Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada will someday be inducted into the Hall of Fame in their first year, but they have unfinished business before then.

Their epic rivalry, which began in 2012, ended 1-1 after Estrada’s controversial split decision victory over Gonzalez last year. After two postponements, they will finally meet – possibly for the last time – in a trilogy of battles for the outright Estrada and WBC franchise 115-pound title on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona (DAZN, 9:00 pm ET).

- Advertisement -

“When you talk about a strong rivalry over the years, that’s right there,” promoter Eddie Hearn told Sportzshala. “Fight 1 was a classic and Fight 2 was probably the best I have ever seen live. The decisive match will be historic.”

- Advertisement -

In the first meeting, Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KOs) defended his title in the weight category up to 108 pounds by unanimous decision. Nine years had passed before the rematch, during which time Gonzalez and Estrada had established themselves as generational fighters.

- Advertisement -

Chocolatito broke into the US at a time when boxers of his size rarely fought on the main cards, and he changed the pay structure for the lower weight classes. After all, the Nicaraguan was widely regarded as the best boxer in the world, regardless of weight class. What’s more, Gonzalez was arguably one of the most reliable fighters in the sport.

But when he faced Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in a 2017 rematch, it looked like Gonzalez’s incredible streak had come to an end. He was brutally knocked out in the fourth round.

Meanwhile, the Mexican Estrada (43-3, 28 KOs) continued to score impressive victories and made the list of the best junior bantamweights in the world. He also lost to Rungvisai, but avenged his defeat in a rematch. Both fights were terrible slugfests. Estrada also had a couple of victories over former champion Carlos Cuadras.

Surprisingly, “Chocolate” Gonzalez added another layer to his legacy when he returned. Not only did he regain the title at 115 pounds, he also appeared to have beaten Estrada in a rematch.

Now, the 35-year-old Gonzalez could end another landmark year with a second victory over his rival. He was scheduled to fight the 32-year-old Estrada in March and instead dominated 112-pound champ Julio Cesar Martinez. This postponement, due to Estrada contracting COVID, followed a scheduled fall fight that was canceled when Gonzalez contracted the same illness.

Finally – 10 years and two weight divisions after the first meeting – Gonzalez and Estrada traded punches again after a 2021 rematch that scored 2,529 punches. How did Gonzalez and Estrada reach the pinnacle of the sport and forge a new path for fighters of their size? Sportzshala recounts the key moments leading up to the much-anticipated rubber matchup between Chocolatito and Estrada.


November 17, 2012: When Gonzalez and Estrada first met, there wasn’t much fanfare outside of the sport’s die-hard fans. After all, it was a fight between 108-pounders. Gonzalez was famous in boxing circles but never appeared on American television. In any case, few people saw this fight: it was broadcast by Wealth TV, an obscure network dedicated to luxury. They fought in the main event at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in front of a small crowd and made for an unforgettable duel. Estrada, a 22-year-old prospect, showed off his strong and aggressive style in a losing effort, the first of his career.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez retained his 108-pound title in his fifth defense, but it took some time before the big boxing world noticed his talent.

April 6, 2013: With a career-best showing, Estrada became champion for the first time with a split decision victory over Brian Viloria in China to capture the WBO and WBA 112-pound titles (117-111, 116-111 and 113-115). It was an upset victory for Estrada, who had fought for the first time since losing to Gonzalez and only the second time at the world class level.

July 27, 2013: In the first defense of his unified 112lb championship, Estrada defeated top 10 contender Milan Melindo to win by a large margin in China. Estrada knocked Melindo down in the 11th round for the third straight standout performance in his third ever title fight.

September 5, 2014: Gonzalez, after titles at 105 and 108 pounds, captured the straight-line and WBC 112-pound world titles by defeating Akira Yaegashi by ninth-round TKO in Japan. “Chocolate” lost only one round on two maps and knocked the champion down twice. Slowly but surely, rumors about Gonzalez grew, despite his diminutive size.

September 6, 2014: The day after González’s 112 lb title win, Estrada made a third successful defense of his 112 lb unified championship, defeating Giovani Segura by 11th-round TKO in Mexico City. Segura was a former unified champion at 108 pounds, giving Estrada more valuable experience ahead of a potential rematch with Gonzalez at 112 pounds.

November 22, 2014: Gonzalez successfully defended his WBC flyweight title for the first time with a sixth-round knockout of rival Rocky Fuentes in Japan. Fuentes won just one round on all three maps.

