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Estrada-Chocolatito 2: Will it be worth the wait?

Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Fighters Network

When the bell rings for the 13th round of the Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez rivalry, both men will have enjoyed an eight-year and four-month rest period.

The pair originally met at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles in November 2012. An unbeaten Gonzalez, already a two-weight world ruler, was making his fifth defense of the WBA junior flyweight title against Mexico’s Estrada, who was engaging in his first world title bout.

In a classic, high-contact encounter that will never be forgotten, Gonzalez prevailed via 12-round unanimous decision. The loser, however, had displayed immense fighting heart and elite-level skills against a great opponent, so there was every reason to assume that Estrada would be heard from again.

Since that epic showdown, Gonzalez has gone on to become a four-weight world titleholder, and, for a time, he was recognized as the finest pound-for-pound fighter in the world. A brace of defeats to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai looked like the end of the road, but the Nicaraguan star bounced back in style to annex the WBA junior bantamweight title courtesy of a spectacular ninth-round stoppage of Kal Yafai.

Estrada would develop into an excellent professional and unified world titles at the flyweight limit. He also suffered a setback against Sor Rungvisai, in his first bid to become a two weight world champion, but “El Gallo” outpointed the Thai power-puncher to claim Ring Magazine and WBC titles at 115 pounds in a rematch.

With both men now legitimate world titleholders in the same division, demand for an Estrada-Chocolatito return bout grew and grew. On Saturday, the pair finally meet again at the American Airlines Center in Dallas in a unification matchup that will be streamed live by DAZN in the U.S. and the U.K.

It’s not unique for rivals to renew hostilities after many years apart. Boxing history is replete with examples. Here we look back at three rematches that were a long time coming and that are remembered for vastly different reasons. While former heavyweight kings Larry Holmes and Mike Weaver may hold the record for time between fights (21 years and 5 months), we elected to select high-profile encounters only.

Hearns (right) dropped Leonard twice in a classic rematch. Photo from The Ring archive

Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns 2
Date/ Venue: June 12, 1989/ Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
Titles: WBC and WBO super middleweight
Gap since Fight 1: 7 years and 9 months

This battle of five-weight world champions would exceed all expectations.

Leonard was coming off a spectacular ninth-round knockout of Donny Lalonde in Las Vegas and was the heavy favorite. Thanks largely to his star power – and some unapologetic WBC hocus pocus – “The Sugar Man” managed to claim both the inaugural super middleweight title and Lalonde’s light heavyweight crown in one night. He would immediately vacate the latter and target his old rival.

Coming in, Hearns’ form had been very patchy. In what was named The Ring’s 1988 Upset of the Year, he was brutally knocked out in three rounds by Iran Barkley, and despite winning the inaugural WBO 168-pound title courtesy of a majority decision triumph over James Kinchen, Hearns was floored and looked vulnerable throughout.

However, The Hitman’s obsession with avenging his September 1981 defeat to Leonard had been grossly underestimated. In a 162-pound catchweight bout, Hearns turned back the clock and fought brilliantly, flooring his tormentor twice, in the third and 11th rounds, and surviving a savage final-round assault by Sugar Ray.

The result was never in doubt until the judges ruined everything by coming up with a split decision draw. Hearns should have won and a gracious Leonard would admit that to his face years later.

Result: Draw 12

Tyson (left) had an even easier time with Bruno second time around. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Frank Bruno vs. Mike Tyson 2
Date/ Venue: March 16, 1996/ MGM Grand, Las Vegas
Titles: WBC heavyweight
Gap since Fight 1: 7 years and 1 month

First it was Tim Witherspoon, then it was Mike Tyson, then it was Lennox Lewis. Frank Bruno acquitted himself well, but ultimately suffered stoppage losses to all three in heavyweight title fights.

Destined to be boxing’s ultimately nearly man, Bruno finally had his moment in the sun when he outpointed Oliver McCall to capture the WBC title on September 2, 1995. It was an emotional night at Wembley Stadium in London and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. What was Bruno’s prize after the greatest win of his career? A rematch with “The Baddest Man on the Planet.”

Following his release from an Indiana prison, where he’d spent almost three years for rape, Tyson had bowled over Peter McNeeley and Buster Mathis Jr. with ease. Having emerged from jail as the No. 1 contender – figure that one out – Tyson was due a world title shot and promoter Don King had the perfect plan.

A gallant Bruno had rocked Tyson in the first round of their February 1989 encounter before succumbing to a fifth-round stoppage. However, despite being the defending champion in the rematch, the Englishman appeared spooked before the opening bell, and when the action commenced, things didn’t get any better. Tyson rocked Bruno multiple times and put the finishing touches on a savage display in the third.

Result: Tyson TKO 3

Hopkins tags Jones in a rematch that was very difficult to watch. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Bernard Hopkins vs. Roy Jones Jr. 2
Date/ Venue: April 3, 2010/ Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas
Titles: Non-title bout
Gap since Fight 1: 16 years and 11 months

It’s somewhat disconcerting when you recall that Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins fought for a world title on an undercard but they did.

On May 22, 1993 the future greats met for the IBF middleweight crown at the RFK Stadium in Washington. The main event, if you can call it that, saw Riddick Bowe smash up the remains of Jesse Ferguson inside two rounds, but while Jones-Hopkins was an improvement on that, it wasn’t the thunderous collision many had expected. Jones, more cautious than usual, won a unanimous decision over “The Executioner,” who was still sharpening his swords during the embryonic stages of his pro career.

Both would go on to achieve great things, but, remarkably, and despite many threats, they wouldn’t meet again for almost 17 years.

As sequels go, the Hopkins-Jones rematch was more Batman and Robin than Terminator 2. Both men were now in their 40s and the style clash that was present in fight one, was now omnipresent in the return. Jones was reluctant to throw and Hopkins spent a large portion of the evening complaining about fouls. In the end, the Philadelphia technician, who still had more world title success ahead of him, prevailed on points after one of the worst high-profile fights you’re ever likely to see.

Result: Hopkins UD 12


Tom Gray is Managing Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing



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