. I see the same result as 2012. But this time in a close competitive fight. Gonzalez by decision.”

“I think it’s gonna be a face-to-face slugfest for 12 rounds. I have Chocolatito winning a hard-earned points decision.”


“I think it will be close, great fight. I think Estrada will get his revenge by outboxing Gonzalez. Estrada will be the fresher and hungrier this time around.”


“Roman didn’t look too good in his last fight. Estrada did a great job. I have Estrada winning this one by KO in the later rounds.”


“I’m really looking forward to this one. The first fight between these two was an amazing fight. Before their last fights I believed that Estrada would win the rematch, but after their last performances I am now slightly leaning towards Chocolatito winning again. Whichever way it goes, I expect it to be a great fight that deserves much more recognition than it’s getting. Not hugely confident in this prediction, but I’m picking Chocolatito by unanimous decision.”


“I’m pumped for this fight with two future Hall of famers. Their first was an absolute cracker, Chocolatito has found a pep in his step. Estrada’s last fight with Cuadras was an amazing fight. I just love these lower weight divisions; the best does fight the best. I think it can go either way, but I’m backing Chocolatito. Chocolatito by unanimous decision.”


“We have been expecting this rematch for almost 9 years, both fighters have changed and I don’t expect to get a unanimous decision this time. Both know how to punch; both have power and both want to have a war. My pick goes to Estrada, even when Gonzalez has heavier hands. I believe Estrada now has the experience to handle big fights like this. Estrada in 9.”


“The fight will be very interesting, long awaited by the fans and both champions, a much-discussed fight. In this fight, Estrada will be very intelligent and I think that Roman will go looking for the fight and will base the fight on his strength and great conditioning, that he always presents in each battle. Gallo must put Roman in his style and combat rhythm, adding points from the first rounds so that he feels more confident. If you stop trading, you can get hurt. Gallo by split decision.”


“Their first fight was terrific and the belated rematch has Fight of the Year written all over it. For me, Estrada has improved since then he’s tighter, more polished and explosive, too. Whereas the great Gonzalez, who I saw in 2015 at MSG, has slipped just enough. That smooth, rolling-pressure style puts him in or on the edge of danger and small cracks are appearing. There will be relentless action and it really could be close, but I think Estrada is fresher and the harder puncher this time, too. Estrada in a close, outstanding fight and perhaps he even stops the legend down the stretch. It breaks my heart a little to say that.”

Final Tally: Estrada 13-9

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright