Boxing
Estrada looks forward to talking the talk
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - More than anything, Jason Estrada is looking forward to the post-fight procession.

When, on the heels of what most would consider an upset defeat of No. 1-ranked IBF heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin, he can deliver a personal brand of comeuppance to all those who doubted his pedigree going in.

"Every day, I try and prove four or five more people wrong in what they think about me," said the once-beaten former U.S. Olympian, who'll head to Germany to face the unbeaten Russian on April 4. "I enjoy coming up against those kinds of naysayers.

"When I do interviews after the fights they didn't expect me to win, I like to send out subliminal pokes to them. I don't mention them by name, but they know who they are. That's the thing about boxing, you don't get credit for how good you are until you're done."

If the road trip is successful, he'll likely have fewer targets next time.

A pro since late 2004 after an amateur run that yielded Pan-American Games gold, Estrada was a perfect 5-for-5 in 2008 while defeating a collection of journeymen and fringe prospects including Lance Whitaker, Charles Shufford and Moultrie Witherspoon.


Jason Estrada will face Alexander Povetkin on April 4.
The quintet ran the overall win streak to eight since his lone career setback - a majority eight-round decision to Travis Walker in just Estrada's ninth pro fight and his so-far lone appearance outside the Classic Entertainment & Sports comfort zone.

The rest of Estrada's outings - he's 15-1 with one no-contest since earning paychecks - have occurred in the Providence native's home state of Rhode Island (10) or just down the road in neighboring Connecticut (6).

Still, the trip to his foe's adopted home turf - where Povetkin has appeared 13 times in 16 career fights - doesn't worry him.

"I believe I'll beat him to the point he can't steal it away from me," Estrada said. "Whether I actually get the win or not, people will see that it's not even close and if they take it from me it'll be a big mistake."

Povetkin, who's an inch taller than Estrada at 6-foot-2 and a year older at 29, was also largely unknown until mid-2007, when he defeated former contender Larry Donald via wide unanimous decision in Moscow.

He's added significantly to the resume since, stopping ex-champion Chris Byrd in 11 rounds in round one of an IBF elimination tournament in October 2007 before out-pointing previously unbeaten American Eddie Chambers over 12 rounds three months later.

A fourth-round TKO of Taurus Sykes came in July, before a scheduled shot at consensus world champion Wladimir Klitschko was scrubbed due to injury.

Estrada, however, is hardly impressed.

"I don't think he's beaten better guys than I have, outside of maybe Byrd and Chambers," he said. "All the fights have been in Germany, and when he comes out of them he looks like he's been hammered with a baseball bat or something.

"The guys I've fought, I've beaten them when I wasn't even supposed to be in their class. People look at my record and say I don't have a lot of knockouts (only three in 15 wins), but I've fought a lot of veterans. Guys who aren't in the business of getting knocked out."

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It's a little premature to announce the 2009 fight of the year in March, but it'll surely take a big effort to supplant Saturday night's Marquez-Diaz lightweight clash from its "leader in the clubhouse" status.

Over eight-plus rounds of nearly non-stop engagement, viewers were able to see exactly what's lifted the two combatants to their respective levels on the world stage.

Marquez is as tough and brave as they come, and he's shown a consistent ability to weather the most violent of storms with a strong chin and a cool accuracy that often yields success after a perpetual motion foe begins to lose steam in later rounds.

To these eyes, he's 1-0-1 in two matches with Manny Pacquiao, and - pending results from the Filipino's challenge of Ricky Hatton in May - a third go- round between the multi-weight foils may be the fight most likely to knock Marquez-Diaz off its preliminary FOTY 2009 perch.

That said, it was entertaining to see Marquez veer off script with Max Kellerman after the fight, pooh-poohing Max's predictable "Do you want the Hatton-Pacquiao winner" query with an unmistakable callout of Floyd Mayweather Jr.

And while it says here that the "Pretty Boy" covets his own meeting with Pacquiao and probably wouldn't consider Marquez a big enough name again whom to risk such a windfall, I give Juan Manuel credit for making Kellerman pause for a second or two.

If I'm drawing it up, Nate Campbell gets the Hitman-Pacman winner and Marquez gets next.

Meanwhile, as for Diaz, his greatest strength may be his greatest weakness.

A purveyor of non-stop aggression with a high-end work rate, the affable Houstonian is always in good fights and is surely good enough to own the spot on the lightweight podium reserved for those "not quite good enough" to deal with the sport's pound-for-pound elites.

An under-appreciated Campbell took him to school last March, and Marquez, though behind early, was able to withstand Diazs best shots before beginning to gain traction with straight and clean punches of his own, ultimately causing the cut that led to closing sequence.

Were he just a bit more powerful, Diaz might have scored a KO, and, were he willing to reduce his punch volume just a little bit to concentrate more on footwork and one-shot impact, he might acquire the fight-ending thud it appears he now lacks.

However, such a strategic change would negate his natural ferocity and do more to expose weaknesses than it would to create strengths. From here, it seems Diaz is destined to be exactly what he is, a high-end 135-pounder who falls just short of greatness.

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And, as is often the case when the "Network of Champions" is forced to acknowledge the existence of other cable entities, it came off a trifle uncomfortable.

First, during Kellerman's pre-fight rundown of the champions and prospects in each division, he gave barely a passing mention to unbeaten featherweight Yoriorkis Gamboa, about whom he'd gushed during a recent appearance on "Boxing After Dark."

Incidentally, Gamboa will next appear on television April 3 - on Showtime.

Speaking of Showtime, colleague Jim Lampley seemed equally pained during the Marquez-Diaz match when referencing the Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo classic of 2005, which was of course broadcast on the competition's air.

And instead of mentioning Showtime by name, he instead referred to it as a "rival network."

'Cmon guys, you're the best game in town...but, like it or not, you're not the only one.

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This weeks title-fight schedule:

THURSDAY

WBC featherweight title - Tokyo, Japan

Oscar Larios (champion) vs. Takahiro Aoh (No. 3 contender)

Larios (63-6-1, 39 KO): First title defense; former WBC champion at 122 pounds

Aoh (16-1-1, 8 KO): Second title fight; lost split decision to Larios in October

FitzHitz says: Larios by decision

WBC bantamweight title - Kobe, Japan

Hozumi Hasegawa (champion) vs. Vusi Malinga (No. 1 contender)

Hasegawa (25-2, 9 KO): Eighth title defense; Won 22 straight fights since 2001

Malinga (18-2-1, 11 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten in 18 fights since 2000 (17-0-1)

FitzHitz says: Hasegawa in 10

Last week's picks: 3-1

Overall record: 66-29

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.