“I've been a bad boy trying to be a good man my whole life. When the ‘Superfly' flies, it's the most beautiful thing in the world, brother.”
– –Jimmy “SuperFly” Snuka (WWE Hall of Famer)
That quote perfectly describes the excitement that hardcore boxing fans feel when they hear or see anything that revolves around the super flyweight division of 115 pounds, also known as “SuperFly.” That term may or may not have been coined by boxing promoter Tom Loeffler, but he certainly is the man that is always associated with it.
Although fighters from bantamweight on down for many years received little to no press, Loeffler brought the legendary Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez to HBO, which led to the well-known “SuperFly” boxing events that many fans welcomed with open arms in 2017 and beyond. At the time, I was living in Southern California and witnessed how much fans would support those events. It even sparked the start of Sal's famous tailgates at the Forum in Inglewood, where Loeffler himself would pop in to greet those waiting to get inside.
Since then, the fighters at superfly would consistently get prime slots and, in some cases, would be the main event. Recently, there was even a discussion that the real, new version of the four kings is Carlos Cuadras, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Srisikat Sor Rungvisai. Many wouldn't argue with that as all four have faced each other in and around their primes, which can't be said by some of the other divisions. But boxing is an unforgiving sport, and Father Time remains undefeated, so as the years and wars stacked up, these four fighters developed some wear and tear.
So, what happens when the legends start to move past their prime? The young gunns chomping at the bit to get their shot start seeing those opportunities come to fruition; insert WBC super flyweight champion Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez (16-0). The 22-year-old from San Antonio, TX, is the guy who has officially introduced himself to the world stage. After cutting his teeth in the junior flyweight division, he moved up to superfly and took a fight with Carlos Cuadras on short notice and completely outclassed the ultra-veteran and captured the WBC title.
The performance raised some eyebrows, but fans weren't ready to claim him as the second coming of “Chocolatito” Gonzalez just yet. Knowing he had an opportunity to capture the people's imagination, Rodriguez challenged a man who most avoided because of his power, and that was Sor Rungvisai. Even those on Rodriguez's team felt like there were other fights he could have first, but Bam wanted that one, and we saw what that resulted in last weekend.
Rodriguez made Sor Rungvisai look ordinary and dismantled the man that at one point was as solid as a Brink's truck. I was genuinely impressed with his performance which led me to give him the nickname “The SuperFly Legend Killer.” That nickname closely resembles one given to WWE star Randy Orton, who was known as the “Legend Killer” for a storyline that was used years ago.
After the fight, Rodriguez mentioned going back down to flyweight in order to have his brother, WBA champion Joshua Franco, face some of those marquee names. He didn't completely shut the door on fighting again at 115, but he is leaving it up to his team to decide. Days later, Matchroom extended its deal with Rodriguez and Teiken Promotions.
If Bam stays at SuperFly, what's out there for him?
Before we get into any of the young gunns coming up or contenders, let's discuss the divisions' other champions.
WBA World Champion Joshua Franco (17-1-2)
You can forget about this one, as Bam isn't going to be fighting his brother for a title at any point. I also don't see Franco moving up to junior bantamweight just yet, as he moved down from that division a while back. I see Franco maybe going back up to 118 pounds once Naoya Inoue moves up to bantamweight in the near future.
WBA Super Champion Juan Francisco Estrada (42-3)
Estrada has been busy, and it's all been outside of the ring. He got married, and his wife gave birth to twins, so needless to say, he's probably had some long nights already while also recovering from some injuries. Everyone wants to see the third fight between him and Gonzalez, which may cost him his title as the WBA ordered Estrada to fight Franco. Estrada is probably looking at another seven-figure payday, which will certainly be welcomed more than having a title. That fight has been rumored to take place towards the end of the year, so that'll mark two trilogies for the second half of this year.
IBF Champion Fernando Martinez (14-0)
If you remember, back in February, Martinez pulled an upset victory over longtime champ Jerwin Ancajas. The fight was a blowout, and the early discussion has been that those two will get it on again later this year, even though Ancajas didn't do anything to merit another fight with Martinez. The other issue is that Martinez looks to be tied with Premier Boxing Champions and Showtime, which doesn't bode well for a potential fight with Bam Rodriguez.
WBO Champion Kazuto Ioka (28-2)
The 33-year-old veteran has found a new spark recently and will be facing his mandatory Donnie Nietes (43-1-6) in Japan on the 13th. If successful, Rodriguez can potentially face the winner, and it's a fight that his promoter, Mr. Honda, can make into a New Year's Eve extravaganza. A potential fight between Rodriguez and Ioka has all the makings of a legendary night. Could that be the next legend that Rodriguez beats and marks off the list?
Who are the fighters that can make things interesting for Bam Rodriguez?
Kosei Tanaka (17-1)
Here is a fighter who is a three-division champ, and his only blemish came from the hands of Ioka when he dared to be great. Tanaka is 27 years old, and although he hasn't been too active in the ring, he was spotted a few months back in Las Vegas training with Ismael Salas at the Salas Boxing Academy.
A few days ago, Tanaka battered Masayoshi Hashizume earning him a fifth-round TKO victory. Tanaka has long desired an opportunity to fight in the states, and going up against Rodriguez may be the fight that sees him in front of a live US audience. This is another fight with all of the ingredients of a special event.
Charlie Edwards (17-1)
Edwards is on this list because he represents the lone fighter from the UK who Eddie Hearn can justify to DAZN for a fight against Rodriguez. He is coming off a TKO victory in December against Jacob Barreto. This is not an ideal title defense for Bam, but if he wants to make a bigger purse and expose himself across the pond, this would be the fight. It's a winnable fight for Rodriguez, and it would keep him at 115.
Andrew Moloney (24-2)
This would be an interesting fight from a storyline perspective as Moloney's two losses came at the hands of Bam's brother Franco. Moloney is on a three-fight win streak and is with Top Rank, which can be problematic. Hearn has sent fighters to ESPN and Arum to DAZN, but with so much invested into both fighters from their respective teams, it'll be hard to see them making the fight, and it will be an afterthought quicker than it would be a possibility.
My Three Cents:
The torch is being passed at superfly, which means new fighters will become household names for the hardcore fans. Jesse Rodriguez has quieted the doubters and has established himself as one of those fighters. Will there be a few more that level up this year, or will Bam clear things out and thrust himself into the conversation for fighter of the year? We are in some exciting times, and we still have the year's second half to go.