Superfly 2 went down last night at the Forum in Inglewood, California, featuring some of the best talent to be found in the lower weight classes. The main event presented a battle between Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Mexico’s Juan Francisco Estrada–both victorious last September in the inaugural Superfly card–squaring off for the 115-pound world championship. Expectations ran high, given the quality of the fighters involved, their recent achievements, and their boxing styles.
Sor Rungvisai–following back-to-back victories over former pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez–sought most of all to validate his standing atop the super flyweight rankings. After all, there are some who not only believe the Thai didn’t deserve the close decision when he prevailed over Gonzalez last March, but also that the version of “Chocolatito” that Rungvisai knocked out in September was all but a shot fighter. Meanwhile, Estrada hoped to finally earn the big signature win that has eluded him for so long and to cement his place in the pound-for-pound conversation. What better way to do that than by defeating the guy who dethroned the great Gonzalez?
Meanwhile, the main supporting bout saw Carlos Cuadras, also hailing from Mexico, take on Puerto Rico’s McWilliams Arroyo in what was expected to be an entertaining ten rounder. If both Cuadras and Arroyo are former victims of Gonzalez, they also showcased skill and tremendous durability in their respective encounters with the Nicaraguan. The winner of this non-title showdown would renew their credentials as a top contender in a stacked 115-pound division.
McWilliams Arroyo’s name represented a huge question mark as his fight with Cuadras approached, given that he hadn’t fought since his loss to “Chocolatito” in April of 2016. But this was a case in which a long layoff did wonders for a boxer, as a fresh and very well-conditioned Arroyo clearly imposed his measured counterpunching over Cuadras’ swarming, which was favored to prevail going into the match.
The opening rounds saw a closely contested bout, with momentum swinging between Arroyo’s accurate counters and Cuadras’ eye-catching combinations, but the tide turned for good sometime during the middle rounds. That was when Cuadras–he of the recurring stamina issues–became increasingly sloppy in execution and lowered his punching output, allowing Arroyo to take over. By the end, Arroyo looked in complete control of the action, while Cuadras–with bleeding nose and bruised face in tow–huffed and puffed his way to the final bell. The end result was a well-deserved majority decision in Arroyo’s favor.
As for the main event, Rungvisai and Estrada delivered an increasingly violent, highly technical encounter that more than fulfilled the bloodlust of almost 8,000 fans at the Forum, not to mention the millions watching on HBO. They both fought studiously throughout the opening rounds, but the action started heating up in the fourth and fifth stanzas when Rungvisai brought his power and boxing abilities to bear on the Mexican, who kept trying to time and counter the Thai with only occasional success.
Through the middle rounds, Rungvisai connected with strong right hooks out of his southpaw stance, and disallowed Estrada from taking control. Meanwhile, the Mexican remained in the fight, but seemed to be playing catch-up. Rungvisai’s punches were the clearer and harder ones, and whenever Estrada did manage to land a clean shot, the Thai took it so well that it looked like nothing of significance had happened.
But in the eighth and ninth rounds Estrada mounted a rally that he would sustain all the way to the final bell. Having realized that sticking to counterpunching would be a mistake, he began throwing combinations in earnest, bracing himself for the inevitable response from Rungvisai and taking it in stride. This is when Rungvisai vs Estrada became something special. With both fighters fully aware of the stakes involved, and of the fact that a single mistake could bring catastrophe, they refused to recoil, instead using the pressure to raise their game and trade tit-for-tat in one furious exchange after another.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the final round, when Estrada came out with guns blazing, taking the fight to the bigger, stronger Rungvisai, only for the Thai to meet him in ring center and match him punch for punch. The result was three solid minutes of the kind of action fight fans live for. And the end result of the battle was a majority decision in favor of Rungvisai, and a deserved one in the eyes of most observers. The general consensus was that Rungvisai vs Estrada was a close match with no real loser, and one very deserving of a second go-around.
The Take Away
The main event alone more than justified hardcore fight fans’ enthusiasm about Superfly 2. Rungvisai’s and Estrada’s fighting styles meshed perfectly to produce an early front-runner for Fight of the Year, and a more than worthy candidate for Round of the Year thanks to that astonishing final stanza. The fact that the Thai and the Mexican turned out to be so perfectly matched, and with controversy arising from a wild 117-111 scorecard in Rungvisai’s favor, all but guarantees a rematch, which boxing fans will welcome with open arms.
But if the final outcome was less than definitive, the one thing that is clear is that both Rungvisai and Estrada belong in the upper echelons of any serious pound-for-pound list. The skillsets, endurance and determination they showcased last night are nothing short of extraordinary, and the fact that they are constantly facing the top opponents to be found at their weight–while earning a mere fraction of what bigger, better-recognized fighters earn for tune-ups and stay-busy fights–is a damn shame. The least we can do is recognize their talent and their bravery to the degree they really deserve.
Beyond that, and despite the recent departure of Naoya Inoue from the super flyweight division, the weight class remains stacked and brimming with possibilities. Apart from Estrada, Rungvisai and Arroyo, the division still counts among its names with Roman Gonzalez himself–who will begin another championship run later this year–as well as titleholders Jerwin Ancajas and Khalid Yafai, who are no doubt anxiously awaiting a chance to take part in the increasingly popular Superfly cards. Any pairings arising out of that pool of talent will make for compelling fights and dramatic nights.
But perhaps the greatest impact of last night’s card resides in the fact that it encapsulates so perfectly what happens when boxing is at its best, when boxing politics allow the most significant fights to happen. The end result is not only high-quality fights both on paper and in the ring, but also more eyeballs watching, and therefore, more money for all the stakeholders: promoters, networks, and–most importantly–for the boxers themselves. In this regard, the Superfly concept–only two chapters in–can already be ruled an unabashed success. The hope is that the standards set by the first two Superfly cards continue to be upheld, and that those involved keep building on its success, so that the rest of the boxing world can finally give the little men the attention and rewards they have been denied for too long. — Rafael Garcia