In a rubber match for the ages, Ana Esteche edges Celeste Peralta in another barnburner
By Diego Morilla
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina.- Only a handful of times have two fighters of the same hometown faced each other with an undisputed boxing title on the line. And when this happens, passions and emotions explode in and out of the ring. And that’s exactly what happened on this Saturday June 3 at the local Argentine Boxing Federation when Ana Esteche and Celeste Peralta faced each other for a third time (second one with three titles on the line) before a packed house and produced an extraordinary fight from beginning to end to give birth to a new classic rivalry in Argentine boxing.
Esteche (13-4-3, 2 KO) won the bout by split decision after 10 intense rounds to hold on to her three super lightweight titles, including the IBF and WBO belts she lifted from Peralta in their previous encounter and her own WBA trinket, imposing her agressive and demolishing style during most of the bout. But Peralta (8-2-0, 1 KO) gave a much better account of herself in this ocassion, managing to impress at least one judge that saw her winning the bout as well as many observers and writers who saw a much closer verdict than the one given by the other two judges, partly because of her strong start and her more controlled approach during the final stretch.
The difference in styles was noticeable in the first four rounds, with Peralta dominating the early going behind her superb jab and accurate straight rights, dominating Esteche completely in the first round. But the fight started turning immediately after that, and by the fourth round it was Esteche the one clearly in control thanks to her bullyish tactics and her powerful sweeping right hands that began to slow Peralta down. The constant clinching, the messy toe-to-toe action and the growing domination by Esteche against an opponent that seemed more and more incapacitated to put her plan into action were the hallmarks of the following rounds.
By the fifth, Esteche was already managing to drag Peralta into her own fight plan, even forcing her to engage in a counter-productive toe-to-toe action that yielded few dividends for the challenger, who nevertheless resorted to her higher connect rate to slowly find her way into the fight and grab a few rounds that closed the gap towards the end.
After the final bell, two cards of 97-93 (Carlos Azzinaro and Hector Tavela) were more than enough (and fair, although The Prizefighters had a much closer 94-96 for the winner) to give the win to Esteche, with Peralta getting a 96-94 card from the remaining judge (Ramón Cerdán).
“It was a good fight. This time, Celeste came well trained and gave us a great fight”, said the winner. “I received a lot of headbutts, she clinched a lot too. She clinched and hit me, but I wanted to fight. I am happy because things turned up really well for me, I am happy to come back home with my title belts”.
The harshness of the fight and the effects of its most defining moments were also subject for comments by her opponent.
“The clinches were mine but also hers. It was a messy fight,” said Peralta. “She is a fighter who always comes forward and never takes a step back. You can box with her, but how do you stop her from charging forward?”
The brutal back-and-forth never allowed Peralta to impose the smooth boxing style that characterized her during her time in the national amateur boxing team, but the former world titlist hever had too many opportunities to make adjustments against a rival who never ceased to attack her from bell to bell.
“There is a part where you really need to stand your ground and duke it out, because if she decides to rough it up you have to retaliate. Sometimes I feel like showing that I do have a chin,” said Peralta, who nevertheless said that the bout was “close until the very last round – and I won that last round. But well, I don’t know what to say. Fights are fights. I couldn’t have given more than what I gave.”
Esteche agreed with Peralta’s analysis and had a few laudatory remarks for her foe.
“The truth is that the fight became a slugfest between Celeste and (me), with a lot of people in the stands supporting us, and this is great for female boxing,” said Esteche. “I hope there will be more fights like this, and that we will have the chance to demonstrate that Argentine fighters are all capable of being champions. It was a close fight, but I felt nervous when the announced the scores. I won the last fight clearly and this time she came well prepared, and that’s how I like it, so we can give a great show. I am happy to have an opponent like this.”
By virtue of the great expectation generated and the great fight that they produced, both fighters promised to consider a fourth and even a fifth bout between them if the terms are right.
“I know that she will always want to give me a rematch, she’ll never say no. It all depends on the promoter,” said Peralta, who won clearly the first bout in the trilogy back in July 2015, with no titles at stake.
Esteche, on her part, dreams of bigger and better fights.
“Let’s see how it goes for (Erica) “Pantera” (Farias, who fights Cecilia Braekhus this Friday June 9)”, said the triple champion. “We are all Argentine and we strive to fight abroad, and I hope Erica can win this time. And if she doesn’t, I want to fight her, and I hope that this fight happens,” she said, calling out the current WBC super lightweight title and owner of the last major belt still not in her posession.
Farias will be fighting for Braekhus’ four welterweight titles, but a defeat may force her to drop back down to her more natural weight to defend her current title against Esteche, in what could become yet another classic rivalry in Argentine boxing. But if it happens, this story will have its own page in the archives of Argentine boxing, and it will have to be an extraordinary bout in order to match the three great clashes that Esteche and Peralta have produced in their already historic rivalry.
(Photo by Ramon Cairo)