Juan Francisco Estrada meant to have a relatively soft tune-up tonight in Hermosillo, Mexico, but he got a very stiff test from the unheralded Argi Cortes. Estrada did win the fight in the end, taking the unanimous decision on scores of 114-113, 115-112, and 115-112.
Bad Left Hook was in line with the official judges, scoring the fight 114-113 for Estrada, who struggled at times and looked a bit sluggish after a fairly long layoff, having not fought since a debated win over Chocolatito Gonzalez in early 2021.
This fight was meant to lead Estrada (43-3, 28 KO) to a third bout with Chocolatito. He has vacated both the WBC and WBA junior bantamweight titles at this point, though he is still recognized as the Ring Magazine champion, for what it’s worth, and the WBC are willing to call him “Franchise Champion” to keep taking some of his money when he fights.
Cortes (23-3-2, 10 KO) was a heavy underdog and not even really expected to compete, but the 27-year-old did compete, giving Estrada a hell of a ruin and taking advantage of an oft-sluggish veteran.
One way to look at it is that Estrada may have “fought down” to his level of competition, not had big motivation in camp, was just looking to get through the fight. But it also has to be considered that either Cortes is simply better than expected — and he fought legitimately well — or that Estrada, at 32, may be fading a bit.
The latter idea would not be good news for “El Gallo,” who is in a division that boasts terrific talent at the top alongside him with, Chocolatito and Kazuto Ioka, plus younger guns like Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez and Joshua Franco.
Speaking on Cortes maybe just being better than expected, it’s notable that he was was dropped in the seventh round, which appeared as though it would be a major turning point, maybe even spell the end of a great effort from the underdog. But Estrada didn’t take over from there as you might expect; Cortes stayed competitive the rest of the way, and probably had a half-decent argument for winning 7-5, which would have been 114-113 his way.
He didn’t get the nod, but you can expect he’ll get another decent fight or two from this performance. His profile got upped considerably here; it wasn’t the biggest show in the world, but it’s a much higher level than he’s ever fought on before, and he did himself proud.
“I was really surprised. I didn’t expect him to come out so hard. I have twice the fights he has, and the experience took over. I was very surprised, he was a great fighter,” Estrada said, via translation from Claudia Trejos.
Asked if the plan to fight Chocolatito in a third bout was still in place, Estrada said, “That’s why I was looking forward to getting this done. I wanted to make sure I looked good and had no injuries. I’m a little bruised, but I did what I had to do.”
Estrada says it will be “the first week of December” that he fights Chocolatito, which means Dec. 3.
One other note: The WBC employed their open scoring in Mexico. After eight rounds, two judges had it 77-74 for Estrada, one judge had it 77-74 for Cortes. After the crowd booed the pro-Cortes card, that judge responded by giving Cortes zero rounds the rest of the fight, which is pretty hard to do; the other two judges split those last four rounds, 2-2. The great, positive impact of open scoring!
Estrada vs Cortes highlights
Erika Cruz UD-10 Jelena Mrdjenovich
This wasn’t close the first time they fought, a shutout technical decision over seven rounds for Cruz in Apr. 2021, and it wasn’t close this time, either, a shutout 10-round unanimous decision for Cruz.
All three judges had it 100-90 for Cruz (15-1, 3 KO), the only score possible and also what Bad Left Hook had.
The first time it was an upset, this time it wasn’t. The 40-year-old Mrdjenovich just can’t really do anything with Cruz, and new trainer SugarHill Steward didn’t make any notable difference for the results in the ring, though little things maybe were better, like her balance. She still couldn’t win rounds. Cruz does not have the prettiest style, but it gives Mrdjenovich fits because it’s not basic, straight-up stuff; Cruz is faster, younger, and just sharper now.
This likely could be it for Mrdjenovich (41-12-2, 19 KO), who hadn’t fought since the first Cruz bout. She’s had a terrific, decorated career, with her entire peak coming before women’s boxing got the boost it’s seen the last few years.
As for Cruz, she remains a top option for Amanda Serrano at 126, though she would be an enormous underdog against Serrano, who most of us agree is on her own level at this weight. But she’ll be lined up for that fight, too; Serrano is fighting a three-belt unification with Sarah Mahfoud on Sept. 24 in Manchester, England.
Serrano says she does want that fight, and also noted Nina Meinke as a possible opponent.
Sivenathi Nontshinga SD-12 Hector Flores
First things first, this was a tremendous fight, and if you missed it live, go watch it. Nontshinga (11-0, 9 KO) and Flores (21-1-4, 10 KO) left everything they had in the ring here, throwing a ton of punches as the bout turned into a war of attrition in the back half.
I think the two judges who scored it for Nontshinga (114-113 and 116-111 were their cards) got it right; the South African did the better, more consistent work for me. He also dropped Flores in round two, but Flores — who got a 115-112 card in his favor — never was fully out of this, never went away, never made it easy, and I could see how you even get to a 114-113 card for him. I scored it 116-111 for Nontshinga, for what it’s worth.
This is a fight that really could have a rematch, almost begs for one, but the money will have to be right for both guys, because this is a lot to go through for, you know, second up on a lower-mid DAZN card level pay. They deserve a better payday and an even brighter spotlight if they run it back. Not saying you have to main event with it, but give them a slot on a bigger show, because this was magnificent.
Eduardo Hernandez TKO-5 Jorge Mata
Another solid win for “Rocky” Hernandez, who has now won five straight since his stunner TKO-1 loss to Roger Gutierrez in 2019, and not one of them has gone past five rounds. He can crack, that’s never been a question for him, and it makes him dangerous at 130. He also does get hit, but he took some good shots here from Mata (14-1-2, 10 KO) and just kept going through them, landing the better shots and breaking Mata down.
Mata took a knee in the fifth before the fight was stopped a bit after, as Hernandez (33-1, 30 KO) was just doing too much damage. Hernandez isn’t headed for P4P lists or anything, but at 24, yeah, he can be a contender at 130 for sure. Mata had a plan here, and not a bad one, but it just didn’t work because Hernandez was better.