Most boxing fans have never heard of lightweight Daniel Estrada, who challenges Omar Figueroa Jr. for his world title on Saturday night as part of a Showtime tripleheader (9 p.m. ET) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
But Estrada (32-2-1, 24 KOs), 29, of Mexico, might be the easiest guy to root for considering what he has been through as he fights for a world title for the first time.
Estrada, the mandatory challenger, comes to the fight against Figueroa (23-0-1, 17 KOs), 24, of Weslaco, Texas, with a heavy heart.
Estrada will be fighting less than three weeks after a car accident took the life of his younger sister, Janyn, and his niece, Emery.
"I'm dedicating this fight to my family and the memory of my younger sister, Janyn, and her 5-year-old daughter, Emery,” Estrada said through a translator on Thursday. “It's been a very difficult, emotional time for all of us. My sister, who was 27, has always been my biggest supporter in boxing. She always told me that if I continued to work hard I would make it to the top and become a world champion.”
Few would have blamed Estrada had he pulled out of the fight to deal with such an enormous family tragedy, but it took him a decade as a pro to reach a world title fight, and he said his sister never would have wanted him to withdraw.
"I'm using what she always said to me as motivation for this fight,” said Estrada, who took only a few days off from training after their deaths. “As bad as we all feel, there was never really a time when I thought I would abandon this opportunity. I know she would want me to take the fight.
"I've been waiting a year to fight for the title, and on Saturday I'm going to take advantage of my shot. I recognize Figueroa as a great champion for what he brings to the sport, but I'm a Mexican warrior. I'll show you all that on Saturday."
Several members of Estrada’s family were riding in the car when they were involved in the crash as they returned to their hometown of Mexico City from a family vacation.