As part of this Treasure Trove series we have spent a lot of time talking about the more obscure battles and wars from 2019. Today however we look at a huge bout that saw international TV exposure and was one of the biggest bouts of the year, at least in terms of Asian fighters. It pitted the top Thai against one of the top Mexican's, in a rematch that had been building for over a year. It wasn't the fight of the year, but was very damn good!
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3, 26)
In one corner was WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, enjoying his second reign as the champion. The Thai had announced himself in the US with a controversial win over Roman Gonzalez, before blasting out the Nicaraguan in a rematch. Following that he had enhanced his standing in the sport with a decision win over brilliant Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada.
At his best Srisaket was a strong, powerful, come forward fighter with scary strength for a Super Flyweight and a terminator like mentality. Defensively he has always been quite open, and often relies on his toughness to get him through tough spots, and he is slow, but more than males up for those issues by being a terrifying man to fight. He walks through punches, he comes forward, he's relentless, strong, heavy handed and, worst of all, he's a hard hitting southpaw. One thing many think, when watching him, is that he's crude, and that's actually a bit unfair, he does do some very smart work, but it's on the front foot, and is often hidden behind his pressure and physicality.
Whilst Srisaket was regarded as an offensive pressure machine talented Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada was regarded as one of the best technical all rounders in the sport. His boxing IQ, timing and control of distance is fantastic, his handspeed is criminally under-rated and he's proven that he's really able to do everything. He's one of the very few fighters who's as good on the back foot as he is on the front foot, and can pressure, box, fight or counter. He's also tough, hard to hit clean and counters brilliantly.
Although incredibly skilled Estrada's biggest issue is that he can, at times, over-look his opponents. This was seen notably against Joebert Alvarez, in what was a very close bout despite the score cards. He can also be dragged into the wrong type of fighter, and at Super Flyweight he's certainly not a big puncher. He's a very clean puncher, but does lack 1-punch KO power.
In February 2018 the two men had clashed in their first bout, with Srisaket taking a majority decision win over Estrada. Following that win Srisaket had had issues outside of the ring, splitting with his long term partner and scoring two low profile wins. The most notable of those wins came over Hiram Irak Diaz and was a less than stellar performance. Estrada on the other hand had scored two solid wins, beating Felipe Orucuta and Victor Mendez, and looked good and hungry coming into the rematch.
This was a bout hardcore fans wanted, it was a rematch of a great bout and was expected to be something brilliant. What we got was something very memorable and compelling.
The bout started with Srisaket giving up his key advantage. Rather than fighting southpaw he actually came out fighting orthodox and rather than taking the fight to Estrada he tried to box with the Mexican genius. It was instantly a weird start to the fight, and seemed as if Srisaket wanted to beat Estrada at Estrada's game. It wasn't a good gameplan from the Thai.
As the early rounds went on Srisket continued to fight the wrong fight, falling behind. Despite that both men were landing some solid shots, in what was a really technical boxing contest. This was high level, entertaining, and a show case of what an Estrada fight is. It was higher being fought with a feeling that sooner or later Srisaket's power and aggression would begin to turn things around.
Having fallen a long way behind Srisaket finally turned southpaw, finally fought his fight and finally began to make his strengths count. This forced some brilliant action in the final few rounds as he attempted to wage war on Estrada.
This is a strange bout, but it's a brilliant bout. It's got one of the best Thai's ever fighting the wrong bout, before things click and it's got one of the best pure boxers in the sport showing what a boxing genius he is.
This isn't a hidden gem, but it is a fantastic bout, and a somewhat over-looked contest that really is worth a re-watch!
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.