Boxing fans who follow the lower third of the scale have been treated to a golden era at Jr. bantamweight over the last six or so years.
Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez wants to keep the party going.
In consecutive contests, Rodriguez has moved from Jr. flyweight to Jr. Bantamweight, knocking off two of the storied “hardcore four.” After a win over Carlos Cuadras earlier in the year, Rodriguez took on one of the heaviest handed fighters in the sport.
It was no contest.
Former lineal king Srisaket Sor Rungvisai was stopped in his first two pro starts in 2009 but never once he’d matured as a pro. Sor Rungvisai took the best Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada had to offer and didn’t flinch. On Saturday, slower of hand and foot than Rodriguez, the Thai veteran seemed to have a wise gameplan.
Sor Rungvisai was looking for the body, banging what he could find, and hoping it would pay off later. Through five rounds, he kept it competitive enough to leave wonder about how things might unfold even as Rodriguez was winning every round.
In round six, Rodriguez went from winning rounds to completely dismantling his man. Comfortable with the task, the 22-year old escalated his game and the 35-year old couldn’t keep up. A knockdown in the seventh hinted at the end. A relentless fusilade of punches in the eighth delivered it.
Jesse Rodriguez is the future.
The future is here.
Futures: What does the future entail? Rodriguez’s team talked about stepping back down to win a belt at flyweight and there are good options there. Julio Cesar Martinez, scratched from Saturday’s card, could be an easy fight to make for the WBC strap. The best fight at flyweight from a fan perspective might be 24-year old WBO titlist Junto Nakatani. Rodriguez-Nakatani might be too early right now but that could be a significant clash for both men down the road.
With two down, it’s hard not to want to see Rodriguez against the two remaining. Rodriguez’s brother, Joshua Franco, will get first crack at lineal champion Juan Francisco Estrada. Roman Gonzalez doesn’t have a dance partner at the moment. Unlike Sor Rungvisai and Cuadras, Gonzalez would be coming into the fight riding a wave of hot performances. Is the younger man ready to knock off a living legend?
It’s a hell of a fight if we can get there.
For Sor Rungvisai, this isn’t an end by any means if he doesn’t want it to be. A move to bantamweight might even be wise to extend his shelf life. We’ve grown more accustomed to seeing fighters have to wait longer for title shots and play the long game to stay relevant and paid into what feel like later ages. What happened Saturday was just boxing’s natural order. 22 was never too young to be an elite fighter. Youth just needs their elders to open the door.
Cuadras and Sor Rungvisai did. Rodriguez blew it off the hinges.
Is anyone else interested in Katie Taylor-Jessica McCaskill II? That might be a different, and intriguing, rematch for both…Jonathan Gonzalez got past Mark Barriga but it wasn’t a memorable affair for either…Hekkie Budler still has gas in the tank. His final round knockdown of Elwin Soto sealed the deal in their clash of former titlists. The former two-division titlist is extending his shelf life and remains an entertaining battler…Murodjon Akhmadaliev-Stephen Fulton is the fight at Jr. featherweight. Can we get hopes up for it in 2022?
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com