Boxing: Juan Francisco Estrada

'12 Days' wish list: Gonzalez-Estrada II

December, 16, 2013
Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco EstradaMarlene Marquez/www.Pound4Pound.comWho wouldn't want to watch Roman Gonzalez, right, battle Juan Francisco Estrada again?
In the spirit of the holidays, ESPN is celebrating the season with our own "12 Days" wish list of the fights we want to see most, regardless of promotional or other entanglements. Keep checking back over the coming days to see new fights revealed, discuss our choices or even suggest some of your own in the comments section or via Twitter using #ESPN12Days.

For the past two years, junior flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez has toiled below the radar as boxing's best-kept secret.

Despite being one of the sport's most devastating punchers and a fringe member on many pound-for-pound lists, Gonzalez (37-0, 31 KOs), 26, a native of Nicaragua, has had trouble crossing over. Competing in the second-smallest weight division hasn't helped matters. Neither has the pint-sized power puncher's inability to get time on American cable.

For many fight fans, their lone exposure to "El Chocolatito" on television -- despite airing on the somewhat obscure AWE Network (then known as Wealth TV) -- was a November 2012 slugfest against Mexico's Juan Francisco Estrada in Los Angeles. It marked just the third time in Gonzalez's career he had fought on American soil, but it was a fight those who stumbled across won't soon forget.

Not only has Gonzalez owned the junior flyweight division in recent years, he has scored knockouts in all four appearances during a recent run moonlighting at 112 pounds. But it was the exciting and ultra-aggressive Estrada, then just 22, who walked through the kind of punches that have finished nearly 84 percent of the fighters Gonzalez has faced.

The two sluggers combined for a fight of the year candidate, with Gonzalez hanging on to defend his 108-pound title by unanimous decision. Estrada, who was just the second fighter since 2009 to go the distance with Gonzalez, put forth a performance so enthralling that hard-core fans have been screaming for a rematch ever since.

Estrada, who had moved down in weight to challenge Gonzalez, returned to flyweight in April to take a pair of titles from Brian Viloria in an exciting split decision. He later defended his titles in July by cruising past unbeaten Milan Melindo in Macau.

With Estrada having clearly proved himself in 2013 as the class of the flyweight division and, at 23, a star in the making, there's no better time than now for Gonzalez, who has difficulty making 108 pounds, to move up and seek a rematch.

Considering the fighters' class, Estrada's exciting style and Gonzalez's rarefied punching power, a rematch would not only be intriguing, it's one that deserves to get prime-time placement on a major network.

Santa Cruz sets sights on big things

December, 11, 2013
Leo Santa CruzHarry How/Getty ImagesLeo Santa Cruz hopes to finish 2013 with a show-stealing turn, then possibly move up in weight.

With three high-caliber fights on Saturday's card at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Leo Santa Cruz knows it will be a challenge to steal the show against Cesar Seda.

Cruz's junior featherweight defense will be just one of four title fights on the docket -- including Adrien Broner's welterweight defense against Marcos Maidana, Keith Thurman's interim welterweight defense against Jesus Soto Karass and Beibut Shumenov's light heavyweight defense against Tamas Kovacs. Also appearing will be comebacking former middleweight champ Jermain Taylor and two up-and-coming 2012 U.S. Olympians in Jamell Herring and Rau'Shee Warren.

"The fights will be awesome," Santa Cruz, of Mexico, said in a recent interview with "Soto, Maidana, Broner -- anybody can steal the show, and I want to be up to that standard. We will deliver so the fans can go home happy."

To that end, Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs) said he would seek a knockout against Puerto Rico's Seda (25-1, 17 KOs), who has never been stopped.

"I'm looking for my third win by KO in 2013," Santa Cruz said. "Seda is a hard puncher, but I will go full-throttle against him, trying to get the KO. But winning by any other way will be just fine."

Seda, despite his sterling record, remains relatively untested. In his only legitimate step up in competition, he lost a 12-round unanimous decision to junior bantamweight titlist Omar Narvaez in his native Argentina. But Santa Cruz says he'll take nothing for granted on Saturday.

"I've never been overconfident against any rival, and this time was no exception," Santa Cruz said. "I trained as hard as possible, because my opponent is really tough. Seda is a strong, hard-hitting fighter."

And Santa Cruz has another incentive as 2013 draws to a close. Within his own country, the list of candidates who might be considered for the unofficial title of 2013 Mexican fighter of the year seems to be limited to three: Juan Francisco Estrada, Jhonny Gonzalez and Santa Cruz. A strong performance against Seda on Saturday could sway popular opinion.

"Just being on that short list is an honor to me," Santa Cruz said. "It motivates me because it shows that we've done a good job.

"I've always trained hard, so I can give the fans what they deserve, which is a great show. They've always supported me. It has been an outstanding year, and we can end it on a high note."

And Santa Cruz, already a two-division titleholder at age 25 -- he held a bantamweight belt during the second half of 2012 -- is now beginning to consider what's ahead.

"In 2014, I could move up to featherweight," Santa Cruz said. "Let's see who's available, and if we can work out a nice deal, we might go for that third title."