It would be difficult for any two men to live up to the level of hype placed by boxing fans on Saturday's super flyweight unification bout between Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada. Gonzalez and Estrada not only met expectations, but far surpassed them in an instant classic that saw Estrada's hand raised after a split decision.
Estrada came out of the gate fast in the opening round, trying to pressure Gonzalez and throw the Nicaraguan legend off of his game. The early success didn't hold up long for Estrada, however, as Gonzalez appeared to take over the fight until the halfway mark. Gonzalez kept forward momentum, unloading with crisp combinations that were answered nearly punch-for-punch by Estrada, though Gonzalez's punches seemed to be the more effective in the exchanges.
The thrilling action exceeded what the two men provided in their 2012 clash, which Gonzalez won by unanimous decision, sending Estrada on a near-decade long chase through multiple weight divisions to get his rematch. With Gonzalez holding the WBA title and Estrada the WBC belt, the rematch was finally a go at 115 pounds.
Gonzalez seemed to briefly fade around Round 6, allowing Estrada to punch his way back into the fight. For the first time in their two fights, Estrada had managed to force Gonzalez to his back foot, breaking down the style that once elevated Gonzalez to the top of boxing's pound-for-pound hierarchy.
But Gonzalez would roar back in the later rounds, continuing the wild momentum swings and nonstop action that saw the fighters combine for more than 2,500 combined punches thrown, and more than 700 landed. Record output for a weight class that routinely showcases some of the highest volumes in the sport.
After 12 rounds of action, it was Estrada who took the fight on two of the three official scorecards, winning by scores of 115-113, 117-111 and 113-115, with the 117-111 card standing out as inexplicably wide, though a narrow card in either direction seemed a fair result.
The fight was viewed coming in as landing the winner a shot at Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who holds two wins over Gonzalez and has split two fights with Estrada. Following the fight, Estrada seemed just as willing to step back in the ring for a rubber match with Gonzalez as Rungvisai.
"I think I did enough to win," Estrada said. "Choc is a great fighter and I think he deserves the trilogy. ... I knew it was a close fight. I didn't know if I was up or down, but I needed to close out the fight in those last two rounds.
"Rungvisai is a mandatory, so I'll look at that. But I'll approach a third fight any day with Chocolatito."
Gonzalez was humble in defeat, but did state that he felt he had done enough to have earned the victory before calling for the trilogy.
"Whatever happened, had to happen. But I gave it a good fight. I would have been happy either way with the result. I did my work. The only guarantee is from the lord. ... I won both of [the fights]. Whatever he wants, we'll do it. I'm very happy with my performance."
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