You would think getting into the ring with one of the biggest knock out kings in boxing today might be the toughest thing a fighter might have to do but for featherweight Omar “Dinamita” Estrella (15-3-2, 10KOs), it might be the second. This Saturday night, the twenty-four year old Estrella will face hard hitting and former world champion Daniel Ponce de Leon (41-4, 34KOs) of Chihuahua by way of Huntington Park, CA, for the vacant WBC USNBC title. The title bout will be the main event of Mexico’s “Sabados de Corona” televised live on Televisa.
For much of his teenage years, Estrella ran the streets of the Colonia Aleman, a rough and tumble Tijuana neighborhood just south of the international border, where he dedicated much of his time to petty crime and graffiti. Because of his thirst to make a name for himself on the walls of Tijuana’s buildings, the then fifteen-year old Estrella suffered an accident that would change his life. As he and a group of friends were on top of a building leaving their mark, they decided to climb a ladder to reach a higher point of the skyline. As he was climbing the ladder, Estrella inadvertently touched a high-powered electrical wire and suffered a jolt that went through his hands and exited through one of his ankles and waist. The electricity knocked out Estrella for more than thirty minutes and when he came to, he was at the Municipal hospital.
While there, his family was told that they would have to amputate both of his hands and his left leg but in Estrella’s eyes, the grace of God saved his life, “I owe it to God, at that moment, my mother received a call from the United States that told her not to accept amputation and that they were going to treat me in the United States.”
Estrella and his family did not have passports but the hospital that called them, part of an organization led by the Shriner’s, took care of everything.
Omar soon found himself in Sacramento, CA, and after twelve surgeries and a year and a half of therapy, he was back to normal except for severe burn scars on both of his arms, waist and left leg.
Typical of any inner city or barrio, one must fight if they want to survive and for Estrella it was no different. Always good with his hands, Estrella, at the prompting of a close friend, decided to visit a boxing gym for the first time at the age of eighteen. The trainer of the gym immediately put him in the ring to spar, when he noticed that Estrella could hold his own with absolutely no previous instruction, he quickly signed him up for his first amateur bout three weeks later.
Soon there after, Estrella fought in his first professional fight, which he lost in the first round to Jesus Balderas in early ‘05, “Since I didn’t really know the rules, I made a mistake in my first fight. At that point, I had never felt a punch with out headgear or with eight-ounce gloves so when Balderas connected with a shot to my temple, I felt dizzy and I took a knee. When I got to my feet, the referee asked me how I felt, I told him good but a bit dizzy so he stopped the fight,” Estrella explained with a chuckle.
Since he stepped into the ring with a lack of the most basic knowledge of the sport, Estrella decided to make a change in his training and that is when he approached the two-time former world champion Raul “Jibaro” Perez to man his corner. Before Perez would let Estrella climb into a ring once again, he had to train under the former world champ for a year, which Estrella did.
After suffering his first loss, Estrella went ahead and scored seven wins and two draws, one of the draws versus Frankie Leal in a six round war. Within those wins, Estrella defeated Baja California amateur star Emilio Bojorquez. At that time, Bojorquez was considered the next shining light of the Tijuana boxing scene. Bojorquez as an amateur had captured multiple city, regional and state titles and was considered the next fighter to carry the name of Tijuana to new boxing heights. Estrella slowed down the hype train by dropping Bojorquez three times en route to a unanimous decision win in only his fourth professional fight.
“At that time I had a lot of respect for Emilio and I still do, I used to even pay to see him fights in the amateurs,” the affable Estrella said as he remembered that night. “I think all of Tijuana was there to support him but I was prepared. I dropped him in the first round and I couldn’t believe it. I dropped him twice in the second and cut him over both of his eyes. I won the decision and soon after that, I signed on with Erik Morales’ Box Latino.”
As Estrella kept at his boxing career, he became a father at an early age, first to a son when he was eighteen and then a daughter at the age of twenty-two. Early on, Estrella, who dropped out of school in junior high, suffered to keep his family afloat and would look for minimal jobs to help support his family and younger brothers and sister. At times washing windows at a local gas station or packing groceries at the super market, Estrella found the way to supplement his income from boxing.
In early ’09, Estrella suffered his second loss to Jorge Pimentel and then rattled off three more wins and a no contest. His last defeat came in ’10 in a majority loss to Jorge “Comino” Perez who many thought Estrella won. Since then, he’s been in an undefeated streak, defeating Martin Fing via unanimous decision and then stopping his next three opponents, David Martin Galindo, Sergio “Mickey” Lopez and Horacio Rodriguez. By defeating Galindo, Estrella captured the Mexican Pacific Coast Featherweight title and successfully defended it versus Lopez.
Estrella is well aware that none of those triumphs and the opponents he stopped to earn them come close to comparing to his next opponent, “It is obvious that Ponce de Leon is the most experienced and best fighter I have faced in my career, none other comes close. I think all those experiences have helped me to get where I am and I am ready to face a fighter of his caliber. I know that I can compete with that type of level in the ring and I want to prove it.”
To help prepare himself for the hard-hitting southpaw, Estrella has been sparring Marvin Quintero as well as current WBC lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco.
“Both have helped me a lot,” Estrella said of the high caliber help. “Quintero is very fast and has a lot of movement, a complete different style than Ponce de Leon but he’s helped me by making me think in there against a south paw. As far as DeMarco, well he hits very hard so I am trying to get used to the heavy hands and with Tony being a lightweight and a southpaw, I think he can match up with Ponce’s power even if we are using bigger gloves and headgear.”
Despite all of that, Estrella is under no illusion that anything he has seen in the past or the preparation he has done for the last month and half will prepare him for what awaits Saturday night, “I’m under no illusion that this is going to be an easy fight. I respect Ponce de Leon and his record but I am not afraid or intimidated by it. I am confident that I have the style to beat Ponce de Leon and I am climbing into that ring with that intention, to win.”