Juan Francisco ‘Gallo' Estrada takes on Roman ‘Chocolatito' Gonzalez for the third time this Saturday live on DAZN.
For reasons too tedious, obvious, and silly to go into, the third bout between Tyson Fury and Derek Chisora is taking up a lot of oxygen in the boxing world. However, there is another trilogy coming to the fore this weekend that is much more deserving of the attention of fight fans: Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez(51-3) vs. Juan Francisco Estrada(43-3).
The history between these two fighters dates back ten years now, when Gonzalez took a unanimous decision victory over Estrada on November 11th of 2012. Both were flyweights the first time around, with Chocolatito already an established (and undefeated) champion while Estrada was nearing the cusp of greatness – a status Chocolatito delayed in coming out the victor in their first fight.
A lot changed between their first and second fights. Chocolatito won his next 11 fights at flyweight, becoming a pound-for-pound contender and leaning toward legendary status. In 2016, Gonzalez moved up to super flyweight and won his first fight in his new class, taking a unanimous decision over Carlos Cuadras and winning the WBC title in the process. That’s when things got dicey for the ascendant Nicaraguan.
Six months after winning a new crown by beating Cuadras, Chocolatito’s long-term trainer, Arnulfo Obando, suffered a stroke and died. Six months later, Gonzalez faced off against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (now known as Wisaksil Wangek) and suffered the first loss of his career when the southpaw from Thailand defeated Chocolatito by a tight majority decision. The rematch in September of 2017 actually went worse for Gonzalez, with a shocking fourth-round KO loss that had many wondering if Chocolatito ’s talent and power didn’t translate to the super flyweight division. There were even whispers of possible retirement after the devastating loss.
After the back-to-back defeats, Chocolatito took an entire year away from the ring. When he returned, he proved that he was far from done. Four straight wins (three by KO) followed, and Chocolatito was once again a title holder in the super flyweight class.
Waiting for the revitalized Chocolatito was the man he had defeated nearly nine years before: Juan Francisco Estrada. Estrada was no longer the up-and-comer he was the first time he and Gonzalez raised up their fists. The tough-as-nails Mexican had won 16 of 17 bouts after the loss to Chocolatito, his only blemish a majority decision loss to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2018 – a loss that he (unlike Gonzalez) avenged one year later with a majority decision victory over Rungvisai. Along the way, Estrada picked up belts at both flyweight and super flyweight.
The second time he and Chocolatito would fight, Estrada was a much better boxer than the man Gonzalaz had met before, and he proved it in the ring, winning a majority decision. In between their second and upcoming third fight, both men won unanimous decisions over solid opponents (Gonzalez beating the previously undefeated Julio Caesar Martinez and Estrada handing Argi Cortes his second career loss).
After a nearly eight-month delay due to Estrada contracting COVID, now comes the fabled rubber match. What’s at stake here for Chocolatito is obvious: at 35, can Gonzalez remain at the top of a division that once flummoxed him and he later took control of, or are we about to see a decline in one of the best fighters of his generation? For Estrada, a second win over Chocolatito comes with much more than bragging rights. It would also quite rightly be considered a consecration of his deeply underappreciated greatness.
Chocolatito is looking to hang onto his status, and Estrada (at three years, Gonzalez’s junior) is looking to make his name. Both men have overcome much to get here. Chocolatito was counted out by many but came back to show us that he had a lot more left in the tank. Estrada has dealt with illness, injuries, and as my editor, Abraham Gonzalez, pointed out, “He’s had three children in a short period of time. Let’s see what that does to that killer snarl.” To a man without children who can barely handle his dog, let me say that three sounds like a lot…over any span of time.
Regardless, this should be a hell of a fight. In their second bout, the two men threw 2,529 punches, and the bout was named ESPN’s runner-up for fight of the year. This is by far the best fight left on the 2022 calendar, and if both men bring it like we believe they will, this time, they may well produce the fight of the year – no runner-up.