/Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Chocolatito Gonzalez 2: Why loaded fight card is deserving of attention
Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Chocolatito Gonzalez 2: Why loaded fight card is deserving of attention

Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Chocolatito Gonzalez 2: Why loaded fight card is deserving of attention

It took nearly a decade, but Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez will finally battle in a rematch of their 2012 clash on Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The main event is backed up by a rematch between Jessica McCaskill and Cecilia Braekhus and WBA 108-pound champion Hiroto Kyoguchi making his debut in the United States when he defends against Axel Aragon Vega.

Chocolatito (50-2, 41 KO) won the first battle with Estrada (41-3, 28 KO) and Estrada has been trying to chase down the rematch for more than 3,000 days, following Chocolatito from 108 to 112 to 115 pounds. That stretch of time saw a period where many wrote off Chocolatito as past his prime as an elite fighter, entirely based off back-to-back losses against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, first by majority decision and then by knockout. Those fights came one bout after Chocolatito move from flyweight to super flyweight to capture the WBC title.

A four-fight winning streak proved Chocolatito may simply have run into a man who was his kryptonite in Rungvisai, much as Ricardo Mayorga had simply been “that guy” for Vernon Forrest in 2003. Now, Chocolatito is WBA super flyweight champion and viewed as a top fighter once again.

After the loss in the first bout, Estrada has piled up a 15-1 record, the lone loss coming to Rungvisai in 2018. Though, unlike Chocolatito, Estrada was able avenge the loss in their 2019 rematch, winning the WBC super flyweight title, which he has successfully defended twice to set up the unification bout.

Boxing is a spot often plagued by unnecessary fights that aren’t competitive on paper and less competitive in the ring. Look back just a few weeks to Canelo Alvarez’s mandatory title defense against Avni Yildirim, which was only interesting in seeing how badly Alvarez would beat Yildirim (quite badly, it turned out).

That is not the case for Chocolatito vs. Estrada 2, as reflected in the odds, which have Estrada as only a slight favorite at -160 to Chocolatito’s +135 at William Hill Sportsbook. There’s also the stylistic appeal of two talented boxers who are always willing to go to war if the situation demands, which it likely will on Saturday.

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Similar in being a competitive rematch is the co-featured bout between McCaskill (9-2, 3 KO) and Braekhus (36-1, 9 KO), which sits currently with the same betting line, with Braekhus as the -160 favorite to regain the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO female welterweight championships.

Braekhus put together one of the most amazing runs in the history of women’s boxing — and boxing in general — going 36 fights without suffering a defeat and earning her first world title in 2009. She would go on to successfully defend the WBA and WBC 25 times, picking up more belts along the way before running into McCaskill in August 2020.

McCaskill wound up winning a controversial decision that night, taking the titles despite Braekhus coming on strong down the stretch — something that may have had more impact on the result without boxing’s silly rules that women fight shorter — and fewer — rounds.

After the loss, it seemed as though Braekhus, 39, had reached the end of her career, saying, “I don’t know what will happen right now. I’m so proud to be a part of women’s boxing right now. If this is my last fight, I can leave boxing saying that I was a part of this. I took part in women’s boxing at this level. That will be my biggest achievement. … Women’s boxing is just in an amazing place right now, they will be just fine without me.”

McCaskill has taken issue with Braekhus’ handling of the loss, both in the former champion’s acknowledgement of the widely-disputed decision and for contemplating retirement after suffering the first loss of her career.

“Shame on your team for not preparing you mentally for defeat and shame on you for pretending to be the victim,” McCaskill said during a virtual press conference. “You have to be the champion you say you are.”

McCaskill’s attitude has rubbed Braekhus the wrong way since that fight. Despite Braekhus congratulating McCaskill after the win, McCaskill has not relented in taking shots.

Kyoguchi (14-0, 9 KO) is a former IBF minimumweight champion who moved to 108 pounds and captured the WBA junior flyweight title in 2018. He has made two successful title defenses ahead of meeting Vega (14-3-1, 8 KO). The headline in this fight is more focused on Kyoguchi fighting outside Asia for the first time in his pro career.

Vega was not the planned opponent for Kyoguchi’s next title defense, but COVID-19 and travel issues sunk the plan for a clash with Thanongsak Simsri.

Still, the fight gives a wider audience the opportunity to see one of the most talented men in the world in the lower weights, even if he’s a heavy favorite to retain his title en route to bigger things, like a potential clash with Felix Alvarado to unify the titles at 108 pounds.

This is the kind of fight card boxing needs more of, with competitive, high-level fights with intriguing backstories and a touch of featuring lesser known rising stars on the undercard. If you’re a fan of the sport, how do you pass that up?