Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Estrada-Gonzalez / McCaskill-Braekhus: The Rematches


Saturday, March 13, 2021 in the Boxing world will be highlighted by two eagerly anticipated rematches that each have compelling storylines. The two bouts, which will co-headline a six bout card at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX will shine the spotlight of the sport on the 115lb.  Men’s Jr. Bantamweight division as well as the 147lb. Women’s Welterweight division in a card that will be broadcast globally by digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN. This preview will cover both bouts, which this observer believes are of equal importance as to where Boxing as a whole will progress as 2021 continues.


In the first rematch, unified WBC/WBA Jr. Bantamweight world champion Juan Francisco Estrada will make the third defense of his crown against former three-division world champion Roman Gonzalez. A rematch that is nearly nine years in the making. The first encounter between the two men took place in November 2012 in Los Angeles, CA. An all-out war from start to finish that saw Gonzalez emerge victorious via twelve round unanimous decision to retain his WBA Jr. Flyweight world championship.  


It was simply a give and take battle for all twelve rounds in what was one of the best fights of the last decade not just in Boxing’s lower weight classes, but in the entire sport. As is the case with all great fights that go the distance, there was and remains a healthy debate amongst both Boxing fans and experts alike as to who won the bout.


The question I have going into this fight is what type of fight are the Boxing public, whether they be fans or those of us who are involved in the sport and  will be covering it, are likely to see. There are two crucial things one must keep in mind as this fight approaches. One is the fact that this fight will be taking place nearly a decade after the original encounter. Not only will this fight be taking place two divisions above the 108lb. Jr. Flyweight division, but perhaps the more crucial second factor to keep in mind is both Estrada and Gonzalez have been through many wars throughout their respective careers.


Their first encounter was fought at what can best be described as an ungodly pace where both fighters threw punches nearly non-stop for three minutes of every round they fought. While both men are offensive-minded warriors, the combination of both time between the first fight and this second meeting as well as the wear and tear a fighter goes through over the course of a long career is something to consider going into this rematch.


Although it would frankly be unrealistic for me to say that I honestly expect a fight similar to what occurred in 2012 given the factors stated above, what are we likely to the the second time around? In many ways, the first fight was a scenario of two fights in one. Gonzalez being most effective when he was able to back Estrada up on the ropes, Estrada getting the better of many of the exchanges when he was able to keep the fight in the middle of the ring and offset Gonzalez’ pressure. Both men have suffered setbacks in the years since that memorable battle to one fighter Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Gonzalez suffered his only two career defeats to Rungvisai. Estrada meanwhile split two memorable fights with him that resulted in Estrada becoming a world champion in their second bout.


In thinking of how this second bout between Estrada and Gonzalez might be fought, I immediately thought of the subtle difference that depending on one’s perspective resulted in the first fight going the way it did. Speaking only for myself, this observer felt that Estrada got the better of most of the exchanges in a fight where both men were extremely active and one that was not easy to score. If there was one element that allowed Gonzalez to get the nod in a fight that could have gone either way however, it was Estrada being backed up more than occasionally against the ropes or in corners where Gonzalez was able to land hard thudding body shots and offense to the head.


 While Estrada frankly gave as much offense back as he received in those instances where he was backed up, this subtle difference along with Gonzalez’ pressure style can leave an impression on not only those watching a fight, but more importantly the three official judges who are tasked with scoring a fight. This is what I believe led to Gonzalez winning the first encounter.


It is crucial in this observer’s view that Estrada now as the champion going into this fight, find a way to avoid getting backed up. He must use his legs and keep Gonzalez from being able to cut off the ring and put himself in positions where he can do damage. Although no one should take away from the thrilling battle these two put forth in their first fight, Estrada needs to be more tactical and if he’s in a position where he is either on the ropes or finds himself cornered, he must find a way to tie Gonzalez up on the inside and get the combat back to where he has the space in order to theoretically have an advantage.


A fighter implementing a tactical approach may not always be the most entertaining thing to watch if you’re a fan viewing a fighter from a far, but it is effective when a fighter is able to execute an effective tactical strategy. This is what I believe Juan Francisco Estrada must do in this rematch in order to be successful.


