Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez could not have penned a more passionate love letter to his hometown crowd.
The unbeaten WBC junior bantamweight titlist delivered a tour-de-force performance in an eighth-round knockout of Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Rodriguez floored the former two-time champ in round seven before a barrage of punches forced referee Mark Calo-oy waved off the contest at 1:50 of round eight in their DAZN main event Saturday evening at Tech Port Arena in Rodriguez’s hometown of San Antonio, Texas.
“What more can I say? My skills proved the point,” Rodriguez noted after registering the first defense of the WBC 115-pound title he claimed in a twelve-round win over former champ Carlos Cuadras less than five months ago. “We know what I’m capable of and that’s why we took the fight in the first place. We know what I brought to the table and tonight showed that.
Rodriguez entered his first title under extremely unfamiliar circumstances, agreeing to face Cuadras for the vacant WBC junior bantamweight title on six days’ notice and one division above the weight for which he trained this past February in Phoenix. The 22-year-old southpaw enjoyed the exact opposite experience on Saturday, fully prepared for his second straight fight at junior bantamweight and fighting on home soil.
His preparation and already supreme skillset were well on display from the outset.
Rodriguez used constant movement to discourage Sor Rungvisai, who overextended with a shot and was immediately countered by a straight left hand by the defending champ. Rodriguez doubled up on the jab, snapping back the head of Sor Rungvisai who managed to come back with a straight left hand. Rodriguez stuck to the script, landing with a jab-left-jab inside the final 15 seconds of the round.
Sor Rungvisai looked for a home for his left hand in round two. An occasional shot found its target, only for Rodriguez to counter with one-twos as his blazing hand speed was on display. Sor Rungvisai waded through a combination to connect with a power jab, snapping back the head of Rodriguez.
A dazzling boxing display was offered by Rodriguez in round three. A right hand forced Sor Rungvisai into a defensive shell, with Rodriguez immediately following with a left hand and right hook. Rodriguez was already out of punching range by the time Sor Rungvisai attempted to counter. Rodriguez closed strong, connecting with a left hand and right uppercut then sliding back just enough to force Sor Rungvisai to miss with a left hand.
Sor Rungvisai barely avoided a knockdown, as he was rocked midway through round four but managed to keep his glove from touching the canvas. Rodriguez grew more confident in his power shots, dazzling the former champ with a left hand and right hook. Sor Rungvisai remained composed long enough to connect with a left hook to the body which didn’t appear to bother Rodriguez though it caught his attention.
“After the third round, I felt like I was breaking him down a bit,” Rodriguez noted. “I could feel it by then, I knew his power wasn’t the same, not like it was in the first two rounds.”
Rodriguez briefly rocked Sor Rungvisai, catching the Thai southpaw with a left-jab-left combination. The defending champ avoided a knockdown call, absorbing a body shot but tripping over Sor Rungvisai’s foot while blocking a left hand. Time was called just before the final minute to allow Sor Rungvisai’s corner to tend to his untied right shoe. The brief break allowed a moment of relief for the visiting challenger who was getting dissected to that point.
Body punches were the weapon of choice for Rodriguez early in round six, tagging Sor Rungvisai with right hooks and left hands downstairs. Rodriguez took the attack upstairs, frustrating the 35-year-old with one-twos down the middle.
Sor Rungvisai suffered the first knockdown of the right inside the first minute of round seven. A left hand by Rodriguez landed on the ear, forcing Sor Rungvisai to lose his footing as he hit the deck.
“Coming into the fight, I said in my interviews I couldn’t stand in there like I did with Cuadras. We came out here tonight and put on a show. I started using my angles more. Robert [Garcia, Rodriguez’s head trainer] told me to use my angles and that’s what I did.”
The former champ contended that it was a slip, though not preventing the referee from issuing a mandatory eight count. Rodriguez continued to apply relentless pressure in round eight, determined to close the show to the delight of his hometown faithful. He delivered in emphatic fashion, battering a worn down Sor Rungvisai. Rodriguez drove his challenger to the ropes, which technically could have been called a knockdown. He didn’t break stride, launching a series of unanswered punches until the fight was mercifully halted.
Sor Rungvisai suffered his first stoppage defeat since 2009, almost to the day when he was stopped in each of his first two fights. More than thirteen years passed by since that moment, with the hard-punching Thai enjoying two separate WBC title reigns and a pound-for-pound run as recent as three years ago before losing to Juan Francisco Estrada in their April 2019 rematch after outpointing the elite-level Mexican in February 2018.
The first win over Estrada came immediately after a pair of wins over Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (51-3, 41KOs), including his becoming the only fighter to knock out the Nicaraguan legend in their September 2017. Overall, Sor Rungvisai went 3-2 against his fellow Fab Four members in Estrada, Gonzalez and Cuadras.
Rodriguez has already dominated half of that quartet. Boxing’s youngest champion storms to 16-0 (11KOs) with the win, getting the job done with precision punching as he landed a startling 65.7% of his power shots (119-of 181) out of 233-of-431 total punches (54.1%) according to Compubox’s unofficial punch stats.
Sor Rungvisai landed just 84-of-440 total punches (19.1%), and 72-of-265 power shots (27.2%).
Rodrgiuez now his sights set on becoming a multi-division champion, even as he’s fully adapted to the junior bantamweight division. He previously eyed junior flyweight as his first target but eventually made his way to junior bantamweight, with the last-minute assignment against Cuadras preparing him for what was supposed to be his toughest test to date.
“I’m thankful for that Cuadras fight. It not only gave me experience but it put my name out there. Now I’m here as the main event in San Antonio. Without that fight, I wouldn’t be here.”
Rodriguez is here and not going anywhere for a long time. However, his next move could come at flyweight. A potential logjam exists at 115, where his brother, WBA ‘World’ titlist Joshua Franco (18-1-2, 8KOs) awaits a fight date for a showdown with Estrada who holds the lineal and WBA ‘Super’ crown. A fight with Gonzalez is viewed as a last resort option for Rodriguez, as the two are close friends and both co-promoted by Mr. Honda’s Teiken Promotions.
Head trainer Robert Garcia was already hesitant to allow Rodriguez to compete at junior bantamweight but respected his student’s elite skill set as he softened his stance on that call. The former champ and 2012 Trainer of the Year could get his way for Rodriguez’s next fight, whether against WBO flyweight champ Junto Nakatani (who was in attendance), troubled WBC champ Julio Cesar Martinez who dropped out of Saturday’s show due to an undisclosed illness, or undefeated IBF flyweight titlist and boxing purist Sunny Edwards.
“I’m down to do whatever Robert says,” noted Rodriguez. “I’m down to face any champion at 112. Anyone that wants it, come and get it. I’m here.”
With his ability to make 112, 115 or perhaps even 118 and combined with his talent, it seems that “here” will be at the top level for some time to come no matter Rodriguez’s next move.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox