Juan Francisco Estrada knows a good rivalry when he’s in one.
The Mexican star hasn’t even stepped through the ropes for his third fight against Roman Gonzalez on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona (DAZN) and he’s already talking about the possibility of a fourth meeting between the little warriors.
The fans wouldn’t object. Estrada (43-3, 28 KOs) and “Chocolatito” (51-3, 41 KOs) are among the most accomplished – and entertaining — lighter-weight fighters of their generation.
“He beat me in 2012 and I beat him in the second fight, so you could say this is the decider,” said Estrada, who will be fighting Gonzalez for the vacant WBC 115-poiund title. “There might be a fourth like Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Márquez, who knows? We’ll have our trilogy, and we don’t know whether it will end here or not.
“We’re going to find out who is the best, who will be leading in fights won, and if in the future, God willing, there is a fourth, bring it on.”
The rivalry began in 2012 at the old Sports Arena in Los Angeles, when Gonzalez was a 108-pound titleholder and already a pound-for-pounder, and Estrada a 22-year-old relative unknown.
Estrada lost the fight by a unanimous decision but pushed the two-division champion harder than anyone expected even though he moved down from 112 pounds to 108 for the fight, thereby establishing himself as a potential star.
He defeated Brian Viloria by a split decision in his next fight the following year to win two major 112-pound titles, and he never looked back.
“The first fight was my first fight in the U.S., my first fight at light flyweight,” Estrada said. “I was a flyweight and had to drop down for this world title shot. It was a great fight. To be honest I felt good, but the weight affected me. I didn’t feel strong.
“But when the fight started, from rounds 1 to 12, we gave it everything. At that time, he was the champion, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters, and he got the decision. I was a nobody. We put on a great fight. I felt that I won that fight by a few points, but he got it.
“Given the fight we put on, we got more opportunities. We fought Brian Viloria at flyweight and you could say it was the fight that made me famous in boxing, it put my name out there.”
Estrada went on to beat a series of top contenders to become a pound-for-pounder himself, including a decision over then 115-pound titleholder Srisaket Sor Rungvisai – the two-time conqueror of Gonzalez – to become a two-division champion.
Three fights later he took on a familiar foe, Gonzalez. The rematch took place in March of last year in Dallas. And this time Estrada ended up on the right side of a decision in a classic war, albeit a split nod that was highly disputed.
Still, he had evened the score with his arch rival to set up the fight on Saturday … and, as he said, another meeting might lie beyond that.
“When we got to face Chocolatito again, it was at [junior bantamweight],” Estrada said. “Once again, we gave it everything. It was an extremely tough fight for both of us. Thankfully I was awarded the victory. It was a great fight, and now we’re going for that trilogy.
“He’ll be a Hall of Famer. He’s a fighter that has won many titles in four divisions. I respect him as a fighter. I’ve also won titles. … I think he’s also realized that I’m not just any other fighter. And when we fight now, we’ll decide who is the best.”