The biggest bout this weekend is a potential instant classic as WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40) defends his title against mandatory challenger Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2, 25). For the champion this will be his second defense of his second reign, and gives him a huge chance to solidify himself as a leading fighter in the lower weights. The challenger will be looking to become a 2-weight champion, and will be looking to further establish himself as one of the best current Mexican fighters in the sport. On a more fan based level this will be one of the best aggressive fighters in the sport against one of the truly elite boxers and should be a stylistic pleasure or power, brains and skill.
Last year Srisaket announced himself on to the Western fan base with two wins over Roman Gonalez. To some that was his only real achievement but to others, who had followed his career, those were just more big wins that saw him become a 2-time world champion. Prior to those wins he had amassed a long record in Asia and had scored notable wins over Yota Sato, to claim his first title, and Jose Salgado, to become mandatory for a second title fight. Other than those two wins his only other notable recent bout had been a technical decision loss to Carlos Cuadras, who had looked very worried about the power and aggression of Srisaket.
Unlike many Thai's with padded records Srisaket is a genuine world class fighter. He's teak tough, a huge puncher, a powerful physical specimen, with aggressive footwork, a high work rate and an awkward southpaw stance. For all his strengths he can be outboxed, he's not the quickest, the smoothest or defensively the smartest. He has been shown to eat shots, as he did at times against Gonzalez, though they typically bounce off him and he regularly dwarfs other Super Flyweights. In many ways he's like a smaller, cruder, more powerful Gennady Golovkin and if the Super Flyweight division had a higher profile a few years ago he truly would have been the divisional bogey man, rather than someone feasting on regional journeymen to stay busy.
Whilst Srisaket only really managed to make him name in the West recently the same can't be said of Estrada, who has looked on the verge of breaking out a few times, before something has slowed his ascent. In 2012 he went tooth and nail with Roman Gonzalez, in a true Fight of the Year contender for the WBA Light Flyweight title. That bout was aired on Wealth TV in the US and it seemed like the perfect platform for the lower weight fighters. Despite the loss Estrada's profile was boosted immeasurably and just a few months later he would defeat Brian Viloria in Macau to claim the WBO and WBA “super” titles at Flyweight. Another bout in Macau saw Estrada defeat Milan Melindo and it seemed like he was going to become a staple of the Bob Arum shows in the region. Sadly though he would fight his next 7 bouts in Mexico, spread over the following 3 years. They included wins over Giovani Segura and Hernan Marquez, who had looked shot for a while, along with some limited opposition as hand injuries slowed his rise and kept him out of action for over a year.
Thankfully for Estrada he scored a major win last year as he over-came Carlos Cuadras to earn a shot at the WBC Super Flyweight title. The win over Cuadras showed everything that Estrada is. He's a really intelligent boxer-puncher, he showed ring craft, timing, and understanding of distance that many fighters wish they could have. His jab was on point, his shot selection showed touches of genius and although he started somewhat slowly he came close to finishing off a tired Cuadras late on, dropping his fellow Mexican in round 10. The slow start of Estrada is something we've seen a number of times, as he figures out his opponents and then begins to go to work. It's a cerebral style that he combines with solid speed and power.
Give that Srisaket is a fast starter, looking to force his will from the opening bell and that Estrada is a slow starter, who begins to pick apart opponents as the fight goes on we are expecting a fight that,if it goes to the cards, is going to be very hard to score. We're know that Srisaket will start fast, and during the first 4 or 5 rounds he is going to be incredibly dangerous against his naturally smaller foe. If he can land his power shots during this time there is a chance he could force a stoppage, he could in fairness stop almost anyone in the lower weights if he lands cleanly. If Estrada sees out the early storm he will dominate the later rounds, making things really interesting on the score cards. It really could depend on whether or not Srisaket can get an early knockdown or not.
Another to consider here, and it works in Sriskaet's favour, is the potential for headclashes. A quick start by the Thai before a headclash renders an early finish could well see him take a technical decision, in part due to Estrada's willingness to start slowly. This may well figure into the game plan of both men, and see a slightly early start from Estrada.
We favour the Thai to come out on top, though we suspect he'll have to get through some very tough patches late on to come out with the win, after a very strong start.
