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Juan Francisco Estrada beats Felipe Orucuta by unanimous decision; Ioka gets best of Arroyo in undercard

Juan Francisco Estrada listened all fight week to the suggestion that he’s emerged as the face of the “SuperFly” boxing series, and he went out Saturday to prove it.

In a gritty showing against countryman Felipe Orucuta, Mexico’s Estrada shrugged off some punishing blows in the middle rounds and battered his foe down the stretch to win a unanimous decision at the Forum.

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Judges gave Estrada (37-3) victory by scores of 118-110 (Alejandro Rochin), 117-111 (Zachary Young), 117-111 (Edward Hernandez Sr.), a unanimous decision that allowed him to intensify his pursuit of World Boxing Council champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.

Instead of returning to the Forum after edging Estrada by a thin judging margin in February, Sor Rungvisai has opted for two lesser fights in his native Thailand.

“I hope that fight will happen soon,” Estrada said.

Promoter Tom Loeffler said, “We’d like to make that fight.”

Estrada ratcheted the pressure on the champion by landing 338 punches on Orucuta (36-5), who enjoyed quality moments by landing 186 of his own.

The action seriously intensified in the seventh when Orucuta pounded Estrada with a crushing combination that the former flyweight champion calmly absorbed, then answered with his own punches before opening the eighth with a thunderous right.

“I feel good about giving a great performance a great champion,” Orucuta said.

Loeffler said he’s planning to stage “SuperFly 4” around late February in the Forum and former three-division champion Kazuto Ioka (23-1) stamped himself as a key player in the series.

Ioka returned from a brief retirement to outclass Puerto Rico’s former title challenger McWilliams Arroyo by unanimous-decision scores of 99-90, 97-92, 97-92.

“He rose to the occasion and is a star shining bright for our series — the outstanding fighter of the night,” Loeffler said.

Ioka dictated the pace from the opening bell, landing clean body shots and jabs and leaving Arroyo to figure how to respond to the increased activity — a strategy he used himself in February’s “SuperFly 2” card to upset former world champion Carlos Cuadras.

Late in the third, Ioka smacked Arroyo with a jab to the forehead and followed with a hard right to the jaw that knocked down Arroyo.

That not only increased Arroyo’s desperation to chase Ioka on the scorecard, but it allowed Ioka to continue with his mission to outpunch his foe, which he did by landing 254 of 797 punches while Arroyo landed 159 of 715 thrown.

“I knew he was a quality opponent when I took the fight and he really showed me what a top-notch fighter he is,” Arroyo (17-4) said.

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Ioka, who watched the “SuperFly” series in February while on vacation, opted to return to the ring after watching the exposure the 115-pounders were receiving from a strong crowd that night, and on HBO.

While Saturday’s crowd was diminished by the absences of popular past “SuperFly” participants Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Sor Rungvisai, Ioka was thrilled by how he was received in the U.S.

“I’m very appreciative of my opportunity to fight here … this is exactly as I hoped it would be and I can’t wait to fight on ‘SuperFly 4,’” Ioka said. “My game plan worked out perfectly.”

The one belt that was up for grabs Saturday went unsettled as former three-division champion Donnie Nietes of the Philippines and countryman Aston Palicte fought to a draw that left Nietes distraught.

“Of course I won the fight,” said Nietes (41-1-5), who is five inches shorter but mostly stayed away from Palicte’s power-punch tries.

Nietes landed 194 punches to Palicte’s total of 124 (at a 14.9% connection clip) and in the 12th, Nietes landed a steady barrage of head-rocking blows that appeared to have sealed the outcome.

Though judge Danny Sandoval saw it that way, awarding Nietes a 118-110 score, judge Riobert Hoyle had Palicte winning 116-112 and Max DeLuca scored the bout 114-114.

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