Mexico’s Juan Francisco Estrada understands the legacy to boxing his countrymen have contributed in building a fan base unrivaled in the world.
Estrada is doing his part to add to the action-packed lore, with 25 knockouts in 38 pro fights. What separates him, what makes him believe he’ll win a second division title Saturday night at the Forum, is his interest in making his bouts a battle of brainpower instead of brawn.
In the HBO-televised main event, Estrada (36-2, 25 knockouts) meets Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40 KOs), a World Boxing Council super-flyweight champion who has knocked out 15 of his last 16 foes, including the world’s former No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.
“A lot of people in Mexico know me as the best technician from my country,” Estrada said through a Spanish translator. “I know what I’m doing in there. For me, it’s important to show that aspect in my fights. I have to be smart and intelligent and that’s what I’ll do. But if I can get that knockout, I’ll do it. … I am Mexican. I know that’s what the fans want.”
In dissecting Sor Rungvisai’s narrow victory by decision over Gonzalez last March and the champion’s fourth-round knockout in a September rematch, Estrada, 27, says he’s confident in the complex style with which he can counter Sor Rungvisai’s power.
“I’m a better boxer than Gonzalez, a better technician. And I know I’m a better boxer than Sor Rungvisai, so I believe that’s what I’ll need to do,” Estrada said. “[Sor Rungvisai] is a strong guy coming forward all the time. You have to be very intelligent with this guy. You can’t be reckless. I have to figure out a way to land my shots, but I think I will and I’m capable of knocking him out late.”
A similar plan propelled Estrada to a tight victory over former super-flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras on the September undercard. Trailing early against the lightning-quick Cuadras, Estrada crafted an effective response, scored a 10th-round knockdown and gained the title shot by earning a 114-113 victory from all three judges.
“He was very patient, had a plan and stayed with it the whole fight,” Cuadras said. “It didn’t really hurt me, but the difference was the knockdown.”
Estrada grinned when recalling the performance.
“The strategy was to see what he had the first three rounds and then adjust,” he said. “Once I started doing my thing, I was controlling the fight.
“Obviously, you make a lot of decisions in the ring. Sometimes, you fear a guy’s punch and then once you feel it, it’s really not that big. I don’t know how hard [Sor Rungvisai] hits. Everybody says he hits hard. If it puts a scare into me, I won’t go toe to toe with him.”
Estrada’s here to win another belt and stand as the best of an impressive super-flyweight crop that has created this sequel of the popular “SuperFly” series.
The roots of the existing promotion date to Estrada’s late 2012 unanimous-decision loss to Gonzalez in a light-flyweight title fight at the now-demolished Sports Arena.
Gonzalez ascended from tthat entertaining bout to his No. 1 pound-for-pound stature, while Estrada was briefly left behind, soured but determined.
He’s won all 10 fights since then, becoming a flyweight champion and moving up to 115 pounds in late 2016.
“When I met Gonzalez, it was my first fight in the U.S., and 108 [pounds] wasn’t my weight — I’d been fighting at 112 all my life — so there were a lot of things against me,” Estrada said. “I did the best I could.
“I moved on, but it motivated me to get to the level with those guys again, to be considered the best in the world. I know how important it is to win the best fights when you get them, how the opportunities are few. This is a big opportunity for me.”
Training in Hermosillo, Mexico, Estrada has deviated from his normal regimen with sparring partners by summoning hard-hitting left-handers to best prepare for Sor Rungvisai.
“I’ve now showed the world how good I am being a world champion,” Estrada said. “I know how hard I’ve worked to get to this fight and I’m looking forward to winning it, putting myself at a different level in my career. I have the right strategy.”
Main event: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40 knockouts) vs. Juan Francisco Estrada (36-2, 25 KOs) for Sor Rungvisai’s WBC super-flyweight belt
Where: The Forum
When: Saturday, first bout 3:45 p.m., televised portion begins at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $30, $60, $100, $150, $250 at Ticketmaster, Forum box office
Undercard: Carlos Cuadras (36-2-1, 27 KOs) vs. McWilliams Arroyo (16-3, 14 KOs), super-flyweights; Donnie Nietes (40-1-4, 22 KOs) vs. Juan Carlos Reveco (39-3, 19 KOs) for Nietes’ IBF flyweight belt