It’s not often that a fighter ends a successful championship reign just to drop down in weight.

Such a decision was made by Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez, who relinquished his WBC junior bantamweight crown in late October in favor of pursuing a run In the flyweight division. The move caught his co-promoter off guard but also motivated big plans for the year ahead, including an unofficial flyweight tournament between the divisional champions.

“I was a little bit surprised that he would move down,” Eddie Hearn admitted to “Of course, he started at the lighter weight. Then he took the title fight at 115. Now he’s decided to return to flyweight.

“I quite liked him to fight the winner of [the third fight between Juan Francisco] Estrada-Chocolatito [Gonzalez] but he’s campaigning at flyweight now and wants to become a two-division champion. He wants to fight Julio Cesar Martinez, he wants to fight Sunny Edwards. Both are massive fights.”

The move came after Rodriguez enjoyed a breakout year in 2022, winning three fights with the WBC junior bantamweight title at stake. He began the year by fighting for the belt on just six days' notice, moving up in weight to face former titlist Carlos Cuadras in place of former lineal champ Srisaket Sor Rungvisai who fell ill. Rodriguez outpointed Cuadras over twelve rounds on Feb. 4 in Phoenix, followed by a hometown headliner versus Sor Rungvisai. Rodriguez delivered a career-best performance, knocking out the Thai southpaw in the eighth round of their June 25 DAZN headliner in San Antonio. 

His 2022 campaign ended with a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over two-time title challenger Israel Gonzalez. It came on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin trilogy clash at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. There was pre-fight talk of squeezing in a fourth fight on the year, before Rodriguez shut everything down to reload for 2023 and return to the flyweight division. 

With that decision came the idea for Matchroom Boxing to explore a series of high profile 112-pound fights.

Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing has promotional ties to both Rodriguez (17-0, 11KOs) and reigning WBC flyweight champ Julio Cesar Martinez (19-2, 14KOs; 2NC). Rodriguez is in line to next face Mexico’s Cristian Gonzalez for the vacant WBO flyweight title sometime in early spring 2023. If Hearn gets his way, Martinez could face the uber-talented Sunny Edwards, the reigning IBF flyweight titlist promoted by Probellum who has long called for a unification bout with the fiery puncher from Mexico City.

A potential option for Rodriguez if Edwards-Martinez comes to fruition is the winner of the January 28 clash between WBA flyweight titlist Artem Dalakian (21-0, 15KOs) and mandatory challenger David Jimenez. Their bout will take place at OVO Arena Wembley in London, with Edwards-Martinez also likely to land in the U.K.

By year’s end, the hope is to crown a single flyweight king.

“I want to get Julio Cesar Martinez in unifications,” acknowledged Hearn. “He’s obviously not going to stay at 112 forever. He’s in a position where he’s a very good fighter, very difficult to beat. I know for a fact that Julio Cesar Martinez wants to fight Sunny Edwards. So, too, does Bam Rodriguez. That’s another great fight, Bam vs. Sunny Edwards.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox