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Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez II: Do Not Miss This Fight

Matt McGrain

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Of all the sequels that boxing could make, Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez II, staged this weekend in Dallas, Texas, is the most fascinating. Superflyweight has been over-delivering on top-class competition for years now but this being the second Gonzalez-Estrada fight, coming more than eight years after the original, makes it special even for 115lbs.

Their first fight was a classic and classical, a combat of legitimate intensity fought at the highest-level boxing can deliver. Estrada, fast-handed, longer and taller than Gonzalez, started fast and stayed fast while Gonzalez, immediately aware of an unexpected danger, sunk tactical boreholes to try to find the answer. The answer, as it happened, was as old as boxing, a pressure and corner style, paying tolls, picking himself to win two thirds of the spells of technical craftsmanship they swapped inside, Estrada dangerous with uppercuts, Gonzalez lashing him with the compact combinations that made him famous.

It was close and remained close and many of the rounds were close and this was unexpected.  Estrada was unrated and underrated, 26-1 and had never fought in a twelve-round fight. I think about that sometimes; Estrada fought his first twelve round fight against an absolute monster of a champion in Roman Gonzalez, an all-time-great pound-for-pounder. Estrada took an early lead in the fight, was pegged back by a tactical adjustment and began to fight his way out of the predicament.  Then Gonzalez adjusted again.

Estrada was inexperienced and unheralded; he is anything but that now.

Ranked number nine pound-for-pound by TBRB he is the reigning champion of a 115lb division which remains the deepest in all of boxing, he is thirty years old and 41-3, in his physical prime and is coming off a stoppage victory over Carlos Cuadras, a man who took Gonzalez to the absolute edge in 2016.

“I am stronger and have more desire than the first fight,” said Estrada in the build-up. “In the first fight, I was 21 years old, and I had no experience of big international fights, he was a pound-for-pound star at that time, but now I think this time it favours me.”

It is impossible to verify that the established Estrada is more motivated than he was as a twenty-one-year-old with none of the material trappings he has since gathered, but everything else he says is irrefutably true. And there is more.

“We are fighting two weight classes above the first fight, so it is already very different. I know that I can win this time. I know it’s a tough fight and I think it will be a better fight, but I have already faced him, I know his qualities and I feel that I can beat a fighter who has been knocked out.”

Here, Estrada touches upon two key points. First is size; there can be little doubt that the 115lb limit suits Estrada more than Gonzalez. 115lbs was always going to be the absolute roof for Roman, a short, stocky fighter who brings pressure and absorbs punishment despite an elite defence, he can ill-afford to take on bigger men. That he has made it from 105lbs to 115lbs is in itself a testimony to his surprising elusiveness; but these returns have been diminishing as the smaller man has aged.

Which brings us to Estrada’s second point. Gonzalez, at thirty-three, an advanced age for a fighter who turned professional at 105lbs, has been in wars, and he has been hit and has been hurt. He is indeed a fighter “who has been knocked out” having been devasted by Wisaksil Wangek as long ago as 2017. Since, Gonzalez has glimmered, smouldered, but never blazed as he did in the days when he was tearing top fighters to pieces. Estrada sees something different now than he did the first time he looked upon Gonzalez, and the confidence is clearly flowing.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, is training principally for power. This makes sense. His first attack in earnest upon 115lbs saw him match Carlos Cuadras in 2016. It would be an exaggeration to say that Cuadras walked through him – that ignominy awaits at bantamweight should he have an unfortunate rush of blood – but it was shocking to see Cuadras live with him for spells of exchanges. This limitation was then firmly underlined by Wangek and since, Gonzalez has been matched stiffly but not dangerously.  In terms of quality of opponent, Estrada is the first to represent a callback to an opponent as good as Wangek since that knockout loss.

“One of the things we are working on is long combinations. He threw more than 1000 blows in the previous fight, but now he`s punching with greater power,” trainer Marcos Caballero told Boxing Scene. “We are going to war with Estrada.”

Talk of war is well and good but the postscript was more interesting to me:

“We know the quality of the opponent, but we trust that in the ring, the one who arrives better prepared and with the best strategy, will win. That will be us.”

Roman’s strategy in the first fight, was war. He recognised quickly that he was being presented with a different proposition than he had been prepared for and adjusted accordingly. The final adjustment he made was to introduce in earnest his left-hook. It was awful to watch and underlined Estrada’s toughness for all time.

