One down.

Why not go for two?

22-year old Jesse Rodriguez (15-0, 10 KO) jumped at an opportunity in February, moving up from Jr. flyweight to Jr. bantamweight for a chance at a vacant WBC belt and a little bit more than that. The opponent, veteran Carlos Cuadras, has been an integral part of a golden age at 115 lbs. Cuadras was slated for a rematch with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, intended then as the latest chapter in a four way saga that also includes Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada.

Illness knocked Sor Rungvisai out of the fight. Rodriguez knocked Cuadras out of contention, scoring a knockdown and winning a clear but still competitive decision. The youngster would have been well within his rights to head back to Jr. flyweight, continuing to mature and grow before tempting other quality larger men.

Rodriguez picked a tougher road. 

This Saturday, Rodriguez will defend against the 35-year old Sor Rungvisai (50-5-1, 43 KO) in an excellent main event (DAZN, 8 PM EST). What he’s defending will be up for debate depending on how one views the WBC’s franchise titles (Estrada still has that, at least for now). The belt matters less than the fight. 

Still just 22, Rodriguez is seemingly trying to make the present at Jr. bantamweight its past, single handed. If he can win this weekend, that will be two of the “hardcore four” defeated with two left to go. 

Let’s call it the “Bam” Rodriguez replacement plan because it looks like he’s trying to replace the old guard with himself. 

The assignment this weekend is more difficult on paper than Cuadras. Cuadras was 3-3 entering the fight with Rodriguez, coming off a layoff and stoppage loss in his thrilling rematch with Estrada. Sor Rungvisai has been off for over a year but he’s been defeated only once since 2014. At his age, assuming the large framed Thai puncher doesn’t struggle too much to make weight, he remains a physical problem for anyone at Jr. bantamweight.

Sor Rungvisai’s breakthrough win over Roman Gonzalez still sparks debate but what he did in his next two fights remains remarkable. Sor Rungvisai knocked Gonzalez out, the only man to do it or even come close, and followed it up with a decision over Estrada in their first of two fights. It might have been the best stretch of consecutive wins in history for a fighter from Thailand. 

An inexplicable choice by Sor Rungvisai may have cost him the lineal throne he claimed against Estrada the first time. In their rematch, the career southpaw Sor Rungvisai opted to fight orthodox against Estrada the second time around for the first two-thirds of the fight. Estrada exploited the tactic, building a huge lead. The fight ended up just 115-113 on two cards with Sor Rungvisai mounting a late rally when he returned to his best stance. It was a stunning decision then and remains so.

Estrada may well have won that night anyways. Sor Rungvisai definitely made it easier on him. There has never been a rubber match and Sor Rungvisai has won three times since that 2019 defeat. Rodriguez might be getting an aging fighter this weekend but we haven’t really seen decline yet. This is still no less than the second-best Jr. bantamweight in the world until proven otherwise.

It’s a dangerous fight for both combatants and it’s hard to ask for more than that.

If Rodriguez wins, will we see a third-step in the replacement plan? It’s certainly viable. Look at the way the board lays out. Estrada is believed to be headed toward a defense of the WBA and lineal crown against Rodriguez’s brother, Joshua Franco. WBO titlist Kazuto Ioka is slated for a rematch with Donnie Nietes. That leaves, among top options, IBF titlist Fernando Martinez and a man without a belt but still the biggest name in the division.

Roman Gonzalez, like Rodriguez, has been doing his business with DAZN. Gonzalez has a case for being unbeaten since his losses to Sor Rungvisai, his only other defeat coming controversially in Texas to Estrada in 2021. Gonzalez currently doesn’t have anything scheduled.

It’s only June.

If Rodriguez wins this weekend, could he go for a hat trick in 2022? A formidable challenge awaits this weekend that could end any replacement plans before they really get started. But if Rodriguez wins, it’s hard not to wonder.     

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