In 2011 fans saw Filipino fighter Rommel Asenjo (26-3, 20) come up short in a bout for the WBO Minimumweight title, when he was stopped by Mexican Raul Garcia in 3 rounds. Since then Asenjo has gone 6-0 (4) as he has rebuilt his career and now finds himself getting a second world title fight on April 28th. Unfortunately for the diminutive Filipino fighter he will be up against one of boxing's most impressive champions, WBA "Super" and WBO Flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada (31-2, 22). And just like the Garcia bout, we will see Asenjo needing to travel to Mexico. Worst of all for Asenjo he will be stepping in to the Flyweight division for the first time since a 2008 loss to a young and emerging Suriyan Sor Rungvisai.
For those who remember Asenjo's loss to Garcia, it was huge step up in class and one he was simple not ready for. Asenjo had, up to that point, never fought anyone above the Filipino domestic level and had found that many of those domestic opponent were unable to cope with his power. In fact when he entered that bout he had a record of 20-2 (16) and had only gone beyond 8 rounds once, taking a narrow decision over Jetly Purisima for a regional WBO title. It was a bout Asenjo wasn't ready for and it was little surprise when he suffered his sole stoppage defeat.
Sadly since his loss to Garcia we've seen Asenjo return back to the Filipino domestic level where he has remained unbeaten but hardly looked impressive with a real struggle last time out against Powell Balaba. He has also been plagued by some notable inactivity, including a break of 18 months, in recent years.
In the ring Asenjo has traits of a number of other Filipino fighters. He's heavy handed, fights from the southpaw stance and although he seems to have power he is crude and has a lot of question marks surrounding his actual ability. On paper his record looks pretty and he boasts 14 stoppages in the first 3 rounds, in reality however that says a lot about his competition.
Mexico's Estrada first came to the attention of the international boxing community back in 2012 when he went toe-to-toe with Roman Gonzalez in a 2012 FOTY contender. Since then his reputation has sky-rocketed courtesy of wins against the likes Brian Viloria, Milan Melindo and Giovani Segura. The only real mark against him since then has been his struggle against unheralded Filipino Joebert Alvarez last time out, a struggle that wasn't reflected in the disgustingly wide scorecards.
Estrada is a huge fighter at Flyweight. Officially he is listed at 5'4" but the height measurement doesn't do him justice for his overall frame which is much bigger than that of a typical Flyweight. Given his size it seems almost certain that we will see Estrada moving to 115lbs sooner rather than later and we expect to see him being even more impressive at the higher weight, a weight he flirted with in his bout against Alvarez.
Sometimes when we watch Estrada we're not blown away by him, however his weaknesses are few and far between, and seem to only rear their head when he expects an easy bout. When feeling like he needs to go through the gears he's a wonderful all-rounder with hurtful power, very good boxing, a real gritty toughness and a fantastic engine. We won't pretend he's unbeatable but he's only going to be beaten by very special fighters, or when he's over-looked an opponent and been made to pay for his complacency.
Whilst we have mentioned Estrada's complacency we really can't see even a complacent Estrada coming up short against Asenjo who appears to be made to order. He's much smaller than the champion, he's never managed to score a win that would even give us an inkling of the upset and he's also been stopped the last time he fought at an elevated level like this. Given the size, skill, power and physical advantages of the champion we really can't see anything but a quick and easy looking win for Estrada who will be looking to put the lingering memory of the Alvarez bout behind him in style.
Our favourite division right now is the 112lb Flyweight division. It's a division that has absolutely everything one could wish for in a division. Top fighters, skilled boxers, power punchers, crude sluggers, depth, notable names and most importantly big match ups which seem to be coming one after another.
The next great bout at 112lbs sees WBO and WBA "super" champion Juan Francisco Estrada (25-2, 18) defending his titles against the under-rated Filipino challenger Richie Mepranum (27-3-1, 6).
The challenger, who enters this bout as the clear under-dog is no stranger to being the over-looked fighter in a bout. He was written off when he moved up a class and faced his first former world title challenger Denkaosan Kaovichit in 2007 and gave the Thai a very tough contest, he was written off when he faced Rocky Fuentes and managed to defeat his Filipino countryman and most notably he was given no chance when he travelled to Mexico and took on and beat a previously unbeaten Hernan "Tyson" Marquez.
Although Mepranum has lost two, somewhat recent contests, both were at the top level and included a decision loss to Marquez and a stoppage loss to Julio Cesar Miranda, he has certainly proven he belongs in and around the world level.
At his best the Filipino is a tricky fighter who comes to fight and although he lacks power he makes up for it in volume and out put. His jab is sharp and quick, he follows up his connects with combinations and is tricky to pin down with intelligent movement. He can have his shots bounce off an opponent but he's slippery enough to make opponents look silly as he tags them then moves.
