On a big night for combat sports, one of the many combat sports events taking place on Saturday, September 8th is the third installment of the “SuperFly” series, created by boxing promoter Tom Loeffler to promote the smaller weight class fighters. They’ve featured fighters from flyweight (112 lbs) and super-flyweight (115 lbs), including Srisaket Sor Rungvisai’s emphatic KO of Roman Gonzalez in the inaugural SuperFly.
This series has been met with largely positive reviews, but admittedly this is not the strongest of the fight cards. There’s no “Chocolatito” Gonzalez or Sor Rungvisai, but we do have former flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada in the main event, plus an all-Filipino title fight in the co-main event, and the return of Japanese standout Kazuto Ioka from retirement. Here’s a rundown of the tripleheader, which starts at 9:45 PM ET/6:45 PM PT from The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Juan Francisco Estrada (36-3, 25 KOs) vs Felipe Orucuta (36-4, 30 KOs) – 12 rounds
Estrada is the only fighter who’s appeared on each SuperFly card. In SuperFly 1, he won a thrilling 12-round decision over fellow Mexican Carlos Cuadras, and in the SuperFly 2 main event in February, he dropped a unanimous decision to current WBC super-flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in a Fight of the Year contender. Estrada is the consensus #2 fighter at super-flyweight behind the Thai standout.
Orucuta has been competing mostly in low-profile fights since being stopped by his corner at the end of the 6th round vs. Jose Cayetano in 2015. Two of his four losses were close decisions to former world champion Omar Narvaez, so even though Orucuta doesn’t really have much in the way of quality wins, he has been competitive against high-level competition before.
This is a matchup between “Gallo” (Rooster) and “Gallito” (Little Rooster), and this is a fight that “Gallo” should win. Orucuta is willing to trade punches but he’s not the more technical boxer and doesn’t have the better chin, so it’s going to be fun to watch, but I only see one realistic outcome, and that’s an Estrada victory.
Prediction: Estrada by TKO, round 10.
Donnie Nietes (41-1-4, 23 KOs) vs Aston Palicte (24-2, 20 KO) – 12 rounds, vacant WBO super-flyweight championship
You may have heard of Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire as Filipino boxing stalwarts, but lesser known is Donnie Nietes, who is moving up to 115 lbs having won major titles at minimumweight, junior flyweight, and flyweight. Nietes has fought primarily in the Philippines, fighting the likes of Moises Fuentes and Felipe Salguero and beating them. He hasn’t lost since 2004, and at SuperFly 2, Nietes stopped fellow top-5 flyweight Juan Carlos Reveco in the 7th round. Nietes vacated his title to chase after the WBO belt that was abdicated by Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue, who is now at bantamweight.
Palicte is 27 years old, nine years younger than his countryman, with his only recent defeat coming in 2016 against Junior Granados in Mexico. He is coming off a TKO win vs. former IBF title challenger Jose Alfredo Rodriguez. Palicte will come into this contest with a four-inch height advantage, and should have all the physical advantages when they meet in the ring.
This is by no means a gimme for Nietes. He’s going up in weight this late in his career and Palicte has quality punching power. Moises Fuentes was able to hurt Nietes in their first fight, and that was at flyweight. Palicte could land something big and give Nietes a lot to think about. Otherwise, Nietes is the more crafty boxer who’s not easy to crack defensively. Nietes is the rightful favorite, but not an overwhelming one. He has the edge in overall skill level, but when you’re an older fighter going up against a guy who is big and strong in the weight class, nothing is a given.
Prediction: Nietes by unanimous decision
Kazuto Ioka (22-1, 13 KOs) vs McWilliams Arroyo (17-3, 14 KO) – 10 rounds
Ioka won world titles at minimumweight, junior flyweight, and flyweight, but then retired at just 28 years old. The cause? He had a falling out with his father/manager Kazunori Ioka after getting married to pop star Nana Tanimura. Turns out that retirement lasted only a few months for the Japanese fighter, and he’s back to take on the best at a new weight class. Ioka holds two wins over Juan Carlos Reveco, and his only loss was a contested split decision vs. Amnat Ruenroeng.
Arroyo went the distance with “Chocolatito” in a losing effort a couple of years ago, and he similarly came up short vs. Ruenroeng. He scored an upset decision win at SuperFly 2, besting Carlos Cuadras in what also somewhat doubled as a lackluster showing by Cuadras. It’s definitely his best victory since his dominant display against Luis Maldonado in 2012, and keeps him in the mix of title contenders at super-flyweight.
This is the most competitive looking fight on paper. Ioka has the credentials of being a former champion, but you do have to question his state of mind after his public falling out with his father, and his brief retirement. Arroyo is a very good fighter who might be able to spoil Ioka’s comeback. He has power, mixes up his punch selection and likes targeting the body, and as he showed against Cuadras, he can win those ugly, grimy scraps and dig deep. This is just about 50-50 in terms of betting odds, but I lean slightly towards Ioka, who is the more accomplished of the two men. Much like Nietes, though, super-flyweight could be a weight class too far for Ioka.
Prediction: Ioka by unanimous decision.