Boxing

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai will enforce mandatory with Juan Francisco Estrada, won’t step aside for Estrada-Chocolatito trilogy

Sor Rungvisai has no plans of allowing his rivals to have their trilogy before he gets his.

With Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez all fighting over the past weekend, the conversation can naturally turn to what awaits each man. I’ve made no secret of my love for this division – in particular the rivalry between the new ‘Four Kings’ of the sport – and the future looks bright for more chapters to be penned at junior bantamweight.

Sor Rungvisai’s demolition job over Kwanthai Sithmorseng was the entrée to what followed inside the American Airlines Center on Saturday evening, but the former world titlist and his team are quick to plan their next steps in this tantalising division.

I’ve spoken with Sor Rungvisai’s promoter Bank Thainchai Pisitwuttinan on numerous occasions over the past few years as he helps plot the route of his charge through boxing’s murky waters. He’s adamant that the Estrada trilogy comes first, as his man looks to regain his crown.

“Sor Rungvisai has been the WBC mandatory challenger of Estrada for over a year now,” he explained. “The WBC announced that the winner of the Estrada-Chocolatito fight has to fight Sor Rungvisai next or he has to vacate, so that’s where we are now.

“[Sor Rungvisai’s] style suits fighting Chocolatito better as Estrada is fast on his feet which will require Srisaket to chase him more. But Srisaket does not have any concern with fighting Estrada. He really wants the trilogy with Estrada next. He thinks that it is an unfinished business, and wants to prove who is the best at 115 pounds.”

Estrada bested the Thai fighter in April 2019 via unanimous decision in a competitive fight, which saw Sor Rungvisai elect to fight orthodox for a majority of the fight. Estrada’s speed out of the traps allowed him to work up an early lead until the Thai fighter closed the gap down the stretch.

Sor Rungvisai’s record now reads an impressive 50-5-1, and the 34-year-old told me that he sees no reason why the Estrada fight shouldn’t happen next. It would mark the first trilogy involving the modern-day ‘Four Kings’, and if it doesn’t materialise, well, he’s got his suspicions.

“If Estrada avoids his mandatory fight against me again, I really don’t think he can have the dignity as a true world champion,” he told me via translation.

“Will you be able to carry the world title belts around, acting like a champ, but being scared of fighting your mandatory challenger? Will you really be able to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning, knowing in your heart that you are avoiding your mandatory, and telling yourself that you are the world champion? If you avoid me again, then all you are doing is lying to yourself.

“I am not saying that Estrada is a coward or a bad man. We all know he is a warrior for what he did in the ring all these years. But he has to prove that he is the true champion by following the obligation and fulfilling his promises. If he takes his mandatory against me next, I will give him all my respect as the true champion. But if he avoids it again this time, it is just not possible for me to give him that respect.

“I don’t know, it might all just be rumours about Estrada fighting Chocolatito again. Estrada said in the ring after the fight that he will look into the mandatory fight against me. I hope Estrada and his team will proceed with what they promised me earlier, which is to fight me next. If that is the case, as I said, I will give ‘El Gallo’ and his team much respect as the true champions.”

Sure, Sor Rungvisai wants the Estrada fight rather than Gonzalez. But he’s also concerned about the four-weight world champion’s chances if he dives straight back in with ‘El Gallo’.

“I always respect Chocolatito so much,” he explained. “For me, he is always the number one pound-for-pound champion. However, I think he should not rush back in for a direct rematch with Estrada. It is not a good idea to rush back to a direct rematch after a loss like this.

“Last time he did that, he lost by KO to me in the rematch. People might think that the fight looked very close, and he should be able to jump right back in and fight with Estrada again. But that will not be good for Chocolatito; it will not put him in an advantageous position.

“It is always difficult mentally for the fighter to take a loss in such an important fight, especially for such a great champion like him. You put your heart and soul and everything into the fight, you never think about losing, and when you lose, it hits you so hard mentally. Chocolatito needs to take time to recover mentally before jumping right back in.”

Bank Thainchai Pisitwuttinan concludes by referring to my insinuation that this era of Sor Rungvisai, Estrada, Gonzalez and Carlos Cuadras should be referred to as the modern-day ‘Four Kings’. We are currently awaiting the 11th installment of this rivalry, dating back to a 2012 genesis.

“It is great that the junior bantamweight top four have been getting a lot of attention from the fans around the world,” he stated.

“We really appreciate it, and we really appreciate the efforts of everyone involved in making this possible. Especially Chocolatito himself who led the way, and of course, all the four fighters, they deserve the credit for bringing the division to the spotlight. Tom Loeffler and HBO started the Superfly series, and Eddie Hearn and DAZN are further building the legacy of this division in an incredible way.

“And yes, I think they are the new ‘Four Kings’ of boxing. I also think they deserve even more attention than what they have been getting. They have been giving boxing many historical fights already, and I believe there will be more to come. If they are in higher weight divisions, I think they could have been even bigger global stars than what they already are.”

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