INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The feel-good story of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai continued as he retained his junior bantamweight world title by majority decision in an intense slugfest with mandatory challenger Juan Francisco Estrada on Saturday night at The Forum.
The crowd of 7,827, mostly Mexican fans on hand to support Estrada, booed the decision when the scores were read: 117-111 and 115-113 for Sor Rungvisai and 114-114. ESPN.com also scored the fight 115-113 for Sor Rungvisai, who retained his 115-pound world title for the second time in the main event of the “Superfly 2” card; super flyweight is the alternate name for the junior bantamweight division.
“It was a very good fight,” Sor Rungvisai said through a translator. “He hits very hard and I like his style, but I know I won the fight. The difference between now and other points in my career is now I have the support of the people of Thailand.”
Sor Rungvisai was coming off a life-changing 2017 when he scored two massive upsets against Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, first outpointing him in March in a controversial decision to win the title in a fight of the year candidate in which he handed Gonzalez his first defeat and knocked him from his position as boxing’s pound-for-pound king. But he really made his name in September in the no-doubt-about-it rematch when he severely knocked out Gonzalez in the fourth round.
The victories made Sor Rungvisai a national hero in Thailand, where he once worked as garbage collector and was forced to sometimes pick food from that garbage because he was so poor.
Now Sor Rungvisai, who is in his second title reign, is on top of the boxing world and his encore from the Gonzalez victories was another enthralling fight of the year contender that included the violent and action-packed 12th round.
“Sor Rungvisai doesn’t get an easy fight, fighting ‘Chocolatito’ twice and Estrada,” said 360 Promotions’ Tom Loeffler, who promoted the card. “Estrada really came to fight. He really wanted the title. I wouldn’t be surprised if this winds up as fight of the year. Both guys showed their warrior spirit. There was no dancing tonight, only fighting in the ring.”
Though Estrada, 27, of Mexico, will get plenty of praise for his brave performance, he was very disappointed by the scores.
“I felt I won the fight. I boxed him all night long and then I attacked him the last three rounds,” Estrada said through a translator. “I landed great shots at the end. I don’t know what the judges saw. I thought I won clearly.”
Sor Rungvisai came out strong and established his straight left hand. He looked stronger and more powerful than Estrada, the crowd favorite who had earned the mandatory title shot by winning a close decision over former titlist Carlos Cuadras on the undercard of Sor Rungvisai-Gonzalez II — the first “Superfly” card — in September.
The opening round was tame, but the action really heated up in the second round as they began to trade, giving the crowd what it had come for. Sor Rungvisai continually pushed Estrada back throughout as the rounds went on.
Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 39 KOs) had a big fifth round as he powered his way inside and landed right hooks and straight lefts hands to the head and body. Estrada (36-3, 25 KOs) tried to plant and fire power shots.
Estrada began to come on in the seventh round, and in the eighth round he landed some heavy punches. But Sor Rungvisai answered as they traded toe-to-toe in the center of the ring.
There were chants of “Mexico! Mexico!” in the ninth round as the crowd tried to lift Estrada, who landed a solid left uppercut that knocked Sor Rungvisai off balance.
Sor Rungvisai, a 31-year-old southpaw, punctuated a close 10th round by landing a pair of hard right hands just as the round was ending. Estrada seemed to get it back in the 11th round as he closed with a powerful jab-left hook combination. Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., ringside working as an analyst for the Mexican telecast, was so excited that he stood up and shouted instructions to his countryman after the round.
With the fight seemingly up for grabs, the fighters let it all hang out in the 12th round. They slugged it out in what was an obvious round of the year candidate out as the crowd stood and cheered. Both landed heavy punches and brawled all out until referee Jack Reiss separated them at the final bell.
“That 12th round was nonstop action,” Loeffler said. “They were dead tired but throwing punches and landing punches. It could be the round of the year.”
According to CompuBox punch statistics, they combined to land 54 of 187 power shots in the 12th round. Overall, Sor Rungvisai landed 194 of 879 punches (22 percent), and Estrada landed 189 of 671 (28 percent).
It was such a good and exciting fight that there was immediate talk of a fall rematch to headline “Superfly 3.”
“If he wants to give me a rematch I will take it, but I doubt he’ll give it to me,” Estrada said.
But Sor Rungvisai, who made $250,000 to Estrada’s $100,000, said he was open to it.
“I will fight anybody at 115 pounds, including giving Estrada a rematch if that’s what he wants,” Sor Rungvisai said. “I’m very thankful to the American boxing fans for supporting me and the Thailand fans. I look forward to fighting in Los Angeles again.”
If Loeffler has his way, the rematch will be right back at The Forum.
“I thought it was very close fight but no complaints about the decision,” Loeffler said. “I thought Sor Rungvisai edged, but a draw would have been fine. This fight warrants a rematch. If there’s a way we can make a rematch for the fall, this is a fight the fans would want to see again. We’d love to bring it back to The Forum.
“I’ll have to sit down and talk to both sides, but that would the goal — to do a rematch based in the fall based on their outstanding performances tonight.”