Talks have once again surfaced of a highly anticipated rubber match between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez.
For the moment, it remains limited to just talk—and with several hurdles in the way of becoming a reality.
BoxingScene.com has learned that such a fight is being explored to possibly take place later this fall, as recently suggested by well-respected Nicaraguan journalist Levi Luna. The rumors have surfaced as Estrada—the reigning lineal/WBA junior bantamweight champion—remains tied to a title consolidation clash with secondary WBA titlist Joshua Franco (18-1-2, 8KOs), with the fight awaiting a summertime date should it move forward.
The working theory in moving forward with the more desirable trilogy clash versus Nicaragua’s Gonzalez (51-3, 41KOs) is that Estrada (42-3, 28KOs) would vacate his WBA “Super” title. The third fight with Gonzalez would then take place with Estrada’s lineal and WBC “Franchise” title at stake.
The issue, for now, is that Franco is expecting to next face Estrada, as per the terms of the recent purse bid hearing won by Golden Boy Promotions. The fight was secured with the WBA-mandated minimum amount of $120,000. BoxingScene.com has learned that arrangements will be made—or at least discussed—for both sides to make considerably more for Estrada to move forward with the fight.
Efforts to contact representatives for all parties involved went unreturned as this goes to publish. A recent conversation with Golden Boy Promotions founder/chairman Oscar De La Hoya indicated that a date was still not set for Estrada-Franco, despite rumors of the bout possibly landing on a July 16 show to be headlined by unbeaten lightweight titlist Ryan Garcia (22-0, 18KOs).
Estrada and Gonzalez have already twice seen their rubber match cancelled due to separate Covid-related issues. Gonzalez tested positive for the infectious disease last September, forcing a cancellation of their planned October 16 clash in Fresno, California. The anticipated championship was then rescheduled for March 5 in San Diego, only for Estrada to shut down training camp in mid-January after testing positive for Covid.
Gonzalez—who has won titles at strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight (twice)—went on to face WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (18-2, 14KOs; 2NC), who moved up in weight in accepting the fight on roughly five weeks’ notice. Gonzalez delivered one of his finest performances in the twilight of his legendary career, hopeful of the fight with Estrada making its way back to the table.
The two have fought twice before, spread out more than eight years apart. Gonzalez won their first fight, claiming a well-earned unanimous decision in November 2012. Their scorcher of a battle in the final defense of his WBA junior flyweight title, with both moving up in weight immediately thereafter.
Estrada went on to enjoy title reigns at flyweight and now junior bantamweight, claiming the WBC and lineal championship in an April 2019 win over Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, against whom he dropped a 12-round decision in February 2018. Just three successful defenses have followed over the past three years, the most recent coming in a highly questionable twelve-round, split decision win over Gonzalez last March in Dallas.
Gonzalez maintained pace following his lopsided win over Martinez, though informing BoxingScene.com and other ringside media that evening of his intention to wait out the biggest fights possible for the remainder of his career. High on his list was a trilogy bout with Estrada.
Such a fight will depend on the level of cooperation from Franco, who stands to lose the most in this situation.
The San Antonio native claimed a secondary WBA junior bantamweight title in a June 2020 win over Australia’s Andrew Moloney. The feat led to a trilogy of their own, with their November 2020 rematch ending in a No-Contest after just two rounds though accompanied with a lengthy review process while all parties remained in the ring. Franco settled their rivalry with a second win over Moloney in their third fight last August in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
One day after the fight, Franco was assured by the WBA of his next fight being for the full title. At the time, it was to come versus the winner of Estrada-Gonzalez III, though two cancellations of the superfight have prompted the WBA to instead call for a title consolidation bout, which remains in play until Franco and his team confirm otherwise.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox