The future couldn’t be brighter for Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez.
The fact that the unbeaten 22-year-old has not only chosen to stay at junior bantamweight but is prepared to face the division’s elite talent is music to the ears of Eddie Hearn, Rodriguez’s co-promoter along with Teiken Promotions. Next up for boxing’s youngest active titlist is the first defense of his WBC junior bantamweight title, as Rodriguez faces former two-time champ Srisaket Sor Rungvisai at Tech Port Arena in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas.
The fight comes less than five months after Rodriguez (15-0, 11KOs) became the first-ever 2000-born fighter to win a major title, thus making him the youngest active champ in the sport. He did so in outpointing former titlist Carlos Cuadras in a fight he accepted on just six days’ notice, moving up in weight and replacing an ill Sor Rungvisai (50-5-1, 43KOs) atop the February 5 DAZN show in Phoenix, Arizona.
Now he takes on a dangerous former champ. With a win, Rodriguez fully intends to stick around at junior bantamweight, a weight that boasts pound-pound talent such as lineal/WBA champion Juan Francisco Estrada (42-3, 28KOs), former four-division champ Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (50-3, 41KOs) and WBO titlist Kazuto Ioka (28-2, 15KOs).
“I love Bam, I think he’s a star,” Hearn told BoxingScene.com. “When you can map out the future of a fighter like Bam Rodriguez—Bam fought Cuadras on six days’ notice and at a higher weight. Now he’s fighting Rungvisai. Then, we can match him with Chocolatito, Estrada and Julio Cesar Martinez all back-to-back-to-back. That’s a fuckin’ pound-for-pound run.”
Martinez (18-2, 14KOs; 2NC) also appears on the show, defending his WBC flyweight title versus Puerto Rico’s McWilliams Arroyo. The bout is a rematch to their November 19 title consolidation clash in Manchester, New Hampshire, where both fighters hit the deck in a condensed two-round slugfest that ended in a No-Contest when Arroyo was unable to continue due to a cut from an accidental headbutt.
Wins by Rodriguez and Martinez could very well set up a head-on collision later this year. A more natural matchup could come with Estrada, should he prevail over secondary WBA titlist Joshua Franco (18-1-2, 8KOs)—Rodriguez’s older brother by five years—later this summer, tentatively eyed for July 18. Rodriguez is obviously rooting hard for his brother to prevail, though is prepared to settle the score in the event Estrada prevails in their fight.
The good news for Rodriguez and for Matchroom Boxing is that nearly every relevant fight at 115 is affiliated with DAZN in some capacity. Even better, is the fact that Rodriguez has no intention to drop back down in weight as long as all of these fights are within reach.
“That’s exciting. Those fights are so easy to make,” notes Hearn. “Two fights ago, Bam was at like $30,000. Now he’s making ten times that for his next fight. He’s been grafting in the gym with Robert Garcia for years. He’s really good… he may even be the favorite against Chocolatito right now. It’s crazy.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox