Superfly Takes Flight Again

By Eric Raskin

You say you have sequel fatigue? Franchise fatigue? Reboot/remake/spinoff fatigue? Well, get over it. SuperFly 2 is here, and this is one case where it makes complete sense to keep building on existing intellectual property.

Last September at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., K2 Promotions put on the pay-cable boxing card of the year, a tripleheader called SuperFly featuring three fights in the loaded but previously under-exposed 115-pound division. The show opened with a thrilling back-and-forth 12-rounder in which Juan Francisco Estrada edged Carlos Cuadras, then it introduced Naoya Inoue to American audiences as the Japanese mega-talent stomped all over Antonio Nieves, and it ended with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai claiming the top spot in the division with a stunningly brutal knockout of former pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.

Promoter Tom Loeffler figured if it ain’t broke, slap a “2” on the end and do it again, so he put together another tripleheader, for Feb. 24 at the Forum in Inglewood, with a few of the same headliners and the same fan-friendly concept. The main event pits Sor Rungvisai against Estrada to crown a new lineal champion at super flyweight. Cuadras returns in a Mexico vs. Puerto Rico showdown with McWilliams Arroyo, and two of the top three 112-pounders in the world, Donnie Nietes and Juan Carlos Reveco, will aim to show that regular ol’ flyweights can be super too.

“I think we’ve actually managed to top it this time, if you can imagine,” Loeffler said on the HBO Boxing Podcast. “These lighter divisions, they’ll fight the best fighters. They’re not afraid to defend their titles or unify their titles against other top fighters. And I think that’s what allows us to make these great fights. … These small guys, it’s nonstop action with those guys. Fans know they’re going to get a lot of fireworks, a lot of entertainment, and nonstop action.”

If Loeffler is right that SuperFly 2 is going to be better than the original, it’s the main event that will elevate it to those extreme heights. Sor Rungvisai vs. Estrada is a dream fight for fans of the little guys. With Inoue having moved up in weight, these are the clear top two fighters at 115, and the winner will be crowned champion of the division by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board as well as The Ring magazine.

It’s a fascinating matchup of prime, peaking fighters with varied histories against the fellow elites of their division. Estrada (36-2, 25 KOs) was first to get a shot at Chocolatito, back in 2012, and he came closer than anyone else had at that point to upsetting the champ. On the first SuperFly card, he became the only fighter besides Chocolatito to hand Cuadras a loss. In between, “El Gallo” defeated Brian Viloria, Giovani Segura, and Hernan “Tyson” Marquez. If Estrada isn’t on or within striking distance of your pound-for-pound top 10, your list isn’t worth much.

The same could be said of a pound-for-pound list that doesn’t have Sor Rungvisai on or damned near on it. The Thai southpaw (44-4-1, 40 KOs) did what Estrada and everybody else couldn’t by handing Gonzalez his first loss (by disputed decision in a corker) and his second loss (by undisputed crumpling). Sor Rungvisai also shared the ring with Cuadras, against whom he lost an inconclusive eight-round technical decision in 2014. As for Sor Rungvisai’s other three defeats and his draw, you have to go back to his first five pro fights to find any of them.

“I know a lot of people think that Sor Rungvisai is going to beat me and knock me out, because he looked very good against Gonzalez,” Estrada said on ESPN’s A Los Golpes, “but boxing is a matter of styles. Cuadras beat Rungvisai, and I beat Cuadras … One fight has nothing to do with the other. I’m preparing for a tough fight and to win the world championship.”

Estrada’s correct that styles matter, of course, and the clash of styles here is overflowing with intrigue. We think of the 31-year-old Sor Rungvisai as a straight-forward, mow-‘em-down bully, but he’s actually a much better counterpuncher than people give him credit for. He’ll counter with either hand to the body and the head, and he’s able to do it so well because he’s not the least bit afraid to take a punch on his sturdy chin while looking for his spots. Estrada, however, has an essential weapon in his arsenal that can prevent Sor Rungvisai from getting comfortable enough to lead orcounter: feints. The 27-year-old is a master at bending at the waist ever so slightly, making it look a punch is coming, until opponents truly have no idea when they do or don’t have something to defend against. Expect a lot of feints from Estrada, especially in the early rounds, to limit how much the Thai banger can do what he wants to do.

That said, with Sor Rungvisai, it only takes one shot. He generates serious power with his muscular legs, leading even his less explosive punches to push opponents around. He isn’t a big combination puncher, but with single blows, he can do major damage. We’re talking about a guy who once made an opponent vomit mid-fight from a single left hand to the stomach. Simply put, Estrada doesn’t want to stand still in front of Sor Rungvisai and exchange with him.

But when on his toes, Estrada is likely the most well-rounded fighter in the super flyweight division. He possesses an accurate left jab, he punches in combination, and he rolls with shots well and has better defense than Sor Rungvisai. Estrada is also a highly skillful infighter, and from that position, while there are certainly risks, he can limit the impact of Sor Rungvisai’s southpaw stance.

Sor Rungvisai vs. Estrada is a fight in which no prediction is remotely safe. They’re No. 1 and No. 2 in the division for a reason. If we’ve entered the post-Chocolatito era at the top of the 115-pound class, the division is certainly in good hands with either of these scrappers as its ruler.

The shadow of Chocolatito looms over the co-feature as well, as both Cuadras (36-2-1, 27 KOs) and Arroyo (16-3, 14 KOs) are members of the somewhat exclusive “we went the distance with Gonzalez” club. Puerto Rico’s Arroyo, 32, hasn’t fought for nearly two years, and he was a 112-pounder his entire career until now, so he does face some disadvantages against the slick Mexican showman. Cuadras, 29, has taken criticism for questionable preparation in the past, but that seems unlikely to be an issue coming out of his first training camp in Big Bear, Calif., with new coach Abel Sanchez.

“I know Arroyo very well, he’s a great fighter,” Cuadras said at the press conference announcing the card. “It’s Mexico vs. Puerto Rico, which is always a great fight. I have to beat Arroyo and then I want to fight Estrada again. I have the medicine in my fist to beat them both.” Never one to disappoint his fans, Cuadras then added what has become a catch phrase of sorts: “I’m fast and strong and very, very handsome.”

Handsome doesn’t win fights, but fast and strong do, and who’s faster and stronger between flyweights Nietes (40-1-4, 22 KOs) and Reveco (39-3, 19 KOs) is anyone’s guess. They’re ranked second and third, respectively, in the weight class by the TBRB, and if anything, there’s a case to be made that Nietes should be higher than that — he just hasn’t been a flyweight long enough. The 35-year-old Filipino hasn’t lost since 2004 and has put together title reigns at 105, 108, and now 112 pounds. Alphabet belts don’t always mean much — Nietes beat a fringe contender to claim his vacant title — but if he defeats 34-year-old Argentine Reveco, who’s had alphabet reigns of his own at 108 and 112, it lends a lot of legitimacy to Nietes’ case as top dog among flies.