May 16, 2015: After all, a big break not only for Gonzalez, but for smaller boxers around the world. HBO, at the time a leader in boxing programming, had long shied away — for the most part — from televised fights involving boxers weighing less than 126 pounds.

But Gonzalez was selected to fight Edgar Sosa in another 112-pound title defense in HBO’s co-headlined Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Willy Monroe Jr. at the Inglewood, California Forum. Gonzalez lived up to the hype by defeating the former title holder via TKO in the second round. This was the first fight to be televised on HBO since 1997 featuring fighters weighing 112 pounds (and under).

And after that, Gonzalez knew who he wanted to meet next: Estrada.

“I believe it was a very close fight so I would like to be able to beat him by a wide margin,” Gonzalez said in Spanish in comments translated by his manager Carlos Blandon. “I want to demonstrate that I can knock him out.”

September 26, 2015: In another one-sided win against the former champion, Estrada knocked out Hernan “Tyson” Marquez in the 10th round in Mexico. Estrada scored seven knockdowns on Marquez during a one-sided beating.

October 17, 2015: Chocolatito is paired with GGG again, this time on HBO PPV to fight Viloria. Golovkin referred to himself as “The Big Drama Show”, hence Gonzalez was nicknamed “The Little Drama Show”.

In another brilliant performance, Gonzalez knocked out Viloria in the 3rd round en route to a ninth round TKO victory at Madison Square Garden in New York to retain his WBC world flyweight title.

April 23, 2016: Gonzalez continued to compete on the GGG undercards on HBO, returning to The Forum against McWilliams Arroyo.

For the first time since defeating Estrada, Chocolatito extended the distance by 12 rounds with a dominant unanimous decision victory in yet another title defense. Gonzalez scored a shutout on one map and lost only one round on the other two maps. He earned a career-high $300,000 and landed a mind-blowing 1,132 punches.

September 10, 2016: In his 115 lb debut, Chocolatito won the WBC world title by defeating former champion Carlos Cuadras via unanimous decision. And unlike his other fights since his first fight with Estrada, this one didn’t come easy.

Cuadras, who was much larger, stabbed González in and under his right eye in the grappling. Gonzalez won 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111 and landed 985 punches.

The victory made Gonzalez a four-division champion and paved the way for bigger fights in the 115-pound weight class, in which Naoya Inoue competed. Meanwhile, Estrada was also thinking about moving to 115 pounds.

September 20, 2016: Estrada announced a move to 115 lbs after vacating the WBA and WBO 112 lb titles.

March 18, 2017: At 46-0, Gonzalez suffers the first loss of his career in a bloody bout against Rungwisai at Madison Square Garden in New York, losing his 115-pound title (and top-weight status). Gonzalez, who was a 20-1 favorite, landed 1013 punches – Rungwisai landed 940. The majority decision – 114-112, 114-112 and 113-113 – was highly controversial.

Gonzalez was knocked down in the first round and suffered a nasty cut over his right eye in the third round from a clash of heads. Another cut over Gonzalez’s right eye was opened in round 6, and this time the referee called for an intentional headbutt and deducted one point from Rungvisai.

“I’m a little excited,” Gonzalez said. “I thought I won the fight. I want an immediate revenge. I want my title back.”

September 9, 2017: In his toughest fight since losing to Chocolatito, Estrada scored a unanimous decision victory over Cuadras at the HBO 115-pound tripleheader (Inouye opened the show while Gonzalez faced Rungvisai in a main event rematch).

Estrada gave up Cuadras in the 10th round to avoid a draw. All three judges fought with a score of 114-112.

With the victory of Gonzalez over Rungvisai in the main event, all conditions were set for the long-awaited rematch between Chocolatito and Estrada. Instead, Rungvisai left no doubts, delivering a spectacular fourth-round knockout to Gonzalez, Sportzshala’s knockout of the year.

Gonzalez, who earned $600,000 for the fight, was also knocked down with another right hand.

The 30-year-old remained on the canvas for a few more moments after finishing with one stroke, and many were left to wonder if the great Chocolatito had ended there.

“We both traded punches, but his punches were stronger and they landed harder,” Gonzalez said. “I was in a lot of pain the second time I got knocked down, but I think I’ll be fine.”

February 24, 2018: Estrada suffered his first loss since losing to Chocolatito, losing by a majority against Rungvisai at The Forum. The win gave the Thai fighter his third consecutive victory over Gonzalez and Estrada. Points: 114-114, 117-111 and 115-113.

September 15, 2018: A year after being left for dead, Gonzalez returned against former champion Moise Fuentes with…