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Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez is the TSS 2022 Breakthrough Fighter of the Year

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  • Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez is the TSS 2022 Breakthrough Fighter of the Year

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    Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez’s first two fights of 2022 were so impressive that he built a strong case for Fighter of the Year, let alone “Breakthrough.” Few saw this coming for the baby-faced, 22-year-old Tex-Mex southpaw who was considered a solid prospect but had only 14 fights under his belt when he was matched against Carlos Cuadras, a veteran of nine world title fights, for the vacant WBC world super flyweight title on a Matchroom show at Phoenix on Feb. 5. A late replacement for Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who took ill after arriving in Phoenix, “Bam” had only six days to prepare. Moreover, Rodriguez, who carried 105 pounds for his first pro fight, would be moving up in weight.

    Rodriguez not only conquered Cuadras, winning a unanimous decision (117-110, 117-110, 115-112), but did it in impressive style. His footwork and his employment of angles invited comparison to Vasyl Lomachenko. With the victory, he became the sport’s youngest active champion.

    What would “Bam” do for encore?

    Four-and-a-half months later he was back in the ring exchanging blows with the man that had twice conquered former pound-for-pound king Chocolatito Gonzalez, the aforementioned Sor Rungvisai (aka Wisaksil Wangek). The formidable Thai, a 56-fight veteran, had 43 KOs on his resume and was 23-1 in his last 24 starts, the lone defeat coming in a rematch with future Hall of Famer Juan Francisco Estrada.

    Fighting in his hometown of San Antonio, Rodriguez dominated Sor Rungvisai (pictured on the right) before stopping him in the eighth stanza. He had the Thai on the deck in the previous round and forced the stoppage by pinning him against the ropes and strafing him with an assortment of punches. It was a masterclass in the words of ESPN ringsider Mike Coppinger who wrote, “This kid is special.”

    Bam concluded his 2022 campaign in September with a unanimous decision over Israel Gonzalez in the semi-windup to Canelo-Golovkin III in Las Vegas. After the fight, he indicated that he was inclined to relinquish his WBC super flyweight title in favor of pursuing titles in a lower weight class, the 112-pound category. The super flyweight class would remain the domain of his older brother Joshua Franco (18-1-2), the WBA belt-holder who has date with his WBO counterpart Kazuto Ioka on New Years’ Eve in Japan.

    Rodriguez and Franco train in California at Robert Garcia’s boxing academy in Riverside.

    Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / MATCHROOM
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