A PAIR of familiar foes will battle it out for the WBC super-flyweight title when division leader Juan Francisco Estrada defends his belt against fellow Mexican Carlos Cuadras, who is a previous holder of the championship. The Matchroom and Zanfer-co-promoted contest takes place this Friday (October 23) at the TV Azteca Studios in the challenger’s hometown of Mexico City. (DAZN televise in the US.)

It was just over three years ago that Estrada and Cuadras first locked horns. In what was a captivating clash between 115lb luminaries, the momentum swung to and fro. At the end of 12 fiercely fought and high-quality rounds, Estrada, who paced himself well and connected with the more eye-catching blows overall, was awarded a razor-thin unanimous verdict. Ultimately, Estrada’s knockdown of Cuadras in the 10th proved pivotal, as the man from Hermosillo triumphed 114-113 on all three scorecards.

In addition to having shared a ring, the two fighters share many statistical similarities. Their height (5ft 4ins), reach (66ins), knockout ratio (63 per cent) and number of bouts (43) are all identical. Furthermore, they each made their professional debut in 2008 and they have both suffered three losses, with none coming inside schedule.

Ahead of the rematch, Estrada has guaranteed that he and Cuadras will combine to produce fireworks once again. “I’m excited to return to action,” said Estrada, 40-3 (27). “It’s been a tough few months for the whole world and we want to give a great show to all the fans of the sport. The first fight was a good fight. Without a doubt this fight will be too.”

For Cuadras, his motivation comes from righting the wrongs of their initial encounter and gaining revenge for a defeat that still rankles. “I’m going to correct the mistakes that were made in the first fight,” vowed Cuadras, 39-3-1 (27). “I’m going to go out there and take this opportunity that is being presented to me. I want to show that I’m one of the best in this division.”

Late last week, it looked as if the return match would not be happening when news broke that Cuadras had tested positive for COVID-19. However, Cuadras was adamant that it was a false positive, as the rest of his team had all tested negative. Two subsequent tests backed up his claim, as they both came back negative, meaning that the sequel could still go ahead.

When studying their respective list of opponents, the distinguished pedigree of Estrada and Cuadras is immediately obvious. Former unified world flyweight champ Estrada has been victorious against the likes of Juan Carlos Sanchez Jnr (after losing their first meeting), Brian Viloria, Milan Melindo, Giovani Segura and Hernan Marquez. Yet the standout names on his résumé belong to Roman Gonzalez (more on him later) and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.

Estrada lost a competitive unanimous decision to Gonzalez down at light-flyweight almost eight years ago, while he has twice faced off against Srisaket at super-fly. After dropping a majority verdict in February 2018, Estrada evened the score by unanimously outpointing Srisaket 14 months later.

Cuadras has also waged war with Srisaket and Gonzalez. He overcame Srisaket on a technical decision in May 2014, before coming out second best to Gonzalez via unanimous verdict in a September 2016 thriller. A win over Luis Concepcion and a loss to McWilliams Arroyo are other notable results on his ledger.

Since being beaten by Arroyo, Cuadras has flirted with the bantamweight division by boxing above 115lbs on three occasions. He prevailed on points in each of these outings, albeit against opposition he was expected to overcome. In fact, his close majority decision victory over Jose Maria Cardenas last time out in September 2019 was a far tougher fight for him than people would have predicted.

Most recently in August 2019, Estrada notched a successful first defence of his WBC strap by halting the never-before-stopped Dewayne Beamon in nine rounds. Intelligent, efficient and robust, the 30-year-old attacks the body with gusto. He is equally comfortable boxing off the back foot with clever counters or surging forward and applying pressure.

The energetic Cuadras, 32, throws fierce combinations from an assortment of angles. A gold medallist at the 2007 Pan American Games, he boasts impressive variety. Although his work rate is high, he has been known to tire in the later stages, while cuts can also be an issue for him.

Carlos Cuadras vs Juan Francisco Estrada
Tom Hogan/K2

As was the case when these two battle-hardened warriors clashed before, this second scrap will undoubtedly be a full-blooded collision. Going off their form since the first bout, it is difficult to pick against Estrada securing a repeat unanimous decision win, and this time by wider margins.

If Estrada does get the better of Cuadras, his next assignment is likely to be against another ex-adversary in Nicaragua’s four-weight world ruler Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, 49-2 (41). However, the esteemed 33-year-old must first get past Mexico’s 25-3 (11) Israel Gonzalez – a man who is 10 years his junior.

Eight months ago, Chocolatito – who had been written off in some quarters following two defeats to Srisaket in 2017 – became a two-time world super-flyweight titlist. The Managua marvel dethroned the previously unbeaten WBA king Kal Yafai with a ninth-round stoppage. Israel, who gave a good account of himself when being unanimously outscored by Yafai in November 2018, will be having his third attempt at world honours when he challenges Chocolatito for the WBA crown.

Due to his youth, tenacity and size advantage it would be unwise to completely write Israel off, but the vastly seasoned Chocolatito should have too much class for the Los Cabos resident. Expect the champion to retain on points.

In the third world title contest on the bill, Mexico City pocket rocket Julio Cesar Martinez, 16-1 (12) 1NC, can keep hold of his WBC flyweight belt by besting Monterrey’s experienced Moises Calleros, 33-9-1 (17), in a Mexican derby. The 31-year-old late sub may be a former WBO strawweight title challenger but he is unlikely to last the distance against the aggressive Martinez, 25.

The Verdict If their first fight is anything to go by, the Estrada-Cuadras rematch should be an all-action affair.