Remember, this was not superfly Gonzalez who bounces hard punches off hard fighters; this was light-fly Gonzalez who steamrolled those he could hit. At the beginning of the eighth, as Estrada tried to operate his own right, having slipped behind in the fight for the first time, Gonzalez repeatedly landed his torpedo-like left-hook and riffed behind it with increasingly fluid, terror-laden combinations. Gonzalez is the best combination puncher in history below 112lbs – with apologies to Ricardo Lopez fans – and when he finds that afterburner, he is essentially impossible to beat.

The problem is that these torque-filled punches have proven resistible at 115lbs – that is why the interest in power-punching during training. Estrada was perhaps the only man below 115lbs that really stood up to these punches in a meaningful way, in a way that allowed him the opportunity, at least, of turning the tide. Of the five available rounds after Gonzalez ignited his left, he won three of them; but it is notable that Estrada was able to outfight his prestigious foe in what must have felt to both men a key twelfth round. Still, the predominance or otherwise of the Gonzalez left hook may determine the result of this fight.

Round eight will be too late this time, I suspect. Estrada was close to being too big for Gonzalez first time around and that was in a weight division that better suited the smaller man. Now Estrada is in the weight division that he arguably most belongs in while there is ever a sense that Gonzalez is waiting in the knowledge of the bigger man. The law of Joe Louis says this though: once a puncher has found a mover, he has found him for all time. While I am not suggesting Gonzalez is the equal of Louis, he is, or at least was of that class by my eye; there is a possibility that having found Estrada with his left in the eighth of the last fight, he will find him in the first of this, their second fight, regardless of how long has elapsed. In the first fight Estrada bagged the first two rounds, the key punch perhaps the uppercut; Gonzalez needs to meet and greet that punch with one of his own and outfight the bigger, younger, faster man early, a tall order for even a great fighter.

Roman Gonzalez looks different now. His face, full even at 105lbs in a boyish way, has taken on the puffiness of a civilian. He never wore the visage of a fighter but he is beginning to look like the favourite uncle of your youth. He talks openly of retirement. He knows some ending is approaching.

He is a dramatic underdog here, in the twilight of his career. Should he win, he will match Wangek in a second dramatic rematch. If he loses it will be retirement or the continued career of a fighter with problems. There is nowhere for Gonzalez to go if Estrada masters him; 118lbs would be a dangerous disaster, 112lbs is beyond the reach of his pugilist’s body. Either he becomes the champion of a division in which he has always walked the tightrope or his career as an elite sportsman is over.

Estrada could stand to lose and box on, even 118lbs not entirely beyond his lither frame but elite sports is so rarely about “who wants it more.” It is about who is better. I believe Estrada is a better 115lb boxer than Gonzalez – therefore I pick him to win a fight that feels close, with close rounds, but where the scorecards speak of a comfortable win, somewhere in the region of 117-111.

But – keep your eyes peeled for that Gonzalez left early in the fight. I’ve been publishing fight reports on Roman Gonzalez for more than a decade now and if it is said of him that he is training for war, I believe it. Winning a war remains his last best chance of becoming a champion once more.

At the risk of sounding redundant, do not miss this fight.

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Gerald Sinclair Watches Over the Mayweather Boxing Club, a Las Vegas Landmark

Arne K. Lang

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It isn’t a stretch to say that the Mayweather Boxing Club is a Las Vegas landmark. Regardless of one’s feelings toward Floyd — and he certainly has his detractors – the man transcended his sport like no other boxer of recent vintage. According to Forbes, which publishes an annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes, Floyd Mayweather Jr is one of only three athletes to surpass one billion dollars in career earnings, putting him on the same lofty pedestal as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods – this despite the fact that Floyd competed in what has been characterized as a dying sport while attracting comparatively little money in commercial endorsements.

The word landmark conveys the thought of an edifice that is architecturally impressive. The Mayweather Boxing Club certainly isn’t that. It sits in a one-story complex of small businesses that take up a full block in an older section of Chinatown which in Las Vegas isn’t a residential neighborhood but an ever-sprawling stretch of Spring Mountain Road that runs west of the Strip for roughly a mile, a string of Asian-owned businesses, predominantly restaurants and massage parlors. The Mayweather gym sits in the back of the complex facing away from the street.

It’s easy to miss it if one is heading there for the first time (it’s helpful to have a car equipped with a GPS locator) but yet tourists often find their way there and that is another defining feature of a landmark.

