When it comes to trilogies in the sport of Boxing, it is logical to assume that when a fighter is able to emerge with two victories out of three bouts that in most cases that would conclude the story/rivalry between two fighters. There are times however, when no matter what the results are between two fighters over a series of fights, the question becomes will the rivalry continue beyond three fights.
While it is rare to see a series of fights exceed three bouts due to both the politics that be in the sport as well and perhaps more specifically, the accumulation of punishment fighters sustain not only in the course of a series of bouts, but in their careers in general, there have been exceptions. Many will recall the series of fights between Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta in the 1940’s and 1950’s that extended to six bouts between the two, despite Robinson winning five of those fights.
Some may ask why where there six fights between the two given not only that Robinson won five of those battles, but also what would make the continuation of the series appealing to the Boxing fan. This observer feels that the simplest answer comes down to the adage of “Styles Make Fights.” In that it does not necessarily matter to some fans as to who will win a fight between two fighters or how many times, they face each other. There are times where the styles of two fighters simply mesh so well that no matter how many times two fighters enter the ring to do battle against each other, the fan whether they be attending a fight in person or watching on television/streaming is almost guaranteed to see an entertaining fight.
In the case of Jr. Bantamweights Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, the styles of both men would appear to mesh perfectly where they will almost always produce a close and competitive fight that will entertain the vast majority of Boxing fans. On December 3rd, the two multi-division world champions entered the ring for their third encounter at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, AZ. As it stood entering fight three between the two, each man had won victory a piece, each in exciting and competitive fights that went the distance. Fight three would turn out to be no different.
The early rounds appeared to favor Estrada, who’s WBC Jr. Bantamweight world championship was on the line in this fight. Estrada appeared to out box Gonzalez during much of the first six rounds of the fight by doing what he did in the second bout, in which he won in March of last year, using lateral movement and combination punching to offset the pressure of Gonzalez. While the fight was very competitive at this stage, it seemed at least to this observer that Gonzalez was a step behind Estrada, which allowed the champion to gain the edge. At the halfway point in the fight, I felt that Estrada had done enough to win four out of six rounds. Despite the appearance that might give of a lopsided bout favoring one fighter, I knew based on past history of both fighters that the bout would not be decided at the conclusion of six rounds of a scheduled twelve round bout unless of course, one fighter were able to knock out the other or an instance of a fight being stopped due to an accidental foul or an injury. I did however, begin to wonder at this point in fight three whether Estrada would be able to continue to box his way towards what was looking like could be something that we had not seen as of yet in this trilogy, a clear victory that would not be debated.
Over the second half of the fight, Gonzalez found his rhythm and was able to turn things from a Boxing match fought at a high pace into more of a toe to toe battle, though the pace remained the same, very high with both fighters fighting a full three minutes of every round. Although I felt Estrada was ahead going into round seven, the problem at least for me as the fight progressed was that as Gonzalez began to get into the fight, rounds seven through twelve were very close where who won those rounds could likely be determined by moments in a round more so than one fighter out landing/out working the other. While this is a credit to Gonzalez’ skillset and ability to adapt when it appeared as though the fight was getting away from him in terms of how it was scored, it created a conundrum for those who were scoring both in an official capacity or an unofficial capacity to determine who was getting the upper hand. This was due to one fighter in Estrada tending to throw his punches in combination, but Gonzalez being able to make up ground by landing hard flush punches. Even though Gonzalez’ shots at this point in the fight tended to be one at a time, when he did land, he appeared to get the better of the action.
As was the case in the previous two encounters, entering the final rounds, I felt the fight was close and could go either way, even though I still felt Estrada was doing enough to earn the victory. It was indisputable however, that Gonzalez had succeeded in closing the gap and the question that began the go through my mind was whether his rally would be enough to sway the fight in his favor. At the conclusion of another hotly contested twelve rounds between the two fighters, I arrived with a scorecard of seven rounds to five or 115-113 in points in favor of Estrada.
