Robert Garcia wasn't lying about the potential of Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez when he called him the most talented fighter in his impressive RGBA stable. Rodriguez of San Antonio (15-0, 10 KOs) became the youngest world champion at age 22 with a mature performance over veteran Carlos Cuadras of Mexico (39-5-1, 27 KOs), winning the WBC World Super Flyweight title. Scorecards were 117-110 X 2 and 115-112.
Rodriguez moved up from a flyweight assignment on the undercard with five days' notice, and betting on himself paid off.
“It was a tough ass fight,” admitted Rodriguez. “Praise to Carlos Cuadras. He brought out a Bam Rodriguez I didn't know I had. I went 12 today like nothing.”
Cuadras has fought the best names in one of boxing's most competitive divisions. He's never looked bad in any close loss. Rodriguez came as close as anyone has to make Cuadras struggle, but he made Rodriguez work for the win, and the young Texan proved to be capable.
“I knew Cuadras was going to bring out the best in me,” said Rodriguez. “It was going to be a tough fight for the whole 12 rounds. It was exactly what I expected. Cuadras is a warrior. I thought I was going to get him out of there.”
Rodriguez caught Cuadras one minute into the third round with a right uppercut hidden by the angle. Rodriguez played it smart and eased off when he saw Cuadras remained dangerous.
Accuracy, footwork, and effective defense
Rodriguez isn't naturally heavy-handed. He's effective because he's accurate, agile, and defensively elusive. Although he was more than willing to stand right in front of Cuadras and trade shots, trainer Garcia urged him to use his angles, land his shots and keep moving. “In the fifth round, (Cuadras) wasn't going to get out of there, so I had to box the rest of the fight. They all told me to stay calm, it's your fight, and that's what I did,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez's movement in the ring is almost musical in its rhythm. It's a bit premature to compare him to Manny Pacquiao or Vasiliy Lomachenko, but the potential is there to see. Let's remind ourselves he's 22 years old.
Rodriguez conserves energy through his accuracy and gives him everything he needed in his first 12 round fight. He landed 45% of his power punches (174 of 383) and 38% of his total punches (258 of 688), against just 18% total connects for Cuadras (172 of 944), with 147 of 481 power punches (31%).
Rodriguez keeps his options open
Rodriguez said it was all in preparation, “having Robert (Garcia) behind me at RGBA where we train our asses off every day. All of us in that gym give 110% every day.”
Rodriguez said before the fight he'd vacate the title to return to his natural weight division, but with the pretty green belt in his hands, he gave himself options. “I feel good at 115. If I get a good opportunity to fight someone else here at this weight, I will. If I get a shoutout at 108 or 112, I'm also happy to go down,” said Rodriguez.
The young Texan is likely to be booking his trip to San Diego to see Roman Gonzalez fight Julio Cesar Martinez in March. Fighting the winner is a serious ask, but whatever happens, bet on Bam to carry the smaller weight divisions along with his brother Joshua Franco for many entertaining years ahead.
It takes an excellent opponent to make a new champion, and credit goes to Cuadras for never backing down. Cuadras has taken on every major name in the division, and the 33-year-old veteran is never in a bad fight. He could have easily beaten Srisikat Sor Rungvisai, his original opponent. The happy Mexican warrior will be welcome back into the ring should he choose to return.
Highlights from the undercards
Jamie Mitchell defends title with fourth-round KO win
WBA World Bantamweight champion Jamie Mitchell of Pacific Grove, California (8-0-2, 5 KOs) defended her title with a flashy fourth-round knockout win over Carly Skelly of Liverpool, England (4-1-1). Mitchell scored knockdowns in the first and second rounds. Skelly was out on her feet but made it to the bell. She insisted to her corner she could continue, but bravery was no match for Mitchell's power and skills.
Mitchell congratulated middleweight champion Claressa Shields on her win earlier in the day, saying she wants to follow in her footsteps. “She gave me great sparring matches at the Mayweather Gym to get ready for this fight. For me to be able to spar with her, it's a precious moment,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell says she's a jack of all trades, and when Skelly wanted to come forward, “I wanted to tell her not to do that but be my guest. I'm going to stop her in her tracks. People are still sleeping on me, but I'm going to wake them up.” Mitchell's win sets up a rematch with Shannon Courtney for the title Mitchell took from her in Liverpool last October. Mitchell used boxing to fight her way out of her foster youth past.
Raymond Ford squeaks past Edward Vazquez
Featherweight Raymond Ford of Camden, New Jersey (11-0-1, 6 KOs) pulled out a split decision over Edward Vazquez of Fort Worth, Texas (11-1, 3 KOs). Scores were 98-92 and 97-93 for Ford, 96-94 for Vasquez. Vazquez was the busier man, forcing his plan on Ford through the first half of the fight. With the result threatening to slip away from Ford, he stepped up his effort. The crowd was behind Vazquez, and it seemed he might get the nod, but the favorite took the cards.
Fernando Diaz defeats Lorenzo Smith
Fernando Diaz of Riverside, California (11-1-1, 3 KOs) handed Lorenzo Smith of Phoenix (10-1, 8 KOs) his first loss in a hard-fought ten rounds. Scores were 96-93 X 2 and 95-94 for Diaz. Smith suffered a fifth-round knockout but bit down and came back to win the second half of the ten-round bout to prevail.
Adam Stewart wins hometown victory
Former football player and MMA competitor Adam Stewart of Phoenix (13-1-1, 8 KOs) wins in front of the hometown fans over Alvin Davie of Miami (6-3, 5 KO) with a sixth-round knockdown sealing the unanimous decision with three 60-53 shutout scorecards.