The struggles of most professional boxers are very rarely played out in the public eye. An upset loss is usually preceded by many disappointing days in the gym, far away from the prying cameras of HBO’s 24/7 series. The axiom that a fighter wins and loses a bout in the gym gives way to the truism that victorious matches are the fruition of harmony in a fighter’s overall life.
Shawn Estrada has given no on-screen indication that his career isn’t going the way he planned it. The unbeaten (13-0, 12 knockouts) 2008 U.S. Olympic representative has had nary a stumble in the ring since turning professional after dropping a decision to England’s James DeGale in the second round of the Beijing Games, but his pain has been unseen.
Hand, back and meniscus injuries have slowed the ascent of the super middleweight prospect, forcing him to the sidelines as his Olympic teammates Gary Russell Jr. and Demetrius Andrade begin to steal headlines in the most demanding of sports.
Now healthy, the 26-year-old Eas Los Angeles native will shake off rust against Terrance Woods (9-3, 6 KOs) on Friday at the College Park Center in Arlington, Tex., in the co-featured bout on ESPN2′s Friday Night Fights (9PM Eastern/6PM Pacific). The main event will feature junior-welterweight Mike Dallas Jr. (17-2-1, 7 KOs), of Bakersfield, Calif., who is attempting to bounce back from two consecutive defeats against Miguel Gonzalez (20-2, 15 KOs), of Ohio, in a 10-round bout.
Luck hasn’t always been on Estrada’s side. Last year began as well for Estrada as could be planned. He scored two first-round knockouts against opponents with decent looking records. Then in August, Estrada got the opportunity to have his first pro bout in his ancestral country of Mexico against Alvaro Enriquez. Estrada put the overwhelmed opponent away in three rounds, but walked away with a torn meniscus (a common knee injury among athletes) that sent him back to a familiar spot; the injured reserve.
The incident was yet another frustrating setback for the man known as “Manos de Oro.”
“It’s just been a long journey. I’ve been pro for four years now, and it’s nothing holding me back but the injuries,” said Estrada. “I just started running a month and a half ago. I had the surgery, two weeks later I tried to run and I re-injured it. The doctor said, ‘You just have to stay off it a whole month.’ That was two months ago; the worst times in the holiday season.”
Two months later, Estrada is back to running Mount Baldy and Turnbull Canyon, as well as on Huntington and Manhattan Beaches. Still, he says that cutting weight isn’t as easy as it was when he first turned pro, and has added a nutritionist to his team in hopes of returning to the middleweight division where he feels his 6-foot-1 frame will be imposing against smaller fighters. This fight will be at a catchweight of 170 pounds.
Estrada admits he has some rust to shake off, and had help in the gym sparring with members of the Los Angeles Police and Fire Departments.
Interacting with civic employees is nothing new to Estrada. The downtime from being oft-injured has allowed him to explore one of his other interests: local politics.
Estrada ran for city council in Commerce, Calif., last March. When asked what his party affiliation was, Estrada responded, “Independent, anything green.”
According to SmartVoter.org, Estrada ran on the platform of fighting to “lower trash and water rates,” as well as promising to “eliminate government waste and giveaways” and “promote job fairs to ensure jobs for our residents.”
Then 25, Estrada found himself lacking in the necessary experience to compete with veteran politicians, garnering just 2.6% of the vote.
“Even though I lost, I felt like I won,” said Estrada, who studied politics while attending Northern Michigan University on a boxing scholarship. “Everyone had high hopes, they always tell me just run in two years. I say, ‘Ehh maybe in a little longer down the road.’
“Right now, I want to just focus everything on my career. It’s at its highest peak right now, it’s time to go for it. Maybe later down the road when I retire. Now I know why there’s nothing but old people in politics.”
Estrada admits that, like real world politics, the politics that take place in boxing can be treacherous terrain to navigate.
“One thing I learned about politics, trust and having loyalty is the only thing that will set you free,” said Estrada. “There are some people just in it for their own cause and sometimes it can be bad.
“Boxing is a cut throat business. You’re just sitting there, you have a big old chunk of meat and your friends that come and whisper in your ears. In boxing politics, you have to trust your whole team. In your inner circle, you have to have five or six people you can really trust. When I first got in boxing, I was told, ‘You have to be a puppeteer and have five lieutenants in your circle.’”
Estrada’s experience with politics has been mixed. He says he ‘loves’ his promoter Goossen-Tutor Promotions, but is ‘thrilled’ that his managerial contract with Arnulfo Bravo is done in August.
“It’s time for a new management team,” said Estrada. “When you have eggs in a basket, they will eventually rot. Time for some hens to give me some golden eggs.”
An email to Bravo was not immediately returned.
Estrada is optimistic about 2012. He says he is healthy for the first time in a long time and is kicking off the year with his first eight-round assignment. If all goes according to plan, 2012 will be the year people begin associating him with his professional endeavors and not just define him by his amateur accomplishments.
“Estrada is a big name and I haven’t really gotten to that level yet,” said Estrada. “We’re going to explode. It’s been a great opening to my career. It was really tough, but now everything is back on track. When you’re down, the only place you can go is up.”
Photo / Craig Bennett-Fightwireimages.com
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.