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March Recap: Estrada Becomes Undisputed, Joshua Levels Ngannou, Fundora and Ford Gut it Out

Fighter of the Month: Seniesa Estrada

There were a number of impressive performances this Month, but due to the stakes of her fight and the level of opposition Seniesa “Super Bad” Estrada is ITRBoxing’s fighter of the month for March. In a highly anticipated undisputed showdown against rival Yoka Valle, Estrada put it all together using both her tight defense and explosive offense to come home with the unanimous decision victory and become the undisputed strawweight champion. 

Photo: Sky Sports

As previously mentioned, there were several other breakout performances that deserve shine as an honorable mention. Raymond Ford scored a final second stoppage victory over Otabek Kholmatov to become the WBA featherweight champ in a modern-day classic.

William Zepeda passed his test with flying colors, as he quickly mowed down crafty southpaw Maxi Hughes in their IBF lightweight eliminator.

Joseph Parker continues his hot streak by shutting down another knockout artist in Zhilei Zhang and winning the interim WBO heavyweight title.

There were also two last-second additions from the last weekend. Erislandy Lara proved once again that age is just a number with his vicious knockout of Michael Zerafa in a middleweight title defense, Isaac Cruz became a world champion for the first time with his demolition of Rolly Romero, and Sebastian Fundora joined his sister Gabriella as the first ever brother-sister simultaneous champions with his upset win over Tim Tszyu as they headlined the first-ever Prime Video PPV.

– Jack Kelly

Fight of the Month: Sebastian Fundora UD12 Tim Tszyu

Photograph: John Locher/AP

In what was the bloodiest fight in recent memory, Sebastian Fundora used his height and rangy jab to keep Tim Tszyu off of him to earn a grueling unanimous decision victory.

Fundora (21-1-1, 13 ko), who stepped in on just twelve days notice after Keith Thurman tore his bicep, was set to face Serhii Bohachuk for an interim title on this same card and was coming off of a devastating seventh round knockout loss to Brian Mendoza (Bohachuk would defeat Mendoza by decision on this undercard in another fight of the month contender). Thrown into the biggest fight of his career under these extremely challenging circumstances, Fundora did what so many of us have been hoping he would do for so long; he used his height and length.

Tszyu (24-1, 17 ko) came out fast in the first two rounds, and it looked like he could overwhelm Fundora quickly. But at the end of the second, Tszyu caught an accidental elbow from Fundora in a clinch that opened up a massive gash near his hairline, a cut that the corner could never get under control.

Seemingly simultaneously, Fundora’s nose and mouth started bleeding profusely. The third round seemed to be a sign of a short fight with both fighters completely covered in blood, Tszyu’s vision badly impaired and Fundora’s breathing impeded. But no medical staff or corner people called for the fights end, and so the two gutted it out in what would be an absolutely grueling nine rounds to follow, Tszyu able to get inside and throw combinations in bursts, and Fundora maintaining his jab and landing from range where Tsyzu could not return fire.

There is no doubt that the cut to Tszyu changed the tone and direction of the fight. That is undeniable. But both fighters had things to battle through, Tszyu with a gruesome and largely untreated head wound mixed with a drastic last minute opponent change, and Fundora with a badly broken nose and coming off the kind of loss that some fighters never come back the same from. It would ultimately be Fundora who would take a split decision by scores of 116-112, 115-113, and 113-115. ITRBoxing scored the fight 114-114. Regardless of the outcome, both fighters are to be commended for their character in this one, a brutal and bloody affair that more than warrants a rematch, whenever that may be.

Knockout of the Month: Anthony Joshua KO2 Francis Ngannou

In a fight that many people believe “saved heavyweight boxing”, Anthony Joshua delivered one of the most emphatic knockouts of the past few years. Former MMA champ Francis Ngannou gave Tyson Fury all he could handle last October, but that was not the case this time around as a fully motivated Joshua scored three hellacious knockdowns and disposed of Ngannou in under two rounds.

Just like for Fighter of the Month, there were numerous other contenders for Knockout of the Month that warranted a shoutout. Dalton Smith was faced with the stiffest test of his career on paper when he battled multi-time title challenger Jose Zepeda. After a slow start, Smith began to get going and in the fifth round shoveled in a perfect right hand to the body of Zepeda which momentarily froze the veteran and then forced him to a knee where he stayed throughout the ten-count. 

Erislandy Lara showed not only that age is just a number, but that power is the last thing to go for a fighter. After a feel-out first round, the forty-year-old southpaw began to step on the gas more in round two and near the end of the round landed a 1-2 combination that floored Zerafa and left him in no condition to continue.

Isaac Cruz scored maybe the most satisfying stoppage victory of the month as he put an end to the trash-talking of Rolly Romero that took place in the build-up to their 140lb title fight. After badly hurting Romero in the first round, Cruz was in total control the entire way until a stinging combination of hooks in the eighth round forced referee Thomas Taylor to jump in and save Romero from any further punishment.

As far as dramatics go, no one had a more scintillating finish than newly crowned champion Raymond Ford. In a fight where he went into the final round needing a stoppage to win, the Camden, New Jersey native left no stone unturned and rallied to get the TKO victory with under ten seconds left to go in a movie-like finish that shows what the sport of boxing is truly all about.

– Jack Kelly

Round of the Month: Ray Ford vs Otabek Kholmatov Round 12

In a fight that also could have easily gotten out fight of the month, Ray Ford (15-0-1, 8 ko) literally needed a knockout to win his back and forth fight with the highly skilled Otabek Kholmatov. And thats exactly what he did.

Cut badly in the 11th and trailing 106-103 on two judges scorecards (leading 105-104 on the third), Ford dropped Kholmatov with 25 seconds remaining, though the referee ruled it a slip. Ford could tell Kholmatov was hurt and hit him with a series of hard shots which seemed to disorient him, turning his back to Ford and forcing thee referee to stop the fight with just seven seconds remaining. Ford became the WBA featherweight champion, though he indicated shortly after the fight he intends to move up the 130 lbs.

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Dakota McCormick

Dakota McCormick

Gym rat, trainer, and host of "The Slip and Weave Podcast"