It was the shot felt around the world.
If you were one of the unfortunate fight fans to miss the great Juan Manuel Marquez rise from the abyss to deliver a kiss of death to Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao in December 2012, perhaps you were awakened by the sound of a classic blast.
“Pac-Man” always wanted revenge for the vengeance of “Dynamita”, and as if the fight gods beckoned for a 5th stanza, the boxing world delivered the powerful WBC super flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (45-4, 40KOs) against an unrelenting machine in former world champion Juan Francisco Estrada (36-3, 25KOs).
A tsunami from Thailand against the forces of a Mexican hurricane.
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What a spectacular night from The Forum in Inglewood, CA, former home of the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers. Superfly 2 was a roaring success, due in large part to the combatants. Flyweight legend Donnie Nietes V Juan Carlos Reveco (KO 7, Nietes) was combat at its finest, featuring fiery exchanges and valor.
Short-circuited by a sharp, short right hand a nano-second before the end of the 6th round, Reveco (39-4, 19KOs) was completely unplugged from reality; nevertheless forced into a realization only a true fighters' instinct would face from Nietes (41-1-4, 23KOs) in the 7th.
I'd love to see Donnie Nietes V Jerwin Ancajas.
Then, McWilliams Arroyo (17-3, 14KOs) decided Carlos Cuadras (36-3-1, 25KOs) was not going to be able to simply show up and live off of the past to win. Summoning the will of his people from the embattled island of Puerto Rico, Arroyo would surge past any faded glory, for a chance at something more real.
I hope he got to see SsR V JFE and heard the call from the HBO broadcast team of Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and Andre Ward. More on that in a minute… Here's what we know.
In 2017, Roman Gonzalez was shellshocked by Srisaket Sor Rungvisai before being absolutely shotgun blasted. For some of us, seeing is more than just believing, it is knowing what we think we know. All of this supposed knowledge could be traced to Carlos Cuadras.
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The Backstory _
I sat inside of Madison Square Garden last March and watched SsR “lose” to Roman Gonzalez while beating the last vestiges of “Chocolatito” in the process. I was surprised Choco didn't get the decision, but not by how he looked. He may have been the most suspect de facto pound-for-pound champion in ring history, after having been overbaked by a Cuadras I thought deserved the nod.
Cuadras then managed to make Juan Francisco Estrada look somewhat shopworn, while SsR massacred an overestimated Chocolatito. In the lower weight classes– if you've not been watching them perform with regularity, you don't quite appreciate the difference in speed and skill they're facing – or – how superior opposition can expose any sudden vulnerability.
SsR was not that different from the green guy who'd been pasted by Carlos Cuadras in May 2014. Because I was lazy, I didn't watch that fight until a few hours before the opening bell. I'd seen footage of Estrada entering the arena and he looked unusually confident. Cuadras can make anyone look bad, in victory or defeat. Thus, I underestimated Estrada and overestimated SsR.
In 2012, Roman Gonzalez was fucking Roman Gonzalez. JFE lost to some very rare chocolate then via close decision. In Sept 2017, he turns him into the same milkshake SsR did. I didn't know what awaited the Thai star was Juan Manuel Marquez with elements of the late Diego Corrales.
After the first round, Max Kellerman told HBO's audience that JFE revealed to his corner SsR was “a huge puncher”. Andre Ward then noted how a poised and great fighter (while hinting he's open to Ward V Kovalev III) won't give a monster puncher any sign of weakness– no matter the pain. Understand that JFE was being bombed early on. In looking at SsR, he's really Manny Pacquiao wired in the mode and mentality of a George Foreman. There was Freddie Roach at ringside involved in analytical animation with HBO VP of Sports, Peter Nelson.
Roach would make SsR better. He would destabilize the Foreman in him, while allowing a Pac-Man prototype to work more freely; Rungvisai needs better head and upper body movement. Some WD-40 around the shoulders and his waist. The jab is virtually non-existent and his balance is a mess.
A fight he's winning comfortably on power and brute strength alone changes in round 8, after JFE gets berated by a younger version of Nacho Beristain, who, ironically starts imploring him to “get closer and bite down on his mouthguard”, as Ward is suggesting from ringside. This, to shorten the punching space of SsR, in concert with movement and rhythm. It worked.
The fight takes on the remarkable ebb n flow of what Pac/JMM V would've looked like, with Marquez having figured out Manny's addition from subtraction. Ward also observed from ringside how SsR is trying to “come through the backdoor, the side, the window…”, before Max concluded: “He's looking to rob your house.”
The Bottom Line _
It's not often you'll hear a great fighter calling a great fight between great fighters with great partners. That is what happened with Pacquiao V Marquez IV with Roy Jones Jr., Max Kellerman and Jim Lampley, but it was taken to another level with Andre Ward for this fight. Harold Letterman and Jim Lampley were their usual solid variety, but the Ward/Kellerman connection is special.
Just as a much more refined technical skillset made Ward the better overall fighter than Jones, it seperates him from RJJ with a headset on and a microphone in front of him. Kellerman has always seen, processed and delivered things faster than Larry Merchant did. But with Ward, he's dealing with a real Smart device, which makes him (and the HBO telecast) sharper.
The 12th round of this fight was shades of the first between Hagler/Hearns– who produced arguably the greatest first round ever. It doesn't get any more prescient than when Max stated Juan Francisco Estrada is “a 15 round fighter in a 12 round era”. He's right. Similar to what would've happened to Danny “Swift” Garcia if Lamont Peterson had the original championship rounds, Rungvisai gets KTFO. His armor was clearly being cracked to the extent that Estrada may have only needed an unlucky 13th for SsR. As it was, he did more than enough with crude authority over the first 2/3rd's of the fight to win– but he didn't necessarily beat JFE.
For as close as it was to what Pacquiao V Marquez V could've looked like at the distance, a rematch would probably show us what the stoppage would look like. Any time two great fighters with immense national pride happen to collide for a second time while still in their prime… Brutal.
“The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his.”
—George S. Patton