This weekend will bring the third chapter to one of the best rivalries in the lower weight divisions. It might not be the final act, however.
Juan Francisco ‘El Gallo’ Estrada and Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez have already produced two Fight of the Year-level slugfests in their memorable series.
The two are set to do it again, with the vacant WBC 115-pound championship at stake for their rubber match this weekend at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona (Saturday, DAZN, 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT).
Nicaragua’s Gonzalez (51-3, 41KOs) claimed a twelve-round, unanimous decision win in their November 2012 meeting at The Sports Arena in Los Angeles.
Estrada would go on to win championships at flyweight and super flyweight but would have to wait more than eight years to avenge the defeat, which he did in a split decision victory last March 13 at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Saturday’s winner will split the tie, though the pair of future Hall of Famers aren’t quite done with each other just yet.
“We’ve had two fights and both were really, really close,” Estrada told bet365. “We’ve both won one fight apiece. As long as there is a winner on Saturday, we will break that tie.
“But I think regardless of the winner on Saturday night, it will wind up being another great fight between us and I don’t rule out the possibility of a fourth meeting.”
Estrada (43-3, 28KOs) will attempt his fifth defense of his recognized lineal championship. The 32-year-old from Hermosillo, Mexico last defended in a twelve-round victory over Argi Cortes on September 3 in his hometown.
His reign began with an April 2019 win over Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, avenging a February 2018 defeat.
Last year’s win over Gonzalez saw Estrada advance to 3-0 in rematches. Conversely, Gonzalez is not quite as successful in return bouts.
The former four-division champion is 4-2 overall in repeat business, though with the two losses coming in championship bouts at 115 pounds.
A disputed points loss to Sor Rungvisai in March 2017 - the first of his career - was followed by a fourth-round knockout loss in their September 2017 rematch in Carson, California.
Many will argue that Gonzalez deserved the decision over Estrada in their unforgettable battle and WBC/WBA unification bout last March.
Nevertheless, he rebounded with a landslide victory over Julio Cesar Martinez on March 5 in San Diego.
The date was reserved for the trilogy clash with Estrada, who withdrew after testing positive for Covid just three months after Gonzalez previously tested positive for the disease, delaying their planned third bout last October 16.
A rubber match more than ten years after their first meeting is a seemingly befitting scenario for closure. However, one key area where Gonzalez is in agreement with his longtime ring rival is leaving the door open for future business.
“I would have no problem facing him again,” Gonzalez told bet365. “I think a fourth fight would not only produce another great fight, but also a great payday for both of us.”