Undefeated heavyweight prospect Jason “Big Six” Estrada of Providence, Rhode Island, ran his record to 7-0 (1 KO, with one no contest) with a one-sided unanimous decision over journeyman Maurice Wheeler, now 10-8-1, of Philadelphia on September 23 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Since turning professional shortly after representing the United States at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Estrada has barely lost a round even though he has tangled with many much more experienced opponents.
Yet he still finds himself dogged by comments he made after losing to Michel Nunez Lopez of Cuba in the Olympic quarterfinals. Besides the fact that he looked out of shape, when asked about his lack of effort his response was offensive to nearly everyone who heard it.
“This is just part of my life,” said Estrada, an international amateur sensation who had already beaten Nunez Lopez prior to the Games. “If I’m going to lose, I’m going to get hit as little as possible.”
The negative fallout has only made Estrada more determined to prove his mettle as a pro. After decisively beating Wheeler, he insisted that his words were misconstrued and insists that, in his mind at least, bygones are bygones.
“Those words were taken way out of context,” said the 6’1”, 250 pound Estrada, who will turn 26 in November. “If people knew the whole story, they wouldn’t have been so critical. There was more going on than most people know.”
While Estrada didn’t want to discuss the matter further, his father and manager, Dr. Roland Estrada, an optometrist, said that the public was upset with his son for all the wrong reasons.
“He didn’t throw tables and cry and I think people wanted to see him do that,” said the elder Estrada. “They thought he had a laissez-faire attitude, but Jason is a very calm, mellow guy. There is not much that bothers him.
“I think what happened at the Olympics hurt me more than it hurt him,” added Roland. “Stuff just bounces off of him. He has a great mental attitude.”
Roland explained that just a few weeks before departing for Athens, his son’s right foot was in a cast because of an injury to his arch. Jason was also very concerned about his younger brother Cameron, who had been admitted to the hospital with what was suspected to be meningitis, an insidious disease that can lead to brain damage or death.
Neither father nor son believes that the Olympic debacle will hurt Estrada’s chance to win a professional championship. Roland says that Jason has probably not lost one minute of a round during his pro career, even though he has squared off against durable journeyman like Robert Wiggins, who was 20-6-1, Yanqui Diaz, who was 13-3, and Najee Shaheed, Demetrice King and Earl Ladson.
He cites Larry Holmes and Riddick Bowe, both of whom were written off by many insiders after poor pre-Olympic or Olympic showings, and says that his son’s style is much better suited for the pros.
“People say Jason can’t punch, but look at the levels of the guys he’s fighting,” explained Roland. “Nobody at his level of experience is fighting these guys. For a guy with so little pro experience, he’s willing to fight anyone.”
Estrada will have a golden opportunity to re-establish his credibility on November 17, when he is scheduled to battle amateur nemesis Travis Walker, 21-0-1 (17 KOS), on ShoBox: The Next Generation.
ShoBox analyst Steve Farhood believes the fight is crucial to both boxers, but especially Estrada. He discounts Estrada’s Olympic disappointments and believes he should be judged by what he’s done since then.
“You have a clean slate when you turn pro,” said Farhood. “Given the current state of American heavyweights, Jason has every opportunity to deliver. He’s one of the only heavyweights who is under 30. That, in itself, means a lot.”
Walker, he adds, also has a lot on the line. “He has the chance to beat the guy that cost him amateur fame,” said Farhood. “All these factors should make for an interesting fight.”
Estrada, who has sparred with the likes of Hasim Rahman, John Ruiz, and undefeated Philadelphia heavyweight Eddie Chambers, believes that Walker will be easy pickings for him because he says he has already beaten him three times as an amateur.
With a 261-14 amateur record, there are very few active young pros that Estrada did not beat at one time or another.
“This guy will come to me, so I’ll probably knock him, out,” said Estrada, who is known as being a very adept boxer with not much of a punch. “The last [amateur] fight [with Walker] wasn’t even close. I think I won by 10 points.”
“Travis Walker will bring out the best in him,” said Roland. “When we had the opportunity to fight him, we jumped on it. We know what he brings and we know that he will try to win.”
As is his custom, the unflappable Jason is not the least bit affected by all the talk.
“I’m just looking to make my own way,” he said. “I can’t be worried about what others are saying. I’m very comfortable with who I am. I’m not going to let others dictate how I feel about myself.”