Publish Date: 03/24/2021
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
Not all superheroes wear capes, but Seniesa ‘SuperBad’ Estrada does. In a manner befitting her ring moniker, Estrada makes her entrances, as she did this past Saturday evening in Fort Worth for her first world title fight against WBA minimumweight champion Anabel Ortiz, donning a cape that is color-coordinated to match that night’s fighting attire. I don’t know for sure, but I like to think Seniesa began this tradition when she was just a little girl with big dreams, using a safety pin to fasten a tablecloth or bath towel around her shoulders the same way I, and countless other kids, enjoyed doing while running around the house pretending to possess extraordinary strength or the gift of flight or both.
One superpower Seniesa undoubtedly wished she had around that time was the ability to convince her father Joe that he should let her learn how to box. Joe had been a gangbanger and street fighter who boxed in prison, and would watch televised bouts with Seniesa not long after she graduated kindergarten. Yet he tried every trick in the book to dissuade his daughter from pursuing the path that led toward professional prizefighting. Not that he was against women competing in a male-dominated combat sport, mind you. Just his little girl specifically. You can hardly blame him. What parent, especially one who struggled mightily to overcome several forms of adversity, wants to willingly subject their child to needless violence? However, his daughter’s interest never wavered and it became obvious that this was no passing fancy or game of make-believe.
Any hope that Seniesa would get over this obsession with boxing as she grew older, along with whatever lingering doubts Joe may have harbored about whether or not his daughter was made of tough enough stuff to stand up to the challenge, vanished the day she was matched opposite a young boy for a sparring session at a local East Los Angeles gym.
Wearing headgear and a Hello Kitty t-shirt, eight-year-old Seniesa had the wind knocked out of her by a body blow. Rather than throw her gloves down on the canvas and storm out of the ring as her father might have hoped, Seniesa took a momentary pause to collect her bearings and then bumrushed her pint-sized opponent, a sudden storm of tiny flailing fists. The poor little guy didn’t stand a chance. Next thing you know, he was on his back looking up at Seniesa in bewilderment and probably more than a little embarrassment. He began to cry and departed the premises, never to return. Looking on with undeniable parental pride, Joe came to the realization that his daughter was on to something after all.
Enlisting the aid of trainer Dean Campos, who at the time was working with middleweight contender Sergio Mora, had initially been a tough sell. Campos changed his mind after finally viewing the DVDs of Estrada’s training and sparring sessions that Joe had left with him during their first visit. Impressed by the young girl’s obvious commitment, Campos accepted the role as Estrada’s mentor, one he has maintained to this day with Seniesa’s father also working her corner.
Seniesa celebrated her quinceañera (fifteenth birthday) by emerging victorious in her first amateur fight. She would lose only four times in 101 contests over the course of the next four years, winning multiple National titles as well as both the Junior Olympic and USA National championships along the way.
By the time she had scrapped her way to eleven consecutive victories dating back to her pro debut in 2011, Estrada had come to the attention of Oscar De La Hoya who offered her a contract in January 2018, making Seniesa an uneasy stablemate to Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza. Golden Boy’s two girl bruisers didn’t exactly hit it off back in their amateur days and things had only grown more tense since Estrada’s signing.
The finger-pointing and name-calling came to a head, in the most literal sense, in November 2019. Seniesa was awarded a technical decision over Esparza after nine 3-minute rounds when Marlen was declared unfit to continue with blood gushing down her face out of a sickening gash caused by a fifth round clash of heads. This anti-climactic finish not only failed to settle the score but intensified their grudge, spurring on heated talks of a rematch with both women blaming one another for why it hasn’t happened yet.
Even if it was on a technicality, Estrada’s stoppage of Marlen Esparza was her sixth in a row. Through no fault of her own, the seventh would be historic and controversial in equal measure. That Miranda Adkins was undefeated in five prior fights, having won all by way of knockout, entering into her bout with Estrada sounded pretty impressive. It wasn’t. In fact these statistics were very misleading. What wasn’t mentioned was that none of her opponents had any prior victories to speak of. Not only that, four of them were totally uninitiated as professionals until pitted against Adkins, and Miranda knocked out hapless Shania Ward for a second time a mere six months removed from the first. It’s even more inconceivable that Ward was cleared to rematch Adkins by the Missouri State Athletic Commission when taking into consideration that she had been knocked out in the meantime by Alicia Acero.
The nature of the mismatch was made more evident by Adkin’s age, 42 to Estrada’s 28, which might have been forgivable if not for Miranda’s glaring lack of ring experience, having fought a total of eight rounds against a quartet of professional novices to that point. Six punches and seven seconds after the opening bell, the fight was over. Adkins barely had time to raise her guard and didn’t stand a chance of getting off a punch of her own as Estrada made a beeline for her corner and unleashed a blinding flurry with only the last blow missing its mark only because her adversary had already begun to crumple in a heap between the ropes, spilling out onto the ring apron in a scary scene that could have played out with far more dire consequences than it did.