Depending on one’s perspective, there might be some who feel that Roman Gonzalez had and still has an edge in terms of punching power going into this fight. There is no disputing that both fighters have shown the ability to get an opponent out of there should the opportunity arise, but the key for Gonzalez this time around in my eyes will be to do what he was able to do in the first fight by applying pressure on Estrada, but to do so where he does not take punishment as he comes forward. One thing that was noticeable in the first fight that can really be said about both fighters, but was particularly true in regard to Gonzalez was his willingness to stand toe to toe and not always implement defense. While it is true that he did emerge from the grueling battle victorious the first time these two men fought, he also took significant punishment in the process and the key here for the former three-division world champion will be whether he can limit the amount of punishment he takes while trying to implement a strategy that proved successful in the first fight.


Although it is also true that anything can happen, given the amount of time that has passed between the first fight and this rematch as well as the effects both fighters have to feel both physically and mentally from the wars both men have gone through, this may come down to who has more left in them that may determine who emerges victorious. Styles do however, make fights and this is one bout where no matter what it is likely to be entertaining for however long it lasts.


The second rematch that will co-main event this card will be a battle for the Undisputed Women’s Welterweight world championship between newly crowned champion Jessica McCaskill and the woman she took the championship from in Cecilia BraekhusIn their first encounter last August, McCaskill outworked the future Hall of Famer Braekhus over ten very competitive rounds to win the championship via majority decision ending Braekhus’ decade long reign atop the Welterweight division. 


Much like the first encounter between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez, the first fight between McCaskill and Braekhus came down to the subtle differences that resulted in McCaskill winning the bout. This included a consistent offensive output and bringing the fight to the champion. In what was a close fight, McCaskill’s overall consistency allowed her to ultimately get the upper hand on one of the all-time greats in the history of the sport.


What will happen in this immediate rematch? It is important for McCaskill to remember she is now the champion going into this fight. What made her victory over Braekhus to be viewed as a significant upset the first time around was due to Braekhus’ status as an undisputed world champion as well as her decade of dominance atop the Welterweight division, McCaskill was viewed as a significant underdog going into the first fight. Prior to that encounter, Braekhus was a former world title challenger in the 135lb. Lightweight division and this was also a contributing factor in why she was regarded as an underdog.


Now that she has proven to not only be a legitimate challenger to Braekhus, but ultimately emerged from the first fight as the new Undisputed Welterweight champion of the world, the task for McCaskill will be to defend her crown. A task that has proven difficult for some fighters after winning world championships. How can McCaskill succeed in her first title defense? One aspect of McCaskill’s approach in the first fight as a fighter who was at a size disadvantage, as she was moving up in weight to challenge the naturally bigger Braekhus, was she was able to keep her body low as she came forward. This resulted in Braekhus missing some of her offense and also being exposed to looping hooks as McCaskill got on the inside. In the process, McCaskill was able to outwork Braekhus as well as nullify some aspects of the former champion’s offense.


What were those aspects? At her best, Cecilia Braekhus likes to work behind a consistent jab and mix in straight right hands. This was something she was never able to get going in the first fight and that can be attributed to the fight plan McCaskill was able to execute. Essentially, McCaskill must implement a similar approach in this rematch in this observer’s view.


How can Cecilia Braekhus regain her world championship? Braekhus, who was attempting to surpass Joe Louis’ all-time record for consecutive title defense of twenty-five, the all-time record in the entire sport male or female, in what was her twenty-sixth title defense in the first fight, must give angles. She needs to use her legs and get into an offensive rhythm early, something that she was unable to do in the first encounter. The jab must be a focal point of her offense this time.


Although the first fight was competitive, McCaskill was able to make Braekhus fight her type of fight and that is what led to Braekhus’ downfall. Braekhus must maintain distance between herself and the champion this time. Simply put, the former champion needs to box and not be as willing to engage in close. If the champion is able to get on the inside and come forward as consistently as she was able to in the first fight, this rematch might look similar in how it is fought and could have a similar outcome.


While much of the discussion going into the first fight centered on how close Braekhus was to retiring, the winner of this rematch could find herself in position for what would be lucrative fights with either undisputed Lightweight world champion Katie Taylor, who holds a victory in defense of her crown over McCaskill, or three-division world champion Claressa Shields, who successfully became an undisputed world champion in a second weight class last week in unifying the Jr. Middleweight division with a unanimous decision victory over Marie-Eve Dicaire.


Although there is much at stake for whomever the winners of these two rematches will in terms of what may be in their futures, there is a lot on the line for all four fighters, and the task at hand will be facing their opponent standing across the ring. All eyes will be focused on the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Saturday night.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


Estrada vs. Gonzalez II /McCaskill vs. Braekhus II takes place on Saturday, March 13th at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. The two bouts as well as its full undercard can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 8PM ET/5PM PT (U.S. Time.) For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs, availability around the world, and to subscribe please


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