When entering the gym, it’s likely the first person that one will see is Gerald Sinclair. He co-manages the gym along with his brother John and Cornelius Boza-Edwards, the former world super featherweight champion who engaged in some of the most exciting fights of the 1980s.

sinclair

Gerald Sinclair

The Mayweather Boxing Club opened in 2007. Sinclair, 56, was there from the beginning when the facility was roughly half its current size. He grew up in Hudson, New York, a city named for the river that borders the town on the east. Before moving to Las Vegas, he worked as a fork lift driver in a warehouse.

Sinclair was induced to come to Las Vegas by his sister. She is Floyd Mayweather’s mother. Floyd is Gerald’s nephew. It’s all about family at the Mayweather Gym. Floyd’s father of the same name and his uncle Jeff are fixtures there, as was their brother, the late Roger Mayweather, the best of the three fighting Mayweather brothers.

This reporter has never been in a boxing gym that didn’t have colorful posters of old fights tacked to the wall. The Mayweather gym is no exception but all of the oversized posters, all 15 of them, are of Mayweather’s fights. (Needless to say, he won them all.) His face appears on other insignia, including a large banner above a row of folding chairs. There are two regulation-size boxing rings, 11 punching bags of various descriptions clustered in a nook and some of the standard exercise equipment, all indicative of the fact that this is a place to work up a sweat, but the Mayweather Boxing Club is also a little museum of sorts, a paean to the splurgy proprietor who once sported the nickname “Pretty Boy.”

Some boxing gyms – Abel Sanchez’s compound in Big Bear comes quickly to mind – are off-limits to outsiders. The Mayweather Boxing Club is welcoming (which isn’t to say that a busload of fans would be welcome; it wouldn’t).

“When we opened the place,” says Gerald Sinclair, “Floyd came to us and said if fans want to come in and look around, go ahead and let them.”

While we were there the other day, an older man with a Spanish accent appeared in the doorway and sheepishly inquired if he and the people in his party could come inside and give it a quick look-see. “Be my guest,” said Sinclair, whereupon the visitor left and returned with his wife and another couple that he had left waiting in the car.

Sinclair says if the man hadn’t happened to mention that there were other people in his party, that he would have likely brought it up. “We have had guys who came by and left their wife and kids outside in the car and I told them to please invite them in. I know this place is a slice of history. We don’t exclude anyone.”

A tourist giving the gym a gander invariably takes a few selfies and then comes the million-dollar question: “Is he here?” A selfie with Floyd would be a prized souvenir.

No, he’s never there, or almost never there. On the rare occasions when he does pop in during normal business hours, he arrives unannounced, usually with a bodyguard. Floyd Mayweather Jr, who is known to hop in one of his private jets and fly halfway around the world on a whim, lives in a different universe than the denizens of the gym that bears his family name.

Although also rare, a visitor has a better shot of bumping into a celebrity. Eddie Murphy, Christine Aguilera, Maria Carey and P Daddy have walked in the door, as have many prominent athletes including Mike Tyson.

When Tyson appears, it’s old home week for Gerald Sinclair and his brother. During his amateur days and in his early days as a pro, Iron Mike resided in Catskill, living with his trainer Cus D’Amato in the large Victorian home that D’Amato shared with the sister of a sister-in-law. Catskill and Hudson are separated by only 12 miles. Sinclair remembers young Tyson turning up at some of his softball games. Mike made a big hit with the folks running the snack bar, covering the tab of kids hovering around him at the refreshment stand.

A number of boxers from overseas have worked out at the gym while visiting Las Vegas. For some novice boxers, a trip to the Mayweather Boxing Club is a rite of passage. (A stranger in town for a convention or trade show can also use the facility if it isn’t too crowded. There is a day rate for these situations, and the visitor must sign a waiver absolving the club of any liability should he get hurt.)

The Mayweather Boxing Club is now back at full steam after being closed to the general public for several months because of Covid-19. For a time, it was effectively the private gym of Gervonta “Tank” Davis and his team. Everyone who was there while Tank was preparing for his Oct. 31, 2020 date with Leo Santa Cruz, was required to get tested twice a week. There were no hiccups.

“As a boss, Floyd has been very generous to me,” says Sinclair. Thanks to Floyd, he got to see a part of the world that he never would have gotten to see. Floyd invited him along when he flew to Tokyo for his exhibition with Tenshin Nasukawa. Prior to this, Sinclair’s lone trip outside the United States was a trip to Tijuana.

