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Super Fly: No Ordinary Trilogy

Tyson Fury faces Dereck Chisora on Saturday in perhaps the most unwanted trilogy of all time, but on the same night two fighters, smaller only in stature, are also partaking in a trilogy which could go down as one of the best in history.

Within boxing, it has become an all too real cliché that the best never fight the best. The number of belts means that a champion’s mandatories often prevent unifications and super fights from occurring, leaving fans frustrated. In his fantastic book “Four Kings”, on the legendary four-way rivalry between Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran, George Kimball reminisces on boxing’s “last great rivalry” and believes that it is unlikely that we will ever see a rivalry of that magnitude again. But perhaps if fans want to see competitive rivalries and super fights reminiscent of boxing’s glory days, then all they need to do is delve down the weight divisions.

Unless you’ve been paying close attention, it is more than likely that you’ve missed the discrete greatness that has been coexisting in the flyweight divisions over the last ten years, that perhaps matches the great rivalry depicted by Kimball. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Carlos Cuadras, Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada are names that are perhaps not particularly well versed with most fans, but to boxing purists, they represent perhaps the finest rivalry seen in the sport since the days of the “Four Kings”. Between them, these astonishing fighters have provided us with something all too rare in boxing nowadays, competition. The combined record of these four greats is an immense 183-17-2. Their individual records (excluding fights against each other) stand at, Estrada 39-1, Chocolatito 49-0, Rungvisai 47-4-1 and Cuadras 38-2-1. Each man has fought each other at least once, and each has won at least one fight. For the purpose of this article the focus will centre on Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, as the two are set to meet on the 3rd December (early Sunday morning for UK viewers) in their third meeting, the eleventh fight in this modern-day iteration of the “Four Kings”.

This is no ordinary trilogy. Both Chocolatito and Estrada possess the credentials to place themselves amongst the top pound-for-pound fighters of all time. In 2016, Chocolatito became the first man in history to win a World Title in each of boxings four smallest weight divisions when he won the WBC super flyweight title off of Cuadras (a feat that has since been mimicked by another great name in the division Kazuto Ioka). In doing so, Chocolatito cemented his legacy, not just in boxing but also in his home nation of Nicaragua by surpassing his icon, fellow Nicaraguan and three-weight World Champion, Alexis Arguello, by becoming a four-weight world champion. Estrada, a two-weight world champion in his own right, is the only man out of the “Four Kings” to have beaten each of the three other fighters that make up the quarter and since he won the WBC super flyweight title from Rungvisai in 2019, is yet to taste defeat. Estrada is currently The Ring Magazine champion, with Chocolatito placing as the number one challenger. The two boxers will be fighting for the WBC super flyweight title left vacant following Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez’s move down to flyweight.

It is perhaps fitting that what could be the final chapter in the story of the super flyweight “Four Kings” is contested between the two men who initiated it. When Estrada challenged Chocolatito for his WBA light flyweight title on the 17th November 2012 it is unlikely that the two men knew the greatness that would evolve from it. The fight was closely contested, intense and incredibly exciting, with the twelfth round standing out in particular. At the time, a 25-year-old Chocolatito, already a two-weight champion, was able to get the better of a young 22-year-old Estrada who was having his first crack at a World Title. A mixture of Chocolatito’s swarming pressure, perhaps slight inexperience and struggles with weight proved to be Estrada’s undoing, although he remains adamant he won the fight.

Nearly nine years would elapse before the pair would meet again. This time around, a more experienced Estrada was able to narrowly defeat Chocolatito in a highly controversial split decision, which many people thought Chocolatito had done enough to win. Much like their premier bout, the rematch was an absolute classic. A mixture of brute force, constant pressure and technical genius oozed from both fighters, but it was Estrada who got the nod making it one a piece in their rivalry. Despite the defeat, Chocolatito’s performance seemed to defy his age, especially as most people thought his peak career ended after losing twice to Rungvisai in 2017. It is believed that the smaller a fighter, the shorter their career, with most fighters in the lower weight classes struggling to perform at the top once they get past 30, Chocolatito is now 35. Yet either side of his loss to Estrada were excellent and dominant victories over up-and-coming fighters, Kal Yafai and Julio Caesar Martinez. Victory over Yafai gave Chocolatito the WBA version of the super flyweight title, which he then lost to Estrada, making the latter the unified super flyweight champion.

Now, a year later, the two men revisit their rivalry and what awaits us on Sunday morning is another undeniable classic. While most spectators prefer the larger weight classes, due to the heavy punches and large knockout percentages, for me, the best fights almost always occur at the lower weight classes. Smaller fighters normally mean better technical skill, better speed and increased punch output, especially when Estrada and Chocolatito are involved. As well as both having very respectable KO percentages (Estrada’s is 60% while Chocolatito’s is 75%), the two also possess a swarming style, which translates to a large number of punches being thrown at high velocity and with bad intentions. In their second fight, the two threw a combined 2,529 punches, the most since records began for the super flyweight division. The one thing you can always rely on with these two is excitement. Both fighters’ positions in the boxing hall of fame is already safely secured, but that won’t diminish eithers eagerness to put the icing on the cake of their careers by getting the better of the trilogy. Expect Estrada to start faster, with Chocolatito working his way into the fight in the middle rounds. Estrada’s slightly underwhelming last outing has made Chocolatito the favourite with the bookies, but if their last two meetings are anything to go by, then this fight will go down to the wire, with the late rounds being crucial.

It is almost impossible to pick a winner, which is perhaps beside the point. What will occur on Sunday morning is a win for boxing. These two fighters should provide an example of how the future generation should conduct their careers. If younger fighters want to be considered among the greats of the past, they must test themselves against other top prospects. Both Chocolatito and Estrada seem almost to be old-fashioned in their relentless pursuit of legacy over anything else, and it is extremely refreshing to see.

It is an honour and a privilege in boxing to watch great rivalries unfold before your eyes, whether it is Ali and Frazier, Greb and Tunney, Leonard and Duran, Robinson and LaMotta, Morales and Barrera, the list goes on. Chocolatito and Estrada belong amongst any of the aforementioned names when boxing historians of the future talk about the greatest rivalries in the sport. No matter who the victor is on Sunday, we shall be witnessing history when these two undeniable greats step into the square circle.


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