Olympian Jason “Big Six” Estrada fully believes that boxing saved his life, preventing him from running the streets of Providence, Rhode Island, and molding him into the man he is today.
“I didn’t have any money growing up and could have easily gone the other way in the streets,” Estrada explained. “A lot of my friends from back then were selling drugs are many are either dead or in jail. I knew them all, they knew me. Instead of becoming a drug dealer, I beat them up and took their money. I could have easily ended up seller drugs on a bigger scale, shot them, or gotten shot by them. I was broke, but boxing saved me!”
Estrada’s first amateur match was in 1987, when he was only seven years old, and he developed into one of the most dominant amateur boxers in the world between 2001-2003, in which he was a “three-peat” champion at the USA National Championships, PAL National Championships and U.S. Challenge.
“Big Six” also remains the only American boxer to capture a gold medal in the super heavyweight division of the Pan-American Games (2003), in addition to representing the U.S. in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
After qualifying for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, much of the pre-Olympic Games boxing interest surrounded an expected showdown between the top two super heavyweights in the world, Estrada and Russia’s Alexander Povetin.
Unfortunately, Estrada was hampered by a severe case of planta faucitis, which left Jason in an air cast and unable to train other than swimming throughout the entire pre-Olympics camp. Estrada won in the opening round, but he was eliminated in the second by Cuban Michel Lopes, who Estrada had fairly easily defeated in the championship final of the 2003 Pan-American Games. Povetkin went on to capture the gold medal.
“I would have loved to fight him” Estrada said. “I was super sharp, mentally, but physically I couldn’t bounce and move. I just had to deal with it. I found out that it was amazing how quickly people forget in boxing.”
Not only does Estrada credit his father, optometrist Dr. Roland Estrada, for helping to keep him on the straight and narrow, he also taught him to box. “My father didn’t have any boxing experience when we started,” Jason noted. “We went from gym to gym, sparring guys, and picking up things from other coaches.
I appreciated my father so much because he always knew that his style wasn’t the only style. We experienced different styles and met some great coaches. Two of my favorite coaches are Barry Hunter (Washington D.C.) and Mike Stafford (Cincinnati). I’m cool with fighters I met in the amateurs like Andre Dirrell.
The guy I’m closest with is George Garcia, who I fought and beat nine times. He’s one of my coolest friends, though. His son is a good prospect coming up, but he’s the opposite of his father, who was short and stocky. His son is a tall, lanky boxer.”