This Saturday a Texas shootout is going down between elite gunslingers, one no serious fight fan can afford to miss. A little more than eight years since their first hotly contested showdown, a battle which boasted a veritable storm of hot lead and high-caliber fireworks, Juan Francisco “Gallito” Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez will finally meet again to settle some unfinished business. And despite both being decidedly on the wrong side of their primes, nothing less than a hot and heavy gun battle is expected from the Mexican and Nicaraguan sharp-shooters. Gonzalez vs Estrada II is finally happening. After eight long years, we can scarcely believe it. But something tells us it’s gonna be worth the wait.
Needless to say, circumstances are drastically different today than when these two locks for the Hall of Fame first met back in November of 2012. At that time, “Chocolatito,” then a sprightly 25-years-of-age and already with nine title fight victories under his belt, was widely regarded as a potential candidate for the top spot in the pound-for-pound rankings. Meanwhile, a 23-year-old “Gallito” was an unknown challenger, with a decorated amateur career, taking his first crack at a world title.
But what ensued once the opening bell rang was one of the finest donnybrooks of the year. Gonzalez, on the threshold of his prizefighting peak, and about to go on a run that would see him perform on some of the brightest stages the fight game has to offer, employed his trademark high-pressure style to stalk and chop down Estrada. The Mexican, recognizing the magnitude of the challenge before him, dug down deep to discover he possessed both the required weaponry and the grit to stand and trade with one of the sport’s premier offensive forces.
Round after round of relentless warring followed, the ebb and flow of battle favoring first one, then the other. The wide scorecards favoring the Nicaraguan fooled no one who had watched with attention and failed to obscure the fact that the fight had been highly competitive; that said, at least the declared winner was the most deserving one. Tellingly, any thought of complaining about something as trivial as the judges’ scorecards was quickly pushed aside by more pressing concerns in the minds of fight fans. Namely, when can we see the rematch?
Years went by and, regrettably, Gonzalez vs Estrada II never came close to becoming reality. Instead, Roman and Juan Francisco each went on a tear, blazing their own trails and fighting often against the best talents to be found in the lower weight classes. Despite their earnings failing miserably at keeping up with their growing reputations as top-shelf pugilists, the Nicaraguan and the Mexican never failed to leave it all in the ring every time out, and with each and every victory, ardent fight fans were left to ponder and ruminate on when a rematch might finally materialize.
Now, at long last, Gonzalez vs Estrada II is here, and even if both combatants are closer to the end of their careers than we’d like to be the case, let there be no doubt this is still a must-see showdown for fight fans. In a sport that so infrequently delivers the best matchups, Estrada and Gonzalez have earned our attention the right away: by turning down no challenge, by proving their grit and showcasing their talents against hard opposition, and perhaps more importantly, by facing adversity and overcoming it.
In 2017 Gonzalez suffered back-to-back defeats to Thai nemesis Srisaket Sor Rungvisai–the first time via bullshit decision at the conclusion of a very strong Fight Of The Year candidate, and then via categorical knockout, each defeat agonizing in its own way. At the time Roman was widely considered the finest fighter in the world, and so he was left no choice after the crushing setbacks but to take a break from the sport, pose some difficult questions to himself, and figure some shit out. Defeats of such heartbreaking nature demand introspection like few other things in life.
Eventually Gonzalez realized that he must return to the warring life, and that is just what he did. “Chocolatito” steps into the ring this weekend riding a four-fight win streak and with a sanctioning belt around his waist. And even if it’s evident the Nicaraguan has lost some of his edge–his hand speed is not what it used to be, and his mobility and footwork not as precise as in his best days–there is no doubt he is still one of the top talents in the super flyweight division.
As for Estrada, he also faced Sor Rungvisai twice. The first time, his finesse melded with the Thai’s power to produce another strong Fight of the Year candidate, filled with dramatic swings in momentum, albeit one where Rungvisai was correctly awarded the decision. Their rematch in 2019 saw Gallito dominate the first half of the contest with ease, and when the Thai stepped on the gas in the second half, Estrada stood his ground and traded bombs with the Asian without taking a backwards step. The outcome was a clear decision for the Mexican, one which boosted his standing as one of the best in the game today, pound-for-pound. In fact, if it wasn’t for a certain redhead from Jalisco, Estrada would have an uncontestable claim to being the best Mexican fighter today.
Estrada and Gonzalez will clash in Dallas as two of the best super flyweights in the world. They carry with them much of the fearsome arsenal that they showcased in their first bout, but they complement it with hard-earned experience and wisdom that they didn’t possess when they first went to war all those years ago. Using their most recent outings as measuring sticks, it is evident they still possess the stamina to throw the kind of volume that characterizes the lower weight classes, still have the pride and desire, still have the fire within to put it all on the line for as long as it takes.
Thus, all signs point to a truly historic fight and an epic war about to unfold in Texas, not to mention another strong Fight of the Year candidate. Sportsbooks favor the Mexican, if ever so slightly, based on the fact he has looked fresher than Gonzalez in his recent appearances. Most recently, he was seen besting countryman Carlos Cuadras in–you guessed it–2020’s Fight of the Year. But by and large it’s extremely difficult to predict a winner here with any degree of certainty, which is often the mark of a high-quality donnybrook, and a can’t miss match-up.
Most of us who have followed the careers of these two proud champions over the years both cherish and dread Gonzalez vs Estrada II. Their matchup, even at this late stage of their careers, is the sort of duel that comes around too rarely, and needs to be savored as such. But the fact one of them will leave the ring a loser just feels wrong to those of us who appreciate not only their ring talents, but how much both have given of themselves for our entertainment. To think that the aforementioned redhead from Jalisco earned eight figures for pounding on a WBC-branded punching bag for three rounds, while Estrada and Gonzalez had to beg for a measly million dollars a piece, should be insulting, if not infuriating, for everyone who follows boxing with any seriousness.
So the least we can do is grant these proven warriors our undivided attention this Saturday night. If their recent history is any guide, at night’s end not only will we be rewarded with yet another classic, but we will be left feeling humbled, perilously close to the edge of discomfort, by the purity of their self-effacing pursuit of victory. Nothing like a real, old-fashioned Texas shootout. And quite possibly, The Fight of the Year. — Rafael Garcia