GLENDALE, Arizona – Juan Francisco Estrada ultimately gave up two belts to pursue a third fight with Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez.
Now that the WBC belt is back in play for this weekend’s trilogy clash, the goal from there is to collect the rest.
“God willing, we are victorious on Saturday, I want to return to unifying the division,” Estrada told BoxingScene.com. “Our rematch was for the WBC and WBA titles. It would be nice to be unified champion again and eventually become undisputed.”
The first step is getting past Nicaragua’s Gonzalez, who is now up to a -250 favorite according to bet365 to emerge victorious this weekend at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona (Saturday, DAZN, 8:00 p.m. ET). The same sportsbook lists Mexico’s Estrada (43-3, 28KOs) as a +195 underdog, despite having won their rematch last March 13 and entering the ring as the recognized lineal junior bantamweight champion.
Many viewers and media members felt that Estrada was lucky to claim a split decision in their Fight of the Year’ level slugfest to even their series at one win apiece. Gonzalez (51-3, 41KOs) won their first fight via unanimous decision in November 2012, which took place at junior flyweight and with Gonzalez’s WBA title at stake.
Their rematch last March saw Estrada defend his lineal and WBC 115-pound championship and claim the WBA belt that Gonzalez won in a February 2020 ninth-round knockout of unbeaten Kal Yafai. Regardless of public opinion, Estrada left the ring as a two-division unified titlist, having previously dethroned unified WBA/WBO flyweight titlist Brian Viloria in April 2013—one fight after his failed junior flyweight title bid versus Gonzalez.
Estrada’s win over the Nicaraguan legend came at a price.
He gave up the physical WBC belt in exchange for ‘Franchise’ champion status, as means to preserve a planned rubber match with Gonzalez in lieu of having to commit to a mandatory title defense. The belt was eventually claimed by Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez, who replaced mandatory challenger and former two-time WBC titlist Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on six days’ notice to outpoint Carlos Cuadras on February 5 in Phoenix Arizona.
Rodriguez ended his WBC title reign following two defenses. The 22-year-old San Antonio native opted to campaign at flyweight, leaving the WBC 115-pound crown up for grabs this weekend.
More than a year after letting go of the WBC belt, Estrada was relieved of his WBA ‘Super’ title reign for failure to defend versus secondary titlist Joshua Franco—Rodriguez’s older brother—in an ordered title consolidation clash.
San Antonio’s Franco (18-1-2, 8KOs) was upgraded to full titlist and is now due to face four-division and reigning WBO champ Kazuto Ioka (29-2, 15KOs) on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo.
“I would love to face someone like Kazuto Ioka, or even Puma, the champ from Argentina (IBF titlist Fernando Martinez),” acknowledged Estrada. “It would be great to eventually come away with all four belts.
“Of course, we first have to win on Saturday.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox