SuperFly 2: Rungvisai Retains Title in Thriller

By Caryn A. Tate on February 24, 2018
SuperFly 2: Rungvisai Retains Title in Thriller
It was great to see HBO acknowledge—and try to reach out to—new fans. (HBO Boxing)

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai successfully defended his WBC super flyweight world title against former champion Juan Francisco Estrada…

Tonight from the Forum in Inglewood, California, HBO presented “Superfly 2,” a stellar boxing card featuring some of the best boxers in the world.

The main event featured Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (45-4-1, 40 KOs) defending his WBC super flyweight world title against former champion Juan Francisco Estrada (36-3, 25 KOs). On paper, this was a really difficult fight to call—as I stated in my preview of the card, Rungvisai has astounding power levels for his size, but Estrada’s best asset in my opinion is his ring IQ. That didn’t change tonight, but both fighters brought out the best in each other.

The highly skilled super flyweights came out highly active and showcasing impressive skill from the get go. Estrada came out impressing with his footwork and precise punch placement, while Rungvisai showed his unorthodox yet effective aggressiveness that seemed to catch Estrada by surprise at times. In round two, the HBO commentators revealed that Estrada had told his corner between rounds that Rungvisai “has serious power.” It was a surprising admission by a composed and experienced fighter like Estrada, and as the HBO commenters observed, if it weren’t for the corner cam, we would never have known this fact because the Mexican challenger didn’t show it in the ring.

Referee Jack Reiss proved yet again that he’s one of the best officials in the sport. He was always in the correct position, despite the challenges posed by refereeing 115-pound fighters who are inherently faster and more explosive than larger boxers. He was clear, didn’t insert himself unnecessarily into the action, and was ready to step between the fighters at the bell marking the end of the rounds. Boxing needs more referees like Reiss.

The rounds were largely very close and truly thrilling. It was a fascinating match-up of styles, with Rungvisai’s flash and obvious power revealed in every punch—but he also showed he’s about a lot more than hard punching. He showed himself to be a smart fighter tonight, occasionally throwing Estrada off by feinting downstairs and punching up, or vice versa.

And Estrada is not an easy fighter to outsmart. As always, the former champion showed fantastic boxing ability—his footwork in particular was highly impressive, and his intelligence in the ring showed up round after round as he frequently got ahead of Rungvisai mentally.

But the rounds were very close. When Estrada got ahead of Rungvisai and landed a combination of note, he would frequently circle and move in an effort to keep the champion off balance and diminish his power. But Rungvisai used his unorthodox movement to flurry on his way in and return the favor by landing several clean punches of his own. And it went on this way for the majority of the bout.

At the end of round four, Rungvisai threw what HBO expert analyst Andre Ward called a swivel jab, a right hand upstairs that clearly shook up Estrada. I had Estrada winning that round up until that point. Many of the rounds were close and could go either way, a sort of tit for tat match that saw Rungvisai’s big power perhaps garnering more attention in a bout where punches landed may have been nearly even in a lot of the rounds.

The commentary and analysis by the HBO broadcast team was, overall, very good tonight. In a refreshing move, analyst Max Kellerman took the time to explain to viewers what boxing terms such as “pocket” mean, for new or casual fans. Boxing has a habit of thinking everyone watching has been following the sport for decades, taking for granted that some people may not know certain terms or tactics. It was great to see them acknowledge—and try to reach out to—new fans.

Expert analyst Andre Ward dispensed knowledge like candy throughout the show. Hopefully HBO features Ward more often going forward, as he always brings a fresh take on the action and is so articulate with his explanations that he makes everything easy to understand. Just as importantly, he never seems biased towards any fighter or style, and calls the action as it happens—something the sport is sorely in need of.

Ward said repeatedly throughout the bout, particularly around the middle rounds, that in order to have more success, Estrada needed to defy conventional wisdom and get closer to Rungvisai’s power. “You can’t beat a puncher if you don’t take risks,” he said at one point. Of course, before he retired, Ward proved himself to be one of the best if not the best inside fighter of this generation, so this is something he knows well from experience. But while he can fight on the inside (as he showed to good effect when he faced Roman Gonzalez), Estrada is more of a long-range boxer, and it’s clear he didn’t feel comfortable changing the range and getting inside Rungvisai’s vicious punches.

If Estrada had been able to do that, it may have changed the course of a very close bout. Personally, I scored the fight a draw.

In the end, the Thai champion won a split decision: judges Dave Moretti had it 114-114, and for Rungvisai, Cathy Leonard scored it 115-113, and Steve Morrow 117-111. Hopefully we’ll see a rematch of a highly entertaining and skilled bout.

