Estrada Forced to Work for Superfly 3 Win

By Kieran Mulvaney

INGLEWOOD, Ca -- Juan Francisco Estrada put the pedal to the metal in the championship rounds, battering Felipe Orucuta over the closing minutes to secure victory in a Superfly 3 main event that was almost certainly more fraught than he would have wanted or might have expected.

Through the first several rounds, the contest looked set to be a borefest, Estrada (37-3, 25 KOs) seemingly in control and moving around the ring seemingly without effort, cracking the slower Orucuta with right hands and left hooks at will. There were, however, warning signs: Orucuta?s punches in return were looping and slow, but Orucuta kept throwing them in an almost metronomic fashion, and beginning in the third round, they began to land with a frequency that Estrada may not have anticipated. It didn?t help that Estrada appeared almost bored, as if the underdog had no business even being in the ring with him, let alone throwing punches at him; Estrada gave the impression that all he should have to do was throw power shots and Orucuta would inevitably fall, and that he had not figured out how to defend himself against his opponent?s punches because he did not expect he would have to.

As a result, even as Estrada was winning rounds, Orucuta remained a pesky presence; and then, around the midway point of the contest, he suddenly began fighting like a pesky presence who believed he actually had a chance to win. Forward he plowed, throwing punches, and shrugging off the sharp blows that Estrada bounced off his chin. The seventh and eighth saw the contest burst into life, as Orucuta (36-5, 30 KOs) landed bludgeoning hooks and Estrada responded with cracking right hands. Every time it looked as if Estrada was on the verge of asserting himself, Orucuta came back again, impossible to deter, constantly churning forward.

Entering the final two rounds, Estrada appeared to have regained the initiative, but victory was far from certain. In the 12th, however, he erased all doubt, connecting on 44 total punches out of 115 thrown and repeatedly rocking his foe with right hands.

All three judges saw him as the clear winner, by scores of 118-110 and 117-111 (twice).

?It was a good fight, no question,? said Estrada afterward. ?Any time you have two Mexicans in the same ring it?s going to be a good fight and Orucuta is a good fighter. He?s taller, he?s got longer range, he?s difficult but at the end I got the win.?

***

Donnie Nietes maintained his 14-year unbeaten run, but the veteran Filipino had to settle for a draw with compatriot Aston Palicte, who was seven years younger and fully five inches taller. It took the 35-year-old Nietes (41-1-5, 23 KOs), a former three-weight world titlist, a few rounds to figure out the puzzles posed by his lankier foe, who initially was able to keep the older boxer at bay with lengthy jabs and right hands. Beginning in the fifth, however, Nietes appeared to be growing into the contest, timing Palicte (24-2-1, 20 KOs) and slipping inside his long reach to land sharp right hands and cracking left hooks. It was a contest that was more cerebral and chess-like than the crowd at The Forum would have liked, but over the final third, Nietes appeared to be in the mood to make it shorter than the scheduled twelve rounds. The final round, in particular, saw Nietes stagger Palicte and chase him around the ring in search of a conclusive finish, and when the bell rang, it appeared as if the veteran had done enough to win. Judge Danny Sandoval certainly saw it that way, handing in a 118-110 card in his favor; Robert Hoyle, however, scored it 116-112 for Palicte, and Max DeLuca split the difference with a 114-114 card.

Nietes was upset with the decision. ?Of course I won the fight,? he said. ?I dealt with his reach, I hurt him, and I controlled the fight.?

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Kazuto Ioka made his American debut an impressive one, the former three-weight titlist taking his bow at 115 lbs. by assaulting McWilliams Arroyo to body and head over ten hard-fought and fast-paced rounds, and knocking him down at the end of the third to seal a unanimous points decision. Ioka, who had been out of the ring since April 2017 and had even announced his retirement before electing to return to action, showed no sign of ring rust as he tore into Puerto Rican Arroyo over the first two rounds, ripping him with repeated body punches before switching hard shots upstairs.

In the third round, Arroyo (17-4, 14 KOs) began to return fire with increasing effect, working behind a stiff jab and mixing in uppercuts that landed cleanly as Ioka bent forward to launch his body punches. Then, suddenly, at the end of the third, Arroyo?s work was undone as Ioka threw out a quick jab and followed up with a straight right hand that landed on Arroyo?s chin and dropped him to one knee.

Ioka reasserted control in the fourth and fifth, bouncing in and out with constant, pressuring action, although an Arroyo right hand at the bell to end the fifth knocked Ioka into the ropes. Arroyo grew more comfortable by the eighth, taking his turn to control the range and fire jabs, straight rights and uppercuts, and sought to maintain that momentum in the ninth, but a crunching hook from Ioka (23-1, 13 KOs) stopped him in his tracks and likely cost Arroyo the round. The 10th saw both men throwing at a furious pace, and at the end, the three judges saw the bout for the Janapese boxer by scores of 99-90 and 97-92 (twice).