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Super Showdown Saturday: Estrada vs Rodriguez Preview

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Super Showdown Saturday: Estrada vs Rodriguez Preview
Photo Credit: Melina Pizano, Matchroom

Given the quality of the matchup and the anticipation of an all-action fight, it’s nearly criminal the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona, hasn’t been sold out for weeks for the upcoming WBC World Super Flyweight title fight between Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico (44-3, 28 KOs) and Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez of San Antonio, Texas (19-0, 12 KOs).

The good news is that you’ve still got time to bag a seat and bring a friend for what's nearly a lock as a Fight of the Year candidate, and a look at the past, present, and future of the division.

Jesse Rodriguez and Juan Francisco Estrada look on before throwing the ceremonial first pitch ahead of the Minnesota Twins versus Arizona Diamondbacks game at Chase Field this week. Photo: Amanda Westcott, Matchroom. Estrada vs Rodriguez

Jesse Rodriguez and Juan Francisco Estrada look on before throwing the ceremonial first pitch ahead of the Minnesota Twins versus Arizona Diamondbacks game at Chase Field this week. Photo: Amanda Westcott, Matchroom.

The card airs live on DAZN, starting with preliminary fights at 7:15 p.m. ET/4:15 p.m. PT and the main card at 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT. Arizona-based reporter Ernie Green will be ringside for NY Fights.

Estrada Has The Experience Edge

Juan Francisco Estrada will not give up his prized WBC belt easily. Photo: Amanda Westcott, Matchroom. Estrada vs Rodriguez

Juan Francisco Estrada will not give up his prized WBC belt easily. Photo: Amanda Westcott, Matchroom.

At age 34, the two-division champion Estrada has cemented his legacy as one of this generation's best smaller-division fighters. He won his first flyweight and super flyweight titles in a barnburner split decision over American Brian Viloria in 2013. “El Gallo” has delivered thrilling fights ever since.

As part of the “Super Fly” quartet, including Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua, Carlos Cuadras of Me, and Srisikat Sor Rungvisai, Estrada and friends have swapped wins and losses for the last seven years. Estrada arguably emerged on top thanks to two hard-won victories over future Hall of Famer Gonzalez.

Juan Francisco Estrada won the third of his trilogy fights with Roman Gonzalez in December 2022. Photo: Melina Pizano, Matchroom.

Estrada intends to keep proving himself against the 24-year-old upstart who has been taking over the smaller weight divisions win by win.

Rodriguez Roaring Through Opponents

Jesse Rodriguez was able to turn his bout against Sunny Edwards into a firefight at close range. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom. Rodriguez stops Edwards

Jesse Rodriguez was able to turn his bout against Sunny Edwards into a firefight at close range. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

Rodriguez scored an impressive win over Cuadras two years ago, then took out Rungvisai in an impressive eighth-round stoppage. In December, Rodriguez delivered a surprisingly one-sided victory over Sunny Edwards of London (20-1, 4 KOs), forcing Edwards' corner to stop the WBO/IBF World Flyweight title unification fight in ten rounds.

For those who’ve been listening, trainer Robert Garcia told people five years ago the best fighter in his gym among his multiple world champions was this 19-year-old kid whose brother Joshua Franco won his first title in 2020. Even Franco admitted Bam was a much better fighter than him.

Now, Rodriguez faces his toughest test, the same thing we have written before about nearly all his recent fights. He’s passed with ease every time. Should Rodriguez defeat Estrada, he’ll make a good case for being added to the top ten pound-for-pound list.

Estrada vs Rodriguez: FOTY Potential

Juan Francisco Estrada has never yielded easily, and doesn't plan to do it on Saturday. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Matchroom

Juan Francisco Estrada has never yielded easily and doesn't plan to do it on Saturday. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Matchroom

Estrada won’t make it easy.

“In my boxing career, I’ve had 47 fights,” pointed out Estrada. “Some of them have been really tough, and I believe this fight will be another one of those tough fights, but I’m totally ready to win convincingly on Saturday night.

“I’m going to go out all-action from the first round like I always do but in an intelligent way, that will be my plan when I go into the fight. My plan is to go and show – as (Rodriguez) says I’m finished, I’m old – my aim is to show that is not correct.”

Jesse Rodriguez trains at JL Boxing Academy ahead of his fight against Juan Francisco Estrada. Photo: Melina Pizano, Matchroom.

