By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On April 26, at the Forum in Inglewood, California, a much anticipated title bout will take place as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai defends his WBC Super Flyweight World Championship against Juan Francisco Estrada, in a rematch, 14 months in the making.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1), unlike most World champions from Thailand, didn’t have a long and successful Muay Thai career, before breaking into the sport. Life forced him to move to Bangkok, when he was only 13 years old and worked as a trash collector at a department store in order to feed himself. He finally took up pro boxing in 2009 and in just 2 years he was the WBC Asia champion.
In 2013, Sor Rungvisai (with a record of 18-3 at the time) challenged Yota Sato (26-3) for the WBC Super Flyweight World title. Sato, with victories over the likes of Kohei Kono, Suriyan Kaikanha and Ryo Akaho, was the clear favorite to win this fight. The Thai boxer shocked the world when he dominated the champion in every single round, leaving him almost no room for an offense of his own, continuingly punishing him until the referee had to step in and stop the fight in the 8th, crowning Srisaket the new World champion, at the age of 26. Sato had never been stopped prior to this match.
Srisaket made his first defense against Hirofumi Mukai (15-6) in a one sided beatdown. He lost his belt to Carlos Cuadras (37-3) in controversial fashion, after Cuadras suffered a cut over to his left eye from an accidental clash of heads and was awarded the technical decision. In just a few months after that loss, he reclaimed the WBC Asia title and mostly fought journeymen until he squared off 2 time world title contender Jose Salgado (36-5). Sor Rungvisai blasted the Mexican with a couple of strong left punches and one mean right cross in the 4th round to get the TKO win and the WBC Silver championship.
His biggest challenge came on March 18 of 2017, when he fought Roman Gonzalez at Madison Square Garden, for the belt he never truly lost. Chocolatito, 88-0 as an amateur and 46-0 as a pro, had never lost a single match in his entire career. As a 4 division World champion, with notable wins over Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Juan Francisco Estrada, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria and Carlos Cuadras, it was no secret that Srisaket was once again the underdog. Much like the Sato bout, the Thai phenom stunned everyone when he scored a knockdown, in the very first round, as he connected with a thunderous uppercut. During the 3rd, Roman suffered a cut on his right eye, which caused massive bleeding as the fight progressed. Both men went back and forth, in an exciting affair that saw them delivering furious exchanges. Gonzalez put on a strong offense, mostly in the later rounds, but Srisaket was dominating the majority of the match. When the last round came, they left it all in the ring, bringing the fans at the Garden on their feet. After the dust had settled, Sor Rungvisai got the decision and reclaimed the WBC Super Flyweight World Title.
The rematch was set in September, at the inaugural Superfly show in California. The fight was a slugfest as champion and challenger went toe to toe, trading bombs with one another for 3 consecutive rounds. However this time, the ending came abruptly, when Srisaket knocked Gonzalez out with a massive right hook in the 4th. This bout, not only marked Chocolatito’s second ever defeat (both at the hands of the same opponent), but also his first (and thus far only) KO loss in 137 outings.
On February of 2018, Sor Rungvisai defended his belt again, this time against the former WBA & WBO Flyweight World champion Juan Francisco Estrada. In what was considered a Fight Of The Year candidate, both men went to war for 12 rounds in the main event of the second Superfly event. Despite trading hard shots with each other, neither fighter went down and instead came back even stronger. It was anyone’s game, as the balance kept shifting in every round. In the end, Srisaket earned the majority decision and left California with the strap once more.
After stopping former WBC Asia and WBO Asia Pacific champion Young Gil Bae (30-7) in less than 3 minutes, the Thai superstar competed at ONE Championship’s “Kingdom Of Heroes”, this past October, making this match his first world title defense in home soil, since 2013. Sor Rungvisai clashed with former WBC Latino champion & top ranked boxer Iran Diaz (15-3) in a record breaking event, which drew 25 million viewers worldwide. Now as part of Matchroom Boxing, Srisaket will collide with one of his best rivals, in Juan Francisco Estrada.
Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3) made his pro debut at 18 years of age, ending a rather impressive amateur run (94 wins and only 4 losses), and went 18-0 prior to his meeting with future IBF Super Flyweight World champion Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. in 2011. “El Gallo” avenged that loss within the same year, as he stopped Sanchez in the very last round of their second encounter.
After unsuccessfully challenging the then undefeated Chocolatito for the WBA Light Flyweight World title (the one and only time he fought at that division), Estrada quickly bounced back, when he defeated Brian Viloria (38-6) to become the unified WBA & WBO Super Flyweight World champion, just 5 months later. Viloria, 230-8 as an amateur & a former AIBA World champion, was on a 6 fight winning streak and hadn’t lost in 3 years. Most of the fight took place inside the pocket, with both warriors throwing hard shots, punishing each other’s head and body. Estrada got the better of these exchanges, which earned him the split decision and the straps.
His first defense was against the WBO International champion & future IBF Light Flyweight World champion Milan Melindo. The Filipino had never lost a fight (at that point) since his debut in 2005, as he entered his first world title match, with a perfect record of 29 wins and zero losses. It was an intense fight that saw Melindo won a few rounds, but with Estrada always being ahead on the judges score cards and kept pressuring more and more as the time went by, even scoring a knockdown in the 11th after landing a right cross and almost finishing Melindo off in the 12th.
Estrada went on to defend his belts 4 more times against top contenders Richie Mepranum (33-7) & Rommel Asenjo (32-7), as well as former World champions Giovani Segura (33-4) & Hernan Marquez (43-10). That last one must be his most dominant performance thus far, as he broke Marquez down with some exceptional body work and proceeded to drop him on 7 different occasions, between rounds 6 and 10, for his 24th stoppage victory.
In 2017, El Gallo decided to move up a weight class and soon fought the former WBC Super Flyweight World champion Carlos Cuadras (37-3) for the right to challenge the winner of Sor Rungvisai vs. Gonzalez II. Volume and precision were the key factors that gave Estrada the edge he needed to beat the former champ and secure a title shot against Srisaket. Since failing to capture the WBC crown, the Mexican has added 2 more victories to his record and will once again be able to fight for that same championship.
It’s hard to predict who’s going to have the advantage here, especially when you consider their 1st match and how close it was. Estrada is slightly taller & younger than his opponent and has the bigger reach. Experience is pretty much even as Srisaket might have more fights under his belt as a pro, but Estrada has a lengthy amateur career. On the other hand, the Thai champion definitely has the power on his side, with 87% of his victories coming via KO/TKO and has also finished many of his past foes with the right hand, despite being a southpaw. Moreover, both love to throw fast and strong combinations and are not afraid to go to war if need be. So what could be the game changer this time around? Well, as we saw in Sor Rungvisai vs. Chocolatito II, it’s obvious that Srisaket had studied him and managed to find a chink in Gonzalez’s armor, which led to the fight being over in just 4 rounds. So the question that comes to mind is that IF history can repeat itself. Could Srisaket have spotted a weakness in Estrada’s gameplan from their previous encounter? Or will Estrada surprise Srisaket with some new tricks? We will find out on April 26.
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.