BOXING FEATURED

Estrada the New Champ at 115, Plus Donaire Scores Huge KO

By David Greisman

 

Estrada Wins Rematch With Sor Rungvisai, Becomes New 115-Pound King

 

The first fight between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada was a highly competitive affair that could’ve gone either way. The scorecards for their rematch on Friday night might suggest that their second fight was more of the same — but that’s not the case.

 

Instead, it was Estrada controlling most of the match with masterful boxing. He made the best super flyweight in the world look like anything but. And then he withstood Sor Rungvisai’s late comeback, leaving the ring with the unanimous decision victory and as the new king of the 115-pound division.

 

The fight kicked off at a torrid pace. Estrada got the better of those early exchanges, landing accurate combinations and then getting out of range, while Sor Rungvisai scored with hard single shots. It was Estrada who asserted his dominance, pushing Sor Rungvisai back in the final minute, landing good hooks and counters, then punctuating the first round with body shots.

 

According to CompuBox, Estrada was much more active than he’d been in the first fight, throwing 84 punches per round, as compared to the average of 56 he’d thrown per round back in February 2018.

 

But it wasn’t just Estrada’s activity that took Sor Rungvisai off his game. It was his defense, too. He disrupted Sor Rungvisai’s rhythm with counter jabs. He saw Sor Rungvisai’s shots coming and could easily take a step back and make Sor Rungvisai miss, or he’d move to the side and land a left hook. He also capably dodged blows on the inside.

 

While Sor Rungvisai still threw nearly 1,000 punches on the night, his output wasn’t overwhelming. He seemed less aggressive than usual from the second round until very late in the fight, demoralized by his ability to land much or to make much of an impact with what did land. Part of that was Estrada’s ability to dictate the distance and pace of the fight. In one sequence in the fourth round, for example, Estrada made Sor Rungvisai miss with a right hand, then landed a jab and an uppercut before dodging a Sor Rungvisai left hook to the body.

 

Frustrated, Sor Rungvisai ended the fourth round by changing his stance from orthodox to southpaw — which is what Sor Rungvisai typically fights as. But soon he was back to orthodox again, and Estrada remained in control, building up a lead on the scorecards.

 

It wasn’t a Fight of the Year-quality barnburner, but that was better for Estrada. Sor Rungvisai, meanwhile, was falling behind and needed something to change if he was going to retain his championship.

 

That change came in the ninth round, when Sor Rungvisai at last turned southpaw and largely remained there.

 

“Srisaket Sor Rungvisai said he fought orthodox much of the fight because he felt Juan Francisco Estrada was only preparing to fight a southpaw,” boxing writer Mark Ortega tweeted after the fight. “When I asked if he wishes he switched back to southpaw earlier because of his late-round success, he said yes.”

 

Sor Rungvisai indeed connected more often in those final four rounds. Estrada also chose to stand in and exchange more than he’d done before, which helped Sor Rungvisai’s cause. This wasn’t quite as bold as Erik Morales out-boxing Manny Pacquiao in their first fight and then turning southpaw and going toe-to-toe in the final round. But it was a seemingly needless approach, one that made the fight closer than it could’ve been otherwise. Estrada was nevertheless able to handle Sor Rungvisai’s power and make it to the final bell.

 

The judges soon rendered their verdict: one judge had it 116-112, or eight rounds to four, while the other two had it closer at 115-113, seven rounds to five. All had it for Estrada.

 

Estrada is now 39-3 with 26 KOs and is a two-division titleholder; he previously held a pair of belts at flyweight. He should also now be considered the top fighter at 115. And while he’s open to a rubber match with Sor Rungvisai, Estrada said he’s more interested in unification bouts. The other titleholders are Jerwin Ancajas and Khalid Yafai. The fourth world title will belong to the winner of a June fight between Kazuto Ioka and Aston Palicte.

 

Beyond them, there’s also top contender Donnie Nietes, who used to hold the belt Ioka and Palicte are fighting for but vacated it in favor of bigger fights. And there’s Roman Gonzalez, once the pound-for-pound king before a pair of losses to Sor Rungvisai, one by debatable decision and the other by decisive knockout. Estrada lost to Gonzalez back when both were in the 108-pound division.

 

Estrada’s avenged two of his three losses, stopping Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr. in 2011 and defeating Sor Rungvisai. A rematch with Gonzalez would give Estrada the chance to say he’s beaten everyone he’s ever faced.

 

As for Sor Rungvisai, this loss drops him to 47-5-1 with 41 KOs and ends a 20-fight winning streak dating back to 2014. It took a long time for Sor Rungvisai to get the chances he deserved. But there’s more interest in spotlighting 115-pounders these days, which is how he was able to get the fights with Gonzalez and ascend to the top of his weight class. He’ll be back.

 

Nonito Donaire Lands One-Punch KO and Spot in Tournament Finale

 

A year ago, Nonito Donaire’s career was at a turning point. He’d just lost a clear decision to Carl Frampton and could no longer be considered among the top fighters at 126. The same could be said of his standing at 122, where he’d lost to Jessie Magdaleno in 2016. It seemed likely that Donaire’s best days were behind him.

So when Donaire joined the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament, it seemed an intriguing but uncertain venture. He was moving back down two divisions, competing at 118 for the first time in seven years. He would need to face fighters who were younger, fresher, and potentially better than Donaire was capable of being these days. It could wind up being his last stand.

And now he’s one of the last ones left standing.

 

Donaire landed a spot in the tournament finale after landing a one-punch knockout on Saturday night, putting Stephon Young away with the shot that kickstarted Donaire’s ascent 12 years ago against Vic Darchinyan — a huge left hook.

Donaire will go on to face the winner of May’s unification bout between Naoya Inoue and Emmanuel Rodriguez.

