Estrada Beats Richie Mepranum

By Matt McGrain on April 27, 2014
Estrada Beats Richie Mepranum
Estrada fought Richie Mepranum this weekend in boxing mad Sonora. (Rafael Soto Zanfer)

Juan Francisco Estrada appears to fulfill the oldest of clichés in getting better with every fight. He is the real deal…

Juan Francisco Estrada crashed to prominence in 2012, dropping a close but competitive decision to light-flyweight beast Roman Gonzalez. Nobody was prepared for the astonishing performance he turned in early in 2013 however, when he clearly outfought pound-for-pound elite Brian Viloria, changing up in tactics and technique to keep his supposed better under his control. A split decision did not reflect his superiority. There was a new kid in town, and he now had in his possession a first class scalp and a belted bargaining chip with which to make his mark. Ranked #1 by the Transnational Boxing Board to the lineal title held by champion Akira Yaegashi, he is perhaps in line to meet the winner of a Japanese staged-superfight between Yaegashi and Gonzalez. 

This weekend there was the small matter of dealing first with Richie Mepranum in boxing mad Sonora, Mexico. Mepranum is a name less familiar even to hardcore fans, but he is no pushover.  A 2010 win over the superb Hernan Marquez, then an unbeaten 27-0, is the strongest testimony to this and whilst Marquez proved in a rematch that he is beatable, as did Julio Cesar Miranda and a primed Denkaosan Kaovichit, it takes a very good flyweight to beat him and a very good flyweight had better be careful because Mepranum is aggressive, southpaw and a natural super-fly. The type of opponent most guys move heaven and earth to avoid when they have a big payday looming.

Estrada can be forgiven then for having a close look at Mepranum in the first two minutes before beginning the process of dialling in his excellent straight to the body, waiting until the last few seconds of the frame before picking up the round. Estrada did not bother to look at Mepranum in the second though, and his laser-beam accuracy and genuinely fast hands allowed him to get across a series of withering body-punches that eventually drove his man to the long rope where it looked like he might crumble; the Filipino held on, in keeping with the character of his people, but he was absolutely cannoned in a round I scored 10-8.

Estrada has a lovely little hop that he sometimes does, it brings him forwards onto his front toe and then back onto his rear heel, without his spreading his stance unnecessarily and it was baffling Mepranum, keeping him off-balance whilst remaining in power-punching position himself. It worked for him in the third, a slip costing Mepranum another hideous volley of hard blows, but neither that nor the lengthy one-two Estrada deployed prevented Mepranum stalking and punching with his trailing hand. Each round was a self-contained fire-fight, some of them desperately savage, with Mepranum’s aggression buying him space and points only for Estrada to fire back with absolutely superb volleys of pinpoint punches dropped, generally, upon the most vulnerable spots of his opponent’s personage. In the fifth, Mepranum nearly scored a home run as he lashed out with a left-right-left while Estrada tattooed him against the short rope, staggering the #1 flyweight back and to the side; Estrada remained too dangerous for Mepranum to pursue him carelessly and the moment had passed. Normal service was resumed just moments later, Estrada brutalizing his man with right hands, both straight and twirling.

After perhaps winning his first round in the seventh, Mepranum was brutalized horrifically in the eighth. Dipping into ripping, narrow uppercuts at the round’s end, Estrada was delivering the type of layered, complete attack that only a handful of fighters anywhere in the world have at their command. 

Mepranum survived both it, and the ninth, which ironically was the quietest round of the fight but nevertheless represented the end of his tether. For this, he is beyond criticism. He almost certainly absorbed more hard punches than Alex Leapai did against Wladimir Klitschko across the Atlantic and he threw many, many more. It was a teak-tough quittage, and his decision not to come up for the tenth was excusable.

Juan Francisco Estrada appears to fulfill the oldest of clichés in getting better with every fight. He is the real deal. Despite the presence of luminaries Roman Gonzalez, Giovani Segura and Kazuto Ioka cluttering flyweight like so many suns and moons, Estrada might have something to say about the destination of the true title in boxing’s best division.

He may even throw it aloft himself at some stage.

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