Sinclair has picked up a new skill since leaving New York. He’s frequently the go-to guy when a boxer at the gym needs his hands wrapped. It’s not as simple as it looks, there’s an art to it, and Gerald learned at the feet of the master, Rafael Garcia Sr, who encouraged his interest. Garcia passed away in November of 2017 at age 88, leaving a hole in the hearts of the extended Mayweather family that burned wider when his fellow traveler Roger Mayweather joined him in the afterlife.

The United States has housed several iconic boxing gyms over the years. A short list would include Stillman’s Gym in mid-Manhattan, the Main Street Gym in downtown Los Angeles, the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach, and the Kronk Gym in Detroit. The Mayweather Boxing Club is destined to eventually join that hallowed roster.

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Avila Perspective, Chap.131: ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade, Carlos Gongora and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap.131: ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade, Carlos Gongora and More

Do not confuse skill with athleticism.

Fans and many journalists often erroneously label a fighter with lightning speed, power, and a good jab as a skilled fighter when they are really, simply physically gifted athletes.

A truly skilled fighter can fight nose to nose with another and you can’t touch him, but he can clobber you. That is skill. They don’t need to run around the boxing ring at full flight mode. They can fight you straight-up.

One fighter Demetrius Andrade seems to finally be proving his skill-level after years of relying on mere athletic prowess.

Andrade (29-0, 18 KOs) defends the WBO middleweight title against Great Britain’s Liam Williams (23-2-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday April 17, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

The undefeated southpaw from Providence, Rhode Island makes his fourth defense of the title he won in 2018. He formerly held the WBO super welterweight title too.

“You’re going to see the same you always see from me – a solid game plan, dominance, landing big shots, an all-around great performance and giving people what they have been missing, the sweet science,” said Andrade whose nickname is “Boo Boo.”

Because of his past reliance on athleticism, many possible foes simply avoided confrontations with Andrade in the prize ring. Who wants to step into a boxing ring and watch another fighter touch you with a jab and zip around the boxing ring? Fans don’t want to see it either. They want to see a fight, not a dance.

In his last defense Andrade was seen exhibiting inside fighting skills when he dispatched Luke Keeler by technical knockout in the ninth round in Miami. It was a display of straight-up fighting not often seen when the Rhode Island boxer performs.

Is this the new Andrade at age 33?

Williams, who hails from Wales, is nicknamed “the Machine” but lost twice to Liam Smith in two very close bouts. Those are his only defeats.

“I’m super confident and I don’t think there’s any way that he beats me. I think I can knock him out,” said Williams.

Andrade laughs at Williams’ comments.

“They call him ‘The Machine’, but when I am done with him, he’ll be ‘The Rust Bucket,” claims Andrade.

Williams feels its time to expose Andrade.

“I don’t think he has the same intensity as me,’ said Williams. “I wear my heart on my sleeve. I can punch harder than him. I have a better engine than him. I’m going to bring it all on the night and I don’t think he has the answers.”

Andrade expects the same results.

“Liam is not going to stop my train,” said Andrade. “I expect him to bring the fight because this is his opportunity, but at the end of the day he’ll be able to say, ‘I lost to Demetrius Andrade’.”

Gongora

IBO super middleweight titlist Carlos Gongora (19-0, 14 KOs) makes his first defense of his fringe world title against American Christopher Pearson (17-2, 12 KOs) in a battle between southpaws in the semi-main event at Seminole Hard Rock.

Ecuador’s Gongora was a last-minute replacement and upset Kazakhstan’s heavily favored Ali Akhmedov by knockout in the last round of their title fight last December. He also became his country’s first world title-holder.

Pearson enters the boxing ring after a similar feat. He was a late replacement when he met the favored Yamaguchi Falcao two years ago at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. He out-fought the Brazilian with a gutsy performance that convinced Golden Boy Promotions to sign him.

Gongora and Pearson both have much to prove.

Sunday

Thompson Boxing Promotions returns with one of its star prospects Ruben Torres (14-0, 10 KOs) who faces Diego Contreras (11-3, 5 KOs) in a super lightweight main event at Omega Products International in Corona, California. The fight card will be streamed on www.ThompsonBoxing.com and on its Facebook and YouTube.com pages.

Fights to Watch

Fri. 6 p.m. ESPN+ Miguel Vazquez (42-10) vs Isai Hernandez (10-1-1).

