In the words of the late Dennis Green: He is who we thought he was -- crown him.
While he may have not been involved in the highest profile card, or the most accomplished boxer of the weekend, Jesse 'Bam' Rodriguez, in handily defeating the experienced Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC super flyweight title, was the best fighter we saw on Saturday night.
At age 22, he is now the sports youngest belt-holder.
"That was a tough ass fight," said Rodriguez,''he brought out a Jesse Rodriguez I didn't know was in me. I'm so happy. I knew it was going to be a tough fight, he's a true warrior. I though I was going to get him out of there but he's so strong."
Yeah, this wasn't just a coronation, but a real fight. This was a title that was hard-earned and well-deserved
Coming in on late notice in place of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, the southpaw from San Antonio, Texas, displayed his all-around skills by out-boxing Cuadras with the use of pivots and angles, and consistently beating him to the punch with sharp, accurate salvos.
Ed Mulholland and Matchroom Sports
In the third round he executed an exquisite right uppercut as he stepped around Cuadras to create an opening for himself that produced the only knockdown of the fight.
Throughout this bout he was in control but this wasn't a waltz for Rodriguez at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Cuadras kept plugging away and he landed his share of punches in the second half of the proceedings. Rodriguez, who had never gone past eight rounds in his young career, went into uncharted waters and held himself together as well as can be expected.
As the final bell rang, it was clear who the victor was. The scores read 115-112, 117-110 and 117-110 for Rodriguez, and you got the sense that a new era is beginning in the lighter weight classes.
BAM RODRIGUEZ “I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED! THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF GREATNESS, MY LIFE CHANGED TODAY”
What made this effort even more impressive is that not only did Rodriguez get notice of this opportunity last Sunday, but he's also a natural junior flyweight. He's rated number four by the WBO and second by the WBA in their 108-pound ratings. But 'Bam' is one of those young boxers -- like a Jaron 'Boots' Ennis -- who is so talented and dangerous, that they will have to be a mandatory challenger to get a title shot.
Ed Mulholland and Matchroom Sports
So when Robert Garcia (who trains and manages Rodriguez) got the call last weekend, they didn't hesitate to fill the void left by the Thai boxer. They understood that there are times when you have to roll the dice. But with a talent like Rodriguez, it wasn't so much a gamble but a calculated risk.
Special talents, sometimes are called onto do special things. Many others would've rejected such a fight because quite frankly, they aren't as talented, and don't possess the requisite faith it takes to be an elite performer.
At just 15 fights in, Rodriguez (15-0, 10 KOs) is a world champion. There is a good chance that with his increased visibility and value from this recent win, that he will go back down in weight and look to win titles at junior flyweight and flyweight. Garcia has told anyone who would listen the last year or so that this young man (who's older brother, Joshua Franco, is also a world champion) was destined to win belts in four or five divisions. Nobody ever said he wouldn't hop around a bit in doing so.
Rodriguez is technically sound fighter, one who puts together combinations seamlessly with above average power in both hands, gets himself in-and-out of danger with deft footwork, and has a high ring IQ for his limited experience. Watching him hit the heavy bag, is akin to seeing Tony Gwynn work the batting tee. You see the craftsmanship and technique that is perfectly honed. You don't have to be Emanuel Steward to understand that what he's doing is textbook in form and function.
It says here that his best boxing is still in front of him, and that he will only improve as he becomes more active. Coming into this bout with Cuadras, he only performed once last year (a four round TKO of Jose Alejandro Burgos in October), as several fight cards fell through.
Ed Mulholland and Matchroom Sports
Now co-promoted by Matchroom Boxing (with Teiken Promotions), look for Rodriguez to be a staple of their cards in the States, and showcased often. Given the fact he fights in the games lower weight classes, it's hard to call him a bona-fide star. But at the very least he is now a player. He's also a fighter that the die-hard fans will tune into whenever he plies his trade.
The likes of Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez and Juan Franciso Estrada have been the biggest little men in boxing the past generation. It's clear that the next generation will be lead by the likes of Rodriguez.
"I feel good at this weight, I will stay here for now but if I get a good fight at 108 pounds, or 112 pounds, maybe I'll get the winner of 'Chocolatito' versus (Julio Cesar) Martinez, who knows. I'm just open to the best fights," said the games newest world champion.
As expected, Keith Thurman, who was coming off more than a two year layoff, was able to handle Mario Barrios at the Mandalay Bay on Saturday night. He controlled most of the action and won by the tallies of 118-110 (twice) and 117-111.
I'm not really sure what to make of this, given that Barrios was chosen for a reason. He's a blown-up junior welterweight, who in his last outing was KO'd late by a lightweight (Gervonta Davis). Barrios now plays the role of PBC cannon fodder for bigger names in their stable. This is not a knock on him, he's a decent fighter, but again, there was a reason why he was tabbed for this assignment.
Ryan Hafey, PBC
He was game throughout, and actually hurt Thurman to the body in the eighth round. But overall, he simply couldn't handle the power and strength of his opponent, who showed he still has some gas left in the tank. But you're left wondering how Thurman would fare versus a natural welterweight with more power.
At age 33, he'll eventually get another crack at the welterweight title -- just don't expect him to get within 50 feet of Terence Crawford. This victory over Barrios was just his third outing since 2017.
It was announced by Golden Boy Promotions that the return of Ryan Garcia will be against Emmanuel Tagoe on April 9 in San Antonio.... Meanwhile on March 19, we'll have dueling shows in Los Angeles, with the rematch between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano for all the marbles at 154 at the Crypto Arena (formerly the Staples Center), while the Galen Center on the campus of USC will host the Golden Boy card featuring Vergil Ortiz....Speaking of 'Boots' Ennis, hearing some chatter regarding an IBF eliminator against Custio Clayton....Not sure if I'm going to stick with 'Billion's on Showtime....Some home run hires at coordinator by Mario Cristobal at Miami.... I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....