The basis of my scorecard was largely based on how effective Estrada was in the first half of the fight. A misconception that some can have at times, particularly those who do not understand how Boxing is scored is even if a fighter is able to rally in the middle and late rounds of a fight, without the benefit of knockdowns or being able to clearly win rounds that were closely fought, it can be difficult to close the gap in terms of the scorecards. While Gonzalez did manage to turn what was a four rounds to two deficit on my scorecard at the conclusion of the first six rounds into a closer fight ending up being on the losing end at the conclusion of the fight by two rounds/two points, I believe it was a case where he ran out of rounds.
Despite the view and basis of scoring of this fight in an unofficial capacity by yours truly, I felt that the fight could have gone either way and I was almost expecting the official scores to result in a draw being the result of this fight. For those who may wonder why even though I ended up with a seven rounds to five scorecard at the end of the bout, that I would almost expect a draw to be announced as the final result, as I have often said through the many years that I have covered the sport that when it comes to close fights it will often come down to what a judge prefers in their own criteria based on clean punching, effective aggression, ring generalship, and defense that will determine how they score a fight.
Speaking only for myself as someone who has spent most of his life covering Boxing and having seen and covered thousands of fights on every level the sport has to offer, how I may see things even though I have both experience and insight to back up how I score, may not necessarily be how three official judges might see the same fight, much less others who are scoring unofficially whether they be fans or fellow members of Boxing media that are also covering a bout. It was nevertheless not a surprise to me to see a close decision announced with one official judge scoring the bout a draw, while two official judges scored the bout seven rounds to five 115-113 in points and eight rounds to four, 116-112 in points for Estrada giving him the victory via majority decision.
Ultimately, the two judges who scored this bout in favor of Estrada had a one round difference in their scoring, but that does not change the fact that like the previous two fights, fight three between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez was very close. Should there be a fourth fight between the two? This observer is not against the idea of a potential fourth bout between the two because again, “Styles Make Fights,” and if one were to poll Boxing fans, I believe that they would welcome a continuation of what has been one of the sport’s more memorable rivalries in the recent history of the sport.
There is also context in the recent past that would seemingly open the door for a fourth bout. Many will recall the heated rivalry that stretched multiple weight classes between legends Manny Pacquaio and recent Hall of Fame inductee Juan Manuel Marquez, who fought four times in an epic series of fights with a disputed draw in their first fight, followed by two close decision wins by Pacquiao, which fueled demand for a fourth fight. In fight four in December 2012 where both men scored knockdowns of each other, it was Marquez who emerged victorious knocking Pacquiao out in brutal fashion with a perfectly time counter right hand that was thrown in a defensive manner as Pacquiao charged Marquez in the closing seconds of the sixth round. Pacquiao was out cold on the canvas for several minutes. The rivalry between the two concluded with this bout with Pacquiao winning two bouts, one draw, and Marquez’ victory in the final encounter. While I felt that the Marquez victory in fight four and more specifically how it came opened the possibility of a fifth fight between the two, there would be no continuation between the two fighters as Marquez would only fight twice more before retiring in 2014. As most know, Pacquiao continued fighting until losing his last bout to Yordenis Ugas in August of last year, retiring shortly after the fight to focus on his political ambitions in his native Philippines where he has served as a congressman and a senator.
Will there be a fourth bout between Estrada and Gonzalez? After three toe to toe wars between the two in fights that were all Fight of the Year candidates, it may be a question of both what either fighter has left in them at this stage in their careers and also whether the money is right for both fighters to make a fourth fight viable. Considering that both Estrada and Gonzalez are part of a crop of fighters in Boxing’s lowest weight divisions that has brought long overdue recognition and exposure of those weight classes in main events here in the United States in recent years, and both fighters like Robinson, LaMotta, Pacquiao, and Marquez are destined to be Hall of Famers when all is said and done, if both fighters are healthy, why not continue the rivalry while both are still near their primes? At the end of the day, much like the rivalries mentioned in this column and some others that I personally could go on and on about, it likely will not matter who ends up with more wins between Estrada and Gonzalez. It will instead be the fights themselves and more specifically how they were fought that will be discussed by Boxing fans and those of us who cover the sport for many years to come.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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