It goes without saying, but I will anyway, that Seniesa Estrada–the electrifying, switch-hitting boxer from East LA known by her ring moniker, ‘Super Bad’–had a pretty damn good 2021.
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Capturing world titles in two weight classes and defending her first-won belt in explicit fashion Saturday evening, Estrada stands shoulder to shoulder alongside Amanda Serrano and Katie Taylor in the running for Female Fighter of the Year. If I were given any say in the matter, she would get my vote.
Before closing the ledger on this momentous year, Seniesa made sure to emphasize the chapter’s last sentence with a bold exclamation mark. And it didn’t take her too terribly long to get to the point, either.
In lieu of a desired unification fight, Estrada put her WBA minimumweight world championship on the line for the first time against a game contender in Maria Santizo. Unbeaten in nine previous bouts, Santizo won five of them inside the distance. In an ironic twist of fate, it would turn out to be Santizo who would not last to the final bell on this occasion. Nearly a full year’s worth of ring rust notwithstanding, the Guatemalan challenger was in no way tentative about standing toe to toe with Estrada to swap leather at a furious pace.
This breakneck rhythm worked played to Estrada’s strengths, of which there are many, and it was not due to her lengthy layoff so much as Seniesa’s lightning-quick reflexes that Santizo swung and missed repeatedly after loading up on looping right hooks that the champion could easily telegraph and defend against upon arrival.
There was little Santizo could do other than cover up, try to maintain a tight guard, and get off some timely counters as Estrada rained torrents of ambidextrous blows on her jawline and midsection in equal measure all the while. In the heat of two separate exchanges early in the third round, Santizo managed to catch Seniesa first with a glancing left hook then a nice right hand that put a momentary stop to Estrada’s onslaught. But these exceptions to the rule were rarities and could not be capitalized upon.
Indeed, just moments later, Estrada put Santizo down on her back pocket for the first time with a hellacious left hook. As if she hadn’t already been working at an accelerated rate the entire time, Seniesa pressed the pedal to the metal in an effort to close the show before the expiration of round three. And she came close to doing exactly that, forcing Santizo to stumble backward into the ropes from halfway across the ring courtesy of a straight right and pummeling the hapless challenger until she was saved by the bell.
This merciful reprieve was short lived, however. Santizo appeared to have recovered from the close call of the previous stanza and caught Estrada with some additional check hooks in the opening moments of round four, though they did little to impede the champion’s forward progress. Shifting rapidly from an orthodox stance to southpaw, as she is wont to do throughout the course of any given exchange, Estrada evaded two long left jabs and nailed Santizo with a picture-perfect left hook a split second before her challenger was about to step in with a right hand.
Santizo went down like a gunshot victim, hitting the canvas for the second and last time.Referee Mark Calo had seen enough, putting an arm around the fallen challenger, whose eyes might as well have been matching neon signs flashing No Vacancy, and waving the fight off without a count. Estrada, meanwhile, wasted no time leaping onto the ropes to celebrate her triumphant title defense and talk some playful shit to DAZN broadcaster and former gym mate, Sergio Mora.
Now 22-0 with 9 KOs, Estrada is poised to take on any one of several possible opportunities in 2022. The most likely–and Seniesa’s preferred choice–would be a 105-pound unification against IBF belt holder Yokasta Valle (23-2, 9KOs), who happened to defend her title this same evening in her native Costa Rica with a unanimous decision win over Elizabeth Lopez Corso.
Another tantalizing option is a return to the light-flyweight division where Seniesa would potentially match up opposite the legendary ‘La Tuti’ Yesica Bopp (37-2, 17 KOs). The longtime 108-pound world champion made twenty successful defenses of her WBA title over a full decade and rebounded from a shocking six-round loss to 4-2 Juliana Vanesa Basualdo back in September by getting right back into the ring five weeks later to score a more characteristic stoppage victory over previously undefeated Johana Zuniga.
Last but not least, there exists the prospect of a return bout with her Golden Boy stablemate and personal nemesis, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza. That is, if Esparza gets to indulge her revenge fantasy, anyway. The two rivals battled one another in a blood-soaked affair in November 2019 that ended prematurely with Estrada earning a technical decision when the fight was stopped in the penultimate round due to the severity of a ghastly cut just below Esparza’s hairline caused by a clash of heads.
It is safe to assume there was no congratulatory visit by either Estrada or Esparza to the other’s locker room after their respective title defenses Saturday night. Earlier on the card, Esparza turned away the challenge of Anabel Ortiz in the maiden defense of her newly-won WBC world flyweight championship. Coincidentally, it was from Ortiz that Seniesa Estrada took the 105-pound WBA belt back in March. Prior to being relieved of the title by Estrada, Ortiz had retained possession of her hardware for more than six years.
Just as Seniesa Estrada is a 2021 Fighter of the Year candidate, Esparza could certainly be mentioned in the conversation for Most Improved. After appearing in the curtain raiser of the SuperWomen pay-per-view event on March 5 headlined by Claressa Shields, in which Esparza appeared marginally disinterested and definitely out of shape, she made the most of her challenge to Ibeth Zamora’s WBC flyweight title three months later. A far more focused and determined Esparza shook off a first-round knockdown to eke out a narrow win on points to lay claim to her first world championship.
Her first title defense was a triumphant one, sending Anabel Ortiz to the canvas in rounds two and five en route to a ten-round decision which was unanimous although oddly scored. I would love to know what in the world judge Glen Rick Crocker was doing that prevented him from keeping an astute eye on the action, as he inexplicably arrived at a razor-thin tally of 95-94 in favor of the defending champion.
Whether or not Seniesa Estrada is at all inclined toward consenting to Marlen Esparza’s New Year’s resolution to resume hostilities with her, each of them can at least rest easy over the remainder of the holiday season, content with their headline-making achievements over the past twelve months and confident that bigger and better opportunities will be theirs for both the asking and the taking in 2022.
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