Rodriguez is not a trash talker. His calm demeanor shouldn’t be mistaken for concern. He said this is the fight he’s wanted all his young life and given it all in training.

“I might not show it, but this is the most excited I’ve been for a fight my whole career,” explained Rodriguez. “I know what is at stake and what this win can do for my career and my life.

“I do believe it could start a little technical, but once I figure him out, it’s a wrap. I feel like I have the skills to stop anybody that I am put in the ring with. So on Saturday night, I will prove everyone wrong once again.”

Estrada’s trainer, Jose Alfredo Caballero, and Rodriguez’s trainer, Robert Garcia Junior, both insist their athletes are ready, well-prepared, and will prevail. Caballero says Rodriguez’s prior wins were against faded champions. Garcia Jr. said the better the competition, the better Bam performs.

“On Saturday night, everyone is going to see a whole other level to Bam. He’s also only 24 years old, and people forget that he became champ at such a young age, he’s not near his physical prime yet,” said Garcia Jr.

Prediction: Bam Brings It

Jesse "Bam" Rodriguez dominated Sunny Edwards during their WBO and IBF world flyweight title unification fight at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez dominated Sunny Edwards during their WBO and IBF world flyweight title unification fight at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Photo: Ed Mulholland, Matchroom.

While the ten-year age difference is a factor, inactivity is the issue of greater concern. Fans have seen several recently anticipated fights go to the man or woman who’s been more active in the ring.

Estrada hasn’t had a fight since his narrow victory over Roman Gonzalez 18 months ago, and he’s only fought once a year since 2020. Rodriguez has fought four times in two years, including his decisive wins over Cuadras, Rungvisai, and Edwards.

Both men have tremendous punch output, and both have solid chins. Neither knows how to take a step back. Does the determined veteran have enough left and the wiles to keep himself away from trouble? Or is it time for the confident young champion to signal a changing of the guard?

After facing down the doubters, it’s impossible to pick against Rodriguez, the prohibitive betting favorite. But Estrada will go out on his shield and with pride. Boxing fans getting their money’s worth, whether at the Footprint Center or watching at home, is the surest bet of all.

Sunny Edwards Returns Against Adrien Curiel in Co-Main

Sunny Edwards has been training alongside former opponent Jesse Rodriguez. Photo: Melina Pizano, Matchroom.

Sunny Edwards has been training alongside former opponent Jesse Rodriguez ahead of their respective fights Saturday at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Melina Pizano, Matchroom.

On the undercard, the man Rodriguez recently defeated will get back in the saddle. The bombastic former flyweight champion Sunny Edwards returns to Phoenix, where he will take on Adrien Curiel of Mexico (24-5-1, 5 KOs) and is the heavy favorite.

Edwards has been training in the southwestern U.S., including alongside his former foe Rodriguez.

“A boxing ring is where I feel at home. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the UK, Dubai or Arizona,” said Edwards. “I loved the experience out here last time. It was a fantastic one, it was the best event that I’ve been part of by a long way.”

Edwards said he wouldn’t bother to get our of bed for “easy eight or ten rounders” against a fellow Brit without a chance of beating him. “Saturday night, I have to get back to winning ways; otherwise, where do I go from there?”

Sunny Edwards took time for a photo with Conor McGregor in Riyadh just a week after his loss to Jesse Rodriguez in December. Photo: Mark Robinson, Matchroom Boxing

Just a week after his beatdown from Bam, Edwards showed up at the “Day of Reckoning” card in Saudi Arabia with bruising and wounds, “and I wore them proudly. They were scars from battle that I earned the hard way,” said Edwards, who refused to slink away after his loss.

“Twenty times in a row, I won quite easily and convincingly and didn’t really have to think too much. The one night I’ve lost, I have to take that on the chin. Bam won. A lot of people are saying it is sickening being on the undercard of someone that beat you. I think it’s fitting and exactly where I need to be.

“Getting a win in America is what I need to do after the first time didn’t go so well,” said Edwards. This is why he’s become a beloved fan favorite on both sides of the Atlantic with his happy warrior personality.

Short of Curiel striking lightning twice as he did with his improbable upset win over IBF World light flyweight champion Sivenathi Notshinga, who promptly got his revenge in the rematch, Edwards should take care of business and have a damn good time doing it.

Gayle Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist and the only woman journalist who is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). She is West Coast Bureau Chief based in San Diego, California.