The little guys take center stage this weekend and for boxing fans in the know, good things often come in small packages. Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez faces off against Juan Francisco Estrada in a rematch nearly nine years in the making. Both Estrada and Gonzalez hold titles at junior bantamweight and will be attempting to unify the division. It’s a mouthwatering fight between two of the very best in the world. Let’s take a closer look and see what’s inside this explosive 115 lb. showdown.
Juan Francisco Estrada vs Roman Gonzalez
Estrada and Gonzalez faced off in November of 2012 with Chocolatito taking an exciting but decisive unanimous decision. To say a lot has happened since then would be an affront to the word “understatement.”
Chocolatito (50-2, 41 KOs) rose to the heights of the sport, claiming the mythical status of pound for pound king after the retirement of Floyd Mayweather in 2015. Chocolatito continued to rack up impressive victories until running into the tough-as-nails Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017. A razor-thin decision went Rungvisai’s way, but the Thai fighter left zero doubts in a rematch six months later, as a 4th round knockout left Chocolatito sprawled on the canvas, his reputation shaken nearly as violently as his senses. Chocolatito has since crawled his way back to the upper echelons of the sport with four impressive victories, including a thudding 9th round knockout of the highly touted Kal Yafai. How much he has left in the tank at 33 years against a fighter of Estrada’s caliber could be the defining question heading into Saturday night.
Since the loss to Chocolatito, Estrada (41-3, 28 KOs) has established himself as one of the very best little fighters in the game. A seemingly endless stream of victories and title defenses has proven Estrada’s meddle in what could be considered a golden age for the lighter weight divisions. The only hiccup along the way for Estrada was a majority decision loss to the aforementioned Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in February of 2018, which Estrada avenged just over a year later. There’s not a lot he hasn’t accomplished other than avenging his loss to Chocolatito, and every fight fan knows what a motivating factor revenge can be.
There’s not a lot that separates these two so let’s start with the obvious; Estrada is 1-1 against Rungvisai while Chocolatito is 0-2 with a brutal knockout thrown in for good measure. How much of that can be chalked up to styles making fights is debatable but with hindsight 20/20 it seems obvious now that Chocolatito fought the wrong fight against a naturally bigger man. Standing in close range against a heavy-handed puncher like Rungvisai didn’t suit Chocolatito’s strengths as a fighter and he ended up paying the price for it. Estrada found success forcing the Thai tough guy onto his toes and you have to think he’ll do the same against Chocolatito, especially with a three-year age advantage in his back pocket. That may not sound like a lot in the real world, but for lower-weight fighters it may as well be a lifetime.
Chocolatito is a devastating body puncher and you can bet that’s where he’ll try to make his bones early against Estrada. He was able to land heavy shots downstairs in their first encounter back in 2012 and it served him well. If he can connect early and often and slow Estrada down, this fight becomes much more interesting for him. You can’t exactly say that Chocolatito has carried his power all the way up with him, but you’d have to slightly favor him as the harder puncher here. If he can get into the pocket and land without sticking around to admire his work, we could see a repeat of his 2012 win.
You’ll notice the liberal use of the word “if” there. Estrada is an extremely difficult fighter to game-plan for and even more difficult to look good against. He does just about everything right and has few holes in his game. He can bang or brawl, stick and move, and just about everything in between. This one could come down to intangibles and just about all of them favor Estrada. Height, age, size, and momentum are all on his side. It feels like it could just be his time here.
Chocolatito will be heading into the hall of fame regardless of the outcome of Saturday night’s fight. With a victory, Estrada may just punch his ticket as well. That could be as motivating a factor as any, and in a fight this evenly matched, any edge you can find as a bettor is worth considering. These are two all time greats. The odds slightly favor Estrada and I have to agree.
If you scroll through Chocolatito’s resume, there’s a number that jumps out a you a few times and it’s the number 9. In some of the toughest fights of his career against Akira Yaegashi, Brian Viloria and Khalid Yafai respectively, Chocolatito has stopped them all in the 9th round. That’s obviously a happy coincidence but it’s indicative of his work rate and fighting style against high-level opponents. Estrada is likely the best of that bunch but if Chocolatito is going to stop him it’ll likely be in the 3rd quarter of the fight. As we said, if he can land to the body early and get the fight in front of him, he has the power to send Estrada home early. It’s a long shot, and the odds reflect that, but it’s not out of the question. Throwing a few bucks down on Chocolatito to score a stoppage in rounds 7-9 could yield a nice return.
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