This was the fastest knockout in women’s boxing, although Seniesa’s achievement was tainted by the subsequent revelations concerning her opponent’s dubious record. Eyebrows were raised as well due to the fact that the WBC blundered by sanctioning this as a title fight, with Estrada defending the secondary light-flyweight Silver strap that she claimed in November 2018 with a fourth-round TKO of Debora Rengifo.
Last Saturday’s opponent was no unschooled pushover. Far from it. De La Hoya made good on his promise to deliver the undefeated Estrada a shot at a world championship for her twentieth fight, and WBA minimumweight titleholder Anabel Ortiz (31-3, 4 KOs) had turned away twelve prior challenges to the belt she had owned since wresting it from around the waist of Etsuko Tada on the previously unbeaten Japanese fighter’s home turf back in July 2013. Tada later became one of Ortiz’s dozen victims during her nearly eight year reign in a 2014 rematch that ended in a split decision.
The defending champion’s winning streak dated back a little further still, to August 2012 to be exact when Ortiz rebounded from having unsuccessfully challenged WBA and WBO light-flyweight champion Yesica Bopp a few months before. As a young girl, Anabel had taken up boxing as a means to defend her mother from domestic abuse which occurred regularly in their home before, but never after. With national pride on the line and a world title at stake, this battle between female Mexican gladiators marked the first trip north of the border for Ortiz, whereas Seniesa was born and bred in East LA.
Estrada is easily one of the most compelling and entertaining boxers on the contemporary scene you will have the genuine pleasure to watch. It should come as no surprise to learn that Sugar Ray Leonard was one of her favorite fighters growing up. His influence can be clearly detected in Estrada’s hand speed, upper body movement, fancy footwork, and penchant for showmanship, sometimes holding her hands at her side or behind her back and offering up a free shot at her exposed chin while mugging for her competitor, as she had done with Esparza.
Strictly speaking, Seniesa is an orthodox boxer but try telling that to any of her flummoxed opponents. She repeatedly switches stances during the course of a round, or even a single exchange, with a head-spinning, graceful fluidity that often puts the laws of physics to the test.
Saturday evening in Fort Worth, Texas, Estrada appropriately enough chose a gold cape to accentuate the trim on her red boxing gear, right down to the customary ‘S’ on her chest to let the world know to have no fear, ‘SuperBad’ is here. Anabel Ortiz wore gold into the ring as well—the WBA minimumweight world title belt that Seniesa needed to complete her ensemble. Charging across the ring to greet Ortiz, Estrada wasted no time imposing her will upon the battle-tested champion as proof of why she was adamant her time had come to bask in the glow of world championship glory. A crafty counterpuncher, Ortiz held her own with the younger, hungrier challenger and even got in a shot after the bell ending the first round to let her know this would be no easy night at the office.
This did nothing to curb Estrada’s enthusiasm, as she continually bullied Anabel into a corner or back against the ropes. An Estrada left hook caused the champion to stumble backwards but Ortiz was able to land a check hook when a small window of opportunity opened while Seniesa was switching stances to come at her from different angles during the ensuing firefight. With thirty seconds left in the round, Estrada once again forced Ortiz back into the ring ropes and used her front foot to create just enough distance to beat Anabel to the punch with a straight right that put the champion down on her backside before Ortiz could uncork the left hook she was in the process of setting up.
Seniesa’s body blows created openings upstairs that she exploited on numerous occasions, such as the trio of rapid fire left hooks in the fifth round that staggered Ortiz. By the beginning of the sixth stanza, both of Ortiz’s eyes were showing signs of swelling although she was still able to fend off some of Estrada’s onslaughts with effective counterpunches. The rhythm, the pace, the power shots, however, were all decidedly in favor of the challenger who was leaving little doubt about the decision in the event that she couldn’t put away the durable champion inside the distance.
Estrada connected with a straight left to the head and dug a right hand into Ortiz’s midsection in the ninth round that appeared to be the beginning of the end, but the champion would weather the storm and go out on her shield despite being rocked in the final frame with a swift one/two followed by a succession of ambidextrous power punches. The final bell rang ten seconds prematurely, causing Seniesa to turn her back and raise her gloves in celebratory fashion. Fortunately for her, referee Mark Nelson quickly stepped between the two combatants because Ortiz was forging ahead, fully prepared to strike her unsuspecting challenger. As they say, protect yourself at all times.
But the story had a happy ending, for Estrada anyway. Wearing her gold cape, Seniesa had her hand raised in shutout victory while the WBA belt was fastened around her waist, fulfilling the dream of the eight year-old little girl and her reluctant but supportive father.
Unifying the 105-pound weight class is Estrada’s immediate goal, with the intention of ultimately doing same at 108 and 112. She dismissed Marlen Esparza as “irrelevant” when her rival’s name was mentioned in a post-fight interview, preferring to focus her attention instead on Yesenia Gomez and Yesica Bopp.
Weighing in at a fast and feisty 105, Seniesa Estrada is a deceptively heavy-handed and pleasingly fan friendly newly-crowned world champion whose name undoubtedly needs to be mentioned in current pound-for-pound discussions.
All things considered, it must feel pretty good to be SuperBad.