Fresh Faces: Poula Estrada
By Felipe Leon
Palmdale, California, is not exactly a boxing mecca.
Part of the Los Angeles County, the small suburb has some notable residents from the likes of Afroman, a one-hit wonder rap artist, to Debbie Rowe, the mother of the late Michael Jackson’s children. That might all change in the likes of undefeated female flyweight Poula Estrada (5-0).
One of four children, all involved in combat sports in one way or another, Estrada has made her name in her hometown and is part of a resurgence of the sport north of downtown Los Angeles.
“My dad was always around boxing, he did kickboxing, boxed, he did a lot of different things, I couldn’t even be able to tell you,” the 23-year-old Estrada said regarding her start in the sport. “I grew up with it through him because he had his own gym at a point. I would go over and start messing around. I wouldn’t take it seriously really because I was just a kid. I was around seven or eight when I started going around to the gym but nine or ten when I began to train. My first amateur fight was around eleven.”
Her dad is Hervi Estrada, renowned southern California matchmaker, agent and now one-half of Estrada Roman Promotions, the outfit which is leading Poula’s career.
It wasn’t love at first sight though for Poula with boxing. After three amateur fights, she decided to take a break. Hervi thought it was only to be for a couple of months, it ended up being for nearly six years.
“She stopped from around twelve to sixteen or seventeen. She came back on her own. We would train and train for fights, go to tournaments and it would be hard for her to get fights. She couldn’t get a fight. She would tell me, ‘dad, every time we get back from training I see all the kids from the block playing. All I get to do is get home, shower, eat and go to sleep. It is not fair to me, I am kid.”
Hervi agreed and offered her some time off. She took it and didn’t look back. It wasn’t until she decided to get into better shape she asked to go back to the gym. “She started coming every day and after she wanted to fight. She won her first tournament she came back to,” her proud father mentioned.
At that point she set sail on a respectable 29-3 amateur career while participating in and winning a number of major tournaments like the junior Olympics, Silver Gloves, Golden Gloves, the Beautiful Brawlers tournament and the Desert Showdown among other minor competitions.
With a style she describes as awkward, switching from orthodox to southpaw reminiscent of her father’s style, Poula went pro in July of 2014 with a unanimous decision over tough veteran Blanca Raymundo. The decision didn’t come lightly.
“I have a day job, a full-time job. I work for an aerospace company. My dad told me, ‘just stick with that’. Of course I am going to stick to my day job but then again I can’t just let boxing go. It has been part of my life forever, grown up with it. When I told my dad I wanted to go pro, he said, ‘I guess we can just try it out and test the waters.’ We did and so far so good. My mom has always been a little nervous but she is the best cheerleader I could ever ask for.”
Her father Hervi wasn’t so convinced as his daughter for her to join the punch for bucks business.
“I wasn’t so much into it because in reality I noticed there wasn’t much action for females,” Hervi explained. “I asked myself why should I waste my kid’s time when she could do something better with her time. If Poula was to tell me today she doesn’t want to fight anymore, that would be a blessing to me. She has a very good job. I told her she didn’t need to fight. She works for the government so I told her she had a hell of a job and she didn’t need boxing. That job is your future, your retirement, and your insurance, whatever you want with that job. She told me I didn’t understand, she told me she loved fighting.”
Four out of her five professional fights have been at the Pioneer event Center in Lancaster, California, practically her backyard where she is forming a following. It is something she mentions keeps her motivated.
“I really love the crowd aspect of it, the fans but I also like to fight out of my hometown,” she says. “I think that is how you grow. I don’t want to stay closed in, I want to branch out and try different avenues which I am trying and hopefully we can keep going at it.”
With her father promoting and matching the majority of her fights so far, getting out of town might be something easier said than done.
“I put her on the cards because she is well-known in the region. Me as a promoter of course I am going to put her on the card. I didn’t put her on our first card, I have a partner, because I didn’t want people and my partner thinking I was only putting her on because she is my daughter, but then, my partner asked me why I didn’t. When I told him the reason, he said that she was well-known in the area and we need to put her on so we did on the second one we had.”
It has not been easy for Hervi since, as he tells it, once the possible rivals know she is his daughter, they feel they are at a disadvantage.
“It is very difficult because as soon as the opponents find out it’s another Estrada, immediately think I am protecting my daughter,” he says with a sigh. “That is why some of her opponents have pulled out. I am forced to get opponents in the last minute. I don’t deny to anybody she is my daughter, if she wins, it is a blessing, but I tell them to go in there and do their job and try to win.”
Possibly because of that, Poula’s last fight was her toughest against Canada’s Peggy Maerz. Maerz came in with the advantage in experience but Poula was still able to defeat her via a unanimous decision even though it wasn’t a cakewalk, according to Poula, in early March of this year.
“She came to bring it. She brought everything she had and I like that. It brings something out of me. You don’t know how far you can get until your opponent pushes you to that limit. She opened up something in me and I just let it out. I know there is still some more to grow.”