It’s a nice story, and Donaire is deserving of praise. There are a pair of necessary caveats:

Donaire’s first victory in the tournament, over Ryan Burnett, came because Burnett injured his back while throwing a punch. This second fight, against Young, was a step down in competition compared to who Donaire was originally supposed to face in the bout. Talented titleholder Zolani Tete withdrew with an injury days before the fight. Young, who was in a full training camp for a fight on the undercard, stepped in to replace Tete.

 

But Donaire was highly competitive with Burnett in that fight. And the former four-division titleholder cannot be blamed for Burnett’s or Tete’s injuries. All he can do is keep fighting — and that’s what he’ll do in the tournament finale.

For now, the 36-year-old is 40-5 with 26 KOs. Young is now 18-2-3 with 7 KOs.

 

Danny Roman Unifies Titles in Battle With TJ Doheny

 

Danny Roman unified a pair of world titles with a majority decision victory over TJ Doheny, coming out on top in a grueling battle that really heated up in the second half of the bout.

 

The 122-pound division has long been fun. This fight was no different. Roman was the pressure fighter, while Doheny was a boxer who preferred to use in-and-out movement to score and then get back out of range.

Roman knocked Doheny down twice — once early and once late. The first knockdown came in the second round, a left hook landing while Doheny was circling away. It was more of a flash knockdown; Doheny wasn’t badly hurt.

Good exchanges broke out in the fourth and sixth rounds. And then Doheny seemed like he was taking control in the seventh, letting loose with an extended barrage to the body and head. He had Roman reeling. But when Roman went down to the canvas, it was rightly ruled a slip or a push rather than a knockdown. Roman dug down and tried to fend Doheny off with some good left hooks and body shots.

 

Doheny returned to boxing in the eighth round. It’s possible that helped let Roman off the hook. Because it was in Round 9 that Roman took over, targeting the body, then nearly knocking Doheny down with a beautiful left uppercut.

It was clear that Doheny was fading while Roman had found his second wind. The body shots that Roman was landing were exacerbating Doheny’s situation. And a left hook to the body put Doheny down about halfway into Round 11. He beat the count, only to be hurt again by a jab to the body.

The fight could have been in the balance going into Round 12, but Doheny just didn’t have enough left to go for the dramatic come-from-behind knockout. He otherwise boxed well and scored in the later part of the round. It wasn’t enough to win.

 

One judge had it 113-113 — seven rounds for Doheny (with two points deducted for the knockdowns) and five to Roman — while the other two judges had it 116-110, or eight rounds to four.

 

Roman moves to 27-2-1 with 10 KOs. He’s been on a good run since capturing a world title in September 2017. This was his fourth defense and a notable performance in a step-up fight.

 

Doheny falls to 21-1 with 15 KOs. This was a setback, yet it was a competitive one. He deserves a rest and some time to rebuild himself but shouldn’t be out of the picture for too long.

 

Robert Easter vs. Rances Barthelemy Lacked Action and a Clear Winner

 

There were no winners in Saturday night’s lightweight title bout between Robert Easter vs. Rances Barthelemy. Not the fighters, and definitely not the fans.

The fight ended as a draw. Though it’d be fair to wonder whether the fight ever truly began. There was remarkably little action, surprisingly little desperation given the fact that a world title was on the line.

 

Both men seemed content to wait and counter. And wait. And wait. And wait some more. There was a lot of standing around, a lot of making the other guy miss but rarely making him pay. The lack of clean, effective punching made it even more maddening when Barthelemy taunted Easter, given how little he was doing himself.

 

To be fair, there were occasional moments for each. But that’s all they were — moments. For example, Barthelemy scored with a good left hook over Easter’s right hand in Round 4 and had a nice sequence of landed shots in Round 5. Easter trapped Barthelemy on the ropes in Round 8 and laced in a couple of hooks to the head and body, and he caught Barthelemy with a flush right hand in Round 9.

 

That’s not all of what happened, but it’s not like these fleeting moments were part of an overall narrative in which one fighter was decisively winning a round. So if you’re looking for a round-by-round breakdown, just know that this fight was nothing to write home about, and so there won’t be much more written about it.

 

Easter landed just 54 of 415 punches on the night, a 13 percent connect rate, according to CompuBox. That means he didn’t throw much and didn’t land much, going an average of 5 of 35 per round. Barthelemy was 52 of 328, which means he was 5 of 28 per round. But I’m even giving them more credit by rounding up. In reality, they combined to land 106 punches over the course of 12 rounds — that means two fighters landed a total of about nine punches per round.

 

How bad was it?

 

Easter only had three rounds in which landed more than five punches. The most he ever landed in a single round was a paltry eight. Five times, he landed three punches or fewer. Barthelemy had four rounds in which he landed more than five punches. The most he ever landed in a single round was a mere six. Four times, he landed three punches or fewer.

 

That didn’t give the judges much to go on. One judge had it 115-113 for Barthelemy, seven rounds to five. One judge had it 115-113 for Easter. And one judge had it even, six rounds apiece, 114-114. It was a split draw.

 

And given that this was a fight for a vacant title, that belt will remain vacant. Good. Nobody deserves to be rewarded for a performance like this.

 

Easter is now 21-1-1 with 14 KOs. This was his first fight back since losing his world title to Mikey Garcia last July. Barthelemy is now 27-1-1 with 14 KOs. He’d previously held world titles in the 130- and 135-pound weight classes before moving up to 140, where he lost to Kiryl Relikh last year.

 

Both men said they would be interested in a rematch. They’re the only ones. And you can’t even blame their delusion on taking blows to the head, given how little damage they took.

 

They’re good fighters — but this was a bad, bad fight.

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