In Estrada we have a man who seemed to come out of no where back in November 2012 when he traded blows with sensational Nicaraguan Roman Gonalez. Although Estrada lost that night he has been on a tremendous rise ever since and has beaten both Brian Viloria, to win the titles, and Milan Melindo to defend them.
Big, strong, tough, heavy handed and with the ability to either fight or box Estrada looks likely to be a handful for anyone at 112lbs and further down the line at 115lbs if not as far as 118lbs. At just 24 years old Estrada is a boxing baby though fights like a season veteran and looks almost certain to become one of the next Mexican stars, at least in the lower weights.
With a glowing reputation Estrada really does seem like a huge favourite to successfully defend his belts against Mepranum in a fight that, if he's on form, he really can win any way he wishes. If an on form Estrada wants to box the odds are he'll do enough to take a decision, if he'd rather drag the Filipino into a war there would only be one man winning that.
Although Estrada is clearly the favourite we do expect him to be given a genuine test here. Mepranum is skilled enough and experienced enough to give most Flyweights fits and although he perhaps lacks the firepower to be a champion he is almost certainly going to be a top contender for the next few years.
We'd expect Mepranum to make Estrada look bad times but we can't see the Mexican losing to the Filipino, especially not here as fights in Puerto Penasco, the birth place of Estrada. He may not manage to take the belt but he will certainly not just roll over and take a loss without putting up a fight first.
We'd love to see the winner of this bout face the winner of the up coming contest between Akira Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez. That would be a bout that would really give order to the division and clearly define the #1 and #2 at Flyweight. Thankfully with all of the top fighters showing a willingness to face other we wouldn't be shocked to see a division super either at the end of this year or the start of next year.
On July 27th at the Venetian Casino & Resort in Macau unbeaten Filipino Milan Melindo (29-0, 12) gets the chance to announce himself on the world stage.
Viewed by many as "the best kept secret in Filipino boxing", Melindo will be hoping to go from "secret" to "superstar" as he takes on Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada (24-2, 18) for the WBO and WBA "super" titles at Flyweight in what will be Estrada's first title defense.
Less than a year ago Estrada was in a similar position to what Melindo is in now. He was talented but unknown and under-rated. That changed when Estrada gave former Teiken fighter Roman Gonzalez a thoroughly competitive contest last November in a fight of the year candidate.
Although Estrada lost to Gonzalez he had made a huge impression and just a few months later he defeated Filipino-American Brian Viloria. With that win Estrada not only claimed 2 world titles but also put himself on the boxing map as one of the worlds elite Flyweights (alongside Akira Yaegashi).
Like Estrada was against Viloria, Melindo is the under-dog here but a very live under-dog who will certainly be looking for the upset.
Aged 25 Melindo is a fighter who has been been creating a buzz in and around the Philippines and with good reason. Not only does he boast an impressive unbeaten record but he has also showcased the skills that suggest he could well be a future world champion.
Although Melindo has yet to fight in a world title bout it's relatively fair to suggest that he does deserve to be considered as capable at the world level. He has already defeated 4 former world champions in the form of Muhammad Rachman, Carlos Tamara, Jesus Geles and Jean Piero Perez and also holds victories over title challengers Francisco Rosas and Carlos Melo.
Inside of the ring of Melindo is a technically solid fighter who has a lovely variety of punches to both the head and body. He can box behind his jab though in recent bouts he has seemed very willing to stand in front of his opponents and counter them up close. It's been this willingness to fight up close in recent bouts that has seen him stopping 5 of his last 6 opponents (compared to just 7 in his first 23 bouts) .
In Estrada, Melindo will be facing a genuine beast. The Mexican 23 year old is a huge fighter at the weight, in fact he's probably a natural Super Flyweight. He's not just big but he's tough, relentless, hard hitting and seems to have infinite stamina.
Stylistically Estrada is pretty much your typical Mexican. He comes to the ring for a fight and will happily go to war with an opponent in an attempt to grind them down in a battle of wills. What helps him win these battles is his tremendous body attack which is one of the best in the sport and so devastating that very few fighters will manage to survive.
For Melindo to win he needs to forget about standing in front of Estrada. Letting Estrada apply the pressure with out moving would be suicide here. He needs to box, move and avoid a tear up at all costs. If Melindo cannot establish a safe distance from Estrada and control the pace this will become a hugely entertaining bout for fans but a very painful one for Melindo who lacks the power needed to back Estrada up (like Gonzalez was able to).
If the bout becomes a firefight there's only one winner and sadly it won't be the man who currently resides in Cebu city. If he can keep the action at range and make Estrada chase him however there is potential for the upset.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.