Jesse Rodriguez: I know I can beat Srisaket Sor Rungvisai easily
It has been over four years since Jesse Rodriguez has fought in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. In that time, Rodriguez has developed from a bona-fide prospect into a world titleholder, and Ring ranked in two weight classes (junior flyweight and junior bantamweight).
Success has not changed Rodriguez. It has motivated him to continue pursuing his goal of winning world titles in multiple weight classes. He also likes challenges, including his next opponent who could thwart those goals and ambitions.
Rodriguez will defend his WBC 115-pound title against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Saturday night, at Tech Port Arena in San Antonio. The 12-round bout will headline a four-bout DAZN stream (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
The compelling clash between Rodriguez and Rungvisai pits two of the best junior bantamweights in boxing against one another. Rungvisai and Rodriguez are ranked Nos. 1 and 6, respectively, by The Ring.
Rungvisai was originally scheduled to face Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC title on February 5 but had to withdraw from the fight due to a non-COVID-19 illness. Rodriguez was scheduled to fight Fernando Diaz in a junior flyweight bout on the same card but agreed to the fight after being presented with the offer to face Cuadras.
Rodriguez boxed exceptionally well throughout most of the fight, winning by unanimous decision. The southpaw admitted the fight played out the way he thought it would but learned valuable lessons as well.
“I was expecting a tougher fight from Cuadras,” Rodriguez told The Ring over the phone Wednesday afternoon. “There was not a time where I was questioning myself. Other than the body shots [Cuadras] landed, I felt them days after the fight. I thought I did well.”
The 22-year-old Rodriguez will face a stern test in Rungvisai, the longtime WBC mandatory challenger at 115 pounds. In his most recent bout, on March 13, Rungvisai stopped Ekkawit Songnui after the third round. He has won his last three bouts since losing to Juan Francisco Estrada in an April 2019 showdown for the vacant Ring championship.
Rungvisai is best known for his two victories over Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. While Rodriguez is the favorite going into Saturday’s fight, he acknowledges the tough test he faces and doing so with distractions in his hometown.
“This fight is different,” said Rodriguez, who will be fighting for the second time under the Matchroom Boxing banner. “There’s a lot of buzz on social media. I do get people asking me or family for tickets but I’m locked in because I know this is a tough fight for me.
“I know I have a strong fighter in Rungvisai. I expect a tough fight from him. He carries power for 12 rounds. He may not be the fighter he once was but I’m preparing for the vintage Rungvisai, the one who beat Chocolatito twice. He has that mentality to come out strong and I have to fight smart to beat him.”
One aspect that may or may not work in Rungvisai’s favor is Rodriguez’s trainer Robert Garcia not being in camp for the preparation for Saturday’s fight. Garcia recently agreed to train former unified heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua and has been abroad in England and the Middle East to help Joshua and to do media interviews.
Robert’s son, Robert Jr., has been doing most of the mitt work. Eduardo Garcia, Robert