Kicking off the card, IBF flyweight world champion Donnie Nietes (41-1-4, 23 KOs) defended his title against Juan Carlos Reveco (39-4, 19 KOs). While Nietes was the favorite, and rightly so—not only was he the incoming champion, he’s a very good fighter who has proven himself over the years—Reveco did not come to lose. With classic Argentinean techniques such as a predilection toward hooks, fighting small, and getting a bit rough, Reveco had his moments in the early rounds. He wasn’t winning rounds, but he did well in spots. Against a fighter like Nietes, that was impressive.

Nietes showed his class, particularly down the stretch. In the middle rounds, the champion began to move ahead and separate himself. At the end of round six, Nietes landed several sharp, clean shots. One left hand landed upstairs just before the bell, which caused Reveco’s legs to crumple beneath him. A right hand followed it up just as the bell sounded. The Argentinean staggered back to his corner and had to be helped to his stool, yet surprisingly Reveco’s corner allowed him to continue into round seven.

Just as Andre Ward called it, Nietes laid on the power at that point. He knew he had his opponent hurt and he turned up the volume and committed more to his punches. He landed a picture-perfect right hand upstairs, which he first masked with a blinding jab, which dropped Reveco. While the challenger made the count, he was clearly dazed and was unable to follow the referee’s instructions to walk to him. The bout was waved off.

In the co-main event, super flyweights Carlos Cuadras (36-3-1, 27 KOs) and McWilliams Arroyo (17-3, 14 KOs) faced each other for the WBC silver title. Cuadras came out in the first round throwing and landing more punches, turning Arroyo, and using his feet to good effect. About halfway through the round, though, the Puerto Rican came on and began placing his punches very well. He hurt Cuadras to the body clearly at least once, maybe twice, that I suspect may have done more damage than it initially appeared—maybe broken ribs or some similar injury. From then on, Cuadras’ movement wasn’t the same, and for the remainder of the round his movement seemed labored and he was pushing his punches.

In round two, though, Cuadras dug deep and caught up. He landed a clean overhand right upstairs that clearly shook Arroyo and changed the course of the fight at that point. The Mexican fighter came on harder but it wasn’t enough to drop or hurt Arroyo again before the end of the round.

The fighters continued throwing and landing close number of punches. There were several close rounds and it was an excellent, back-and-forth action fight. As he showed when he last fought, nearly two years ago, Arroyo reminded us that he belongs at the top level. He showed what a smart fighter he is as he continued to try to go back downstairs on Cuadras—he knew he’d hurt Carlos and wanted to keep pushing that button. Later in the fight, he was clearly having fun in the ring, grinning enjoying himself. Cuadras gave it all he had, as he always does, but seemed to have been hurt badly in the first and never fully recovered. He has also displayed what may be stamina issues (but could also be psychological issues) in his last couple of fights, and this bout was no exception. Both Cuadras and Arroyo were clearly tired in the last few rounds, as should be expected in a high volume match, but Cuadras seemed more tired than his foe. But he never seemed to surrender, mentally or physically, in a truly great fight.

As Ward said at one point, “With a fight like this, you hate to see either of these fighters lose.” Very true—both boxers fought with such heart and skill that as a fan, you really don’t want to see either of them get a notch in the loss column.

I scored it 96-94 for Arroyo, but so many of the rounds were close that I could see it going tightly either way or ruled a draw. One judge, Fernando Villarreal, scored it 95-95; Tony Crebs had it 97-93 and Pat Russell scored it 98-92 for Arroyo.

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  1. don from prov 08:44am, 02/27/2018

    Very good article—


    You are a good writer

  2. Koolz 03:46pm, 02/25/2018

    Yarde vs Averlant

    I mean it’s Yarde!!!!

  3. Koolz 03:43pm, 02/25/2018

    Nietes vs Carlos
    Nietes is damn Impressive!

  4. Koolz 02:33pm, 02/25/2018

    Cuadras vs Arroyo

  5. Koolz 02:27pm, 02/25/2018

    I had Estrada winning this by two rounds.  Could it have been a draw.

  6. Alfonso Bedoya 09:45am, 02/25/2018

    @Redplains-Christ! Give it a break….this article is a fan letter to Andre with lots of Xs and Os at the bottom masked as a report on three high caliber fights! “A right hand followed it up just as the bell sounded’ it was some kind of an after thought….that punch was a devastating shot thrown straight from the shoulder and it traveled less than a foot before exploding on Reveco’s jaw….it was the punch of the night and not just because of the effect that it had! “Just as Andre Ward called it Nietes laid on the power at that point”....Ward and the thousands in attendance and millions at home that is! Lots of analysis and detail as always….analyse the three nut shots that ended the Kovalev fight that Ward refers to as “body work”!

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