The junior bantamweight or super flyweight division (115 lbs.) is receiving a lot of media mileage following the unadulterated slugfest between Nicaraguan Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada for the unified WBC-WBA championship.
In a rumble that registered seismic waves on the Richter Scale, Estrada edged out Gonzalez via split decision. Immediately after the fight, fight fans hankered for a third match between the two fighters.
The score stands at 1-1, Gonzalez having defeated Estrada in their first meeting in November 2012 when they were still light flyweights (108 lbs.).
A “Big Three” has actually emerged in the junior bantamweight class, involving Gonzalez (50-3, 41 knockouts), Estrada (42-3, 28 knockouts) and Thai slugger Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (50-5, 1 draw, 43 knockouts).
Rungvisai, a former WBC junior bantamweight champ, is 2-0 against Gonzalez, having knocked out and outpointed Gonzalez in 2017. On the other hand, Rungvisai is 1-1 against Estrada, outpointing the Mexican in February 2018 and then losing on points in a rematch in April 2019 that cost him his WBC title. All three boxers have a history against each other, which explains why they are leading the surge in the division’s popularity.
But from where this writer sits, two Filipino boxers should be included in the mix: reigning IBF junior bantam king Jerwin “Pretty Boy” Ancajas and former WBO junior bantam titlist Donnie “Ahas” Nietes.
Fans love to talk about the “Big Three,” but it is Ancajas who has been the most consistent performer at 115 lbs. Dig this: Gonzalez had been knocked out at 115 pounds while Estrada and Rungvisai had absorbed decision losses. The WBO junior bantamweight champ, Kazuto Ioka of Japan, was beaten by Nietes in December 2018 before he bounced back to win the WBO crown in June 2019.
In stark contrast, Ancajas (32-1, 2 draws, 22 knockouts) has been the IBF champion since September 2016 and has made eight successful defenses. On April 10, Ancajas is booked to make his ninth title defense against Mexican Jonathan Javier Rodriguez.
Ancajas should be the top dog in the division, but his accomplishments have been underappreciated because Top Rank Promotions failed to give him the necessary push. Ancajas was promised big fights, but Top Rank failed to deliver.
It thus comes as no surprise that Ancajas opted to leave Top Tank and join Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC). Ancajas will make his PBC debut against Rodriguez and if he pulls through in impressive fashion, the champ wants a piece of Rungvisai.
Rungvisai is eyeing a third match with WBC-WBA champ Estrada and the WBC has made it clear that the Thai, who is ranked No.1, is next in line. However, there are clamors for an immediate third fight between Estrada and Gonzalez and should this happen Rungvisai will have some time available to figure in another fight.
Ancajas is more than willing to accommodate the hard-hitting Thai.
On the outside looking in is former champ Nietes. Nietes was already making serious strides in December 2018 when he won the WBO junior bantamweight title with an impressive decision over Ioka.
But shortly after the fight, Nietes opted to vacate the crown rather than face countryman Aston Palicte in a rematch. Ioka gladly filled Nietes’ shoes and won the vacant WBO crown by knocking out Palicte in June 2019. Nietes dropped out of the boxing radar.
Nietes (42-1, 5 draws, 23 knockouts) is set to return to the ring on April 3, when he faces Colombian Pablo Carrillo in Dubai. Nietes has been inactive for over two years and will definitely be under pressure to deliver against Carrillo.
Nietes, who is turning 39 on May 13, has admitted it was a mistake to give up the WBO crown. Nietes was already earning looks from the international boxing community and had even cracked the pound-for-pound rankings when he inexplicably disappeared.
Nietes will be in for some rough sailing, but one cannot just count him out.
Nietes is a four-division (minimumweight, light flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight) champion and has been unbeaten since 2004. Nietes is undefeated against Latino/Mexican boxers and offers a pesky boxing style that is not easy to crack. Nietes will look to get back on track when he faces Carrillo.
The junior bantamweight division is indeed heating up and this is the perfect time for Ancajas and Nietes to flex their muscles and show that they should be mentioned in the same breath as Gonzalez, Estrada and Rungvisai.