Sat. 11 a.m. ESPN+ Danny Dignum (13-0) vs Andrey Sirotkin (19-1).

Sat. 12 p.m. DAZN Demetrius Andrade (29-0) vs Liam Williams (23-2-1).

Sat. 5 p.m. FOX Tony Harrison (28-3) vs Bryant Perrella (17-3).

Sat. 6 p.m. TrillerFightClub.com (ppv) Regis Prograis (25-1) vs Ivan Redkach (23-5-1).

Sun. 2 p.m. ThompsonBoxing.com (free) Ruben Torres (14-0) vs Diego Contreras (11-3).

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Tank Davis and the Charlo Twins Featured on the Loaded Showtime/PBC Schedule

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Tank Davis and the Charlo Twins Featured on the Loaded Showtime/PBC Schedule

PRESS RELEASE — SHOWTIME Sports and Premier Boxing Champions today unveiled a loaded five-month boxing schedule of nine high-stakes world championship events beginning Saturday, May 15, live on SHOWTIME. The schedule delivers two events per month through August. Thirteen matchups have been announced thus far with no less than seven world title fights, and 12 fighters defending undefeated records. The lineup features many of boxing’s best young fighters taking on career-defining challenges in their primes. All fights on the schedule will take place before a live audience, keeping with applicable local COVID-19 safety protocols.

The sizzling summer run features the dynamic Charlo twins as undefeated electrifying champion Jermall Charlo defends his WBC middleweight world title against Juan Macias Montiel in a special Juneteenth homecoming in Houston on Saturday, June 19, live on SHOWTIME.

The following Saturday, June 26, unbeaten Mayweather Promotions star Gervonta “Tank” Davis moves up two weight classes for a chance to become a three-division world champion when he takes on fellow undefeated champion Mario Barrios for his super lightweight world title in what will be Davis’ second pay-per-view showdown.

The next month, WBC, WBA and IBF 154-pound charismatic world champion Jermell Charlo looks to make boxing history when he takes on WBO junior middleweight world champion Brian Castaño in a mega-fight to crown the first four-belt 154-pound world champion.

The SHOWTIME boxing schedule features eight editions of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING and one premier SHOWTIME PPV event, all presented by Premier Boxing Champions:

  • MAY 15 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Luis Nery vs. Brandon Figueroa, WBC Super Bantamweight World Title Fight
    • Danny Roman vs. Ricardo Espinoza Franco, Super Bantamweight Fight
    • Xavier Martinez vs. Abraham Montoya, WBA Super Featherweight Fight
    • MAY 29 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
      • Nordine Oubaali vs. Nonito Donaire, WBC Bantamweight World Title Fight
      • Subriel Matias vs. Batyrzhan Jukembayev, IBF Super Lightweight Title Eliminator
  • JUNE 19 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Jermall Charlo vs. Juan Macias Montiel, WBC Middleweight World Title Fight
  • JUNE 26 – SHOWTIME PPV
    • Gervonta Davis vs. Mario Barrios, WBA Super Lightweight World Title Fight
    • Erickson Lubin vs. Jeison Rosario, WBC Junior Middleweight Title Eliminator
    • JULY 3 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
    • Chris Colbert vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa, WBA Super Featherweight Interim Title Fight
  • JULY 17 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING 
    • Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castaño, Undisputed IBF, WBA, WBC & WBO Junior Middleweight World Title Unification Fight
  • AUGUST 14 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

                  Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. John Riel Casimero, WBO Bantamweight World Title Fight

         AUGUST 28 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING

    • David Benavidez vs. Jose Uzcategui, WBC Super Middleweight Title Eliminator
  • SEPTEMBER 11 – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING
  • Stephen Fulton, Jr. vs. winner of Nery-Figueroa, Super Bantamweight World Title Unification Fight

“High-impact, meaningful fights amongst many of the biggest names and brightest stars in combat sports. That is what SHOWTIME promises and that is what we are delivering,” said Stephen Espinoza, President, SHOWTIME Sports. “With an opportunity to crown an undisputed world champion at 154 pounds, a highly anticipated super bantamweight title unification, a stacked pay-per-view showdown and more than a dozen fights between 118-168 pounds, SHOWTIME is presenting boxing’s best young fighters, all daring to be great by putting their world titles and undefeated records on the line.

Editor’s Note: This press release has been edited for brevity.

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