Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez put to bed any lingering doubts about how good he really might be, solidifying himself as a serious rising star and threat at 115 lbs by dominating and stopping Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in San Antonio.
The 22-year-old Rodriguez — the youngest recognized world champion in boxing today — retained his WBC title with a pretty one-sided effort, just outclassing and ultimately brutalizing the 35-year-old Thai veteran.
Rodriguez (16-0, 11 KO) continues his massive breakout year with this win. In February, he stepped in for Rungvisai to face Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC belt, winning clearly over 12 rounds. With Rungvisai (50-6-1, 43 KO) lingering as the mandatory, he got the fight scheduled quickly, and while there was some belief that it might be a step too far, too soon, he proved he was more than ready.
Rungvisai never really got into this one, staying threatening simply because of the reputation of his power and the reality of his toughness. But while Rungvisai has always been noted for being abnormally huge for a 115 lb fighter, Rodriguez — who came up from 108/112 for the Cuadras fight — actually looked like the bigger and stronger fighter, and he was definitely faster and fresher.
Rodriguez officially scored a knockdown in the seventh round, though replays suggested it should have been ruled a slip. It didn’t really matter, though; it gave him even more confidence, which he already was not lacking, and he tagged Rungvisai repeatedly in the rest of round seven, before hurting him again and pouring on heavy pressure in round eight, forcing referee Mark Calo-oy to step in at 1:50.
“After the third round, I felt like his power wasn’t the same. He was still strong, but not like the first two rounds,” Rodriguez said. “Coming into the fight, I said I couldn’t stand in there like I did with Cuadras, and we came out tonight and put on a show.”
“I started using my angles more. (Trainer) Robert (Garcia) kept reminding me to use my angles, and that’s what I did,” he added.
Garcia, meanwhile, wants Rodriguez to move back down to 112 lbs and fight for a title there, which could leave this WBC belt vacant. Rodriguez is willing to listen to his trainer.
“I’m down to do whatever Robert says. Any champion at 112, I’m here. I’m a special fighter, not an average fighter,” he said. “I grew up watching these guys, so being in the ring with them is a privilege in itself. And beating them the way we’ve been beating them, it means everything.”
Asked if he has designs on fighting Juan Francisco Estrada or Chocolatito Gonzalez, Rodriguez deferred those opportunities to his brother.
“That’s for my brother, Joshua Franco. He’s very underrated and he’s waiting for his shot, and when he gets it, people are going to see what he’s about,” he said.
For what it’s worth, Franco is Estrada’s WBA mandatory, and the latest news is they’ll finally fight on Aug. 20. It may be disappointing to hear that Rodriguez does not intend to immediately continue at 115, but he’s a young fighter and Garcia generally knows what he’s doing. It may be the right call.
“These kind of fighters only come around once in a generation,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “We live in a world of hype, but it’s hard not to get too excited. This is the youngest world champion in boxing and already might be a pound-for-pound great.
“From 108 lbs to 115 lbs, honestly, I don’t think I’d back any fighter to beat him. And I’m talking about some of the greats, Chocolatito and Estrada. These feel like they’re a long way away, but honestly, would you put those guys as a favorite against ‘Bam’ Rodriguez now? He can go down to 108, he can go to 112, but literally, there’s not one fighter they wouldn’t accept the challenge against. This man is here to be great, for legacy and to be remembered. He’s a special, special talent.”