Eddie Hearn considers WBC junior-bantamweight champion Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez one of the best fighters in the world. While a fight with undisputed junior-featherweight champion Naoya Inoue remains a fantasy, Hearn believes that it could become a reality if Inoue remains at 122lbs.

Rodriguez delivered a “star-making performance” on Saturday by stopping former titlist Juan Francisco Estrada – considered one of the best of the previous era – in seven rounds. At just 24 years of age, Rodriguez has defeated Estrada, Carlos Cuadras, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai – three of the four top junior bantamweights of their era. His sparring partner and mentor, Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez, is the only top contender he hasn’t fought, and it is unlikely that they will ever be matched. It is perhaps partly for that raason that Hearn discussed a potential future fight between Rodriguez (20-0, 13 KOs) of San Antonio and Inoue (27-0, 24 KOs) of Japan.

“Jesse versus [Naoya] Inoue is a fantasy fight, but it is also an incredible fight,” he told Matchroom. “They will probably end up missing each other, but who knows?

“If Inoue does stay at 122 [lbs] for the next couple of years, Jesse will meet him there.” 

Hearn praised Rodriguez, spoke of him as a top-five pound-for-pound fighter after his performance against Estrada, and acknowledged that those in the lighter weight classes have a tougher time getting “respect”. 

“The problem with the lower weight classes is they don’t often get the respect of the higher weight classes,” he said. “Jesse Rodriguez should be mentioned, as I said in the ring, in the same sentence as Terence Crawford, [Oleksandr] Usyk, and [Naoya] Inoue – he is that good.”

The fight, witnessed by a crowd of 10,000 in Phoenix, Arizona, highlighted Rodriguez's emergence as a superstar. Estrada has a rematch clause, which he appears keen on exercise. Hearn regardless views Rodriguez's win over Estrada as a significant milestone that brings a potential fight with Inoue closer to reality.

“Just a pure pound-for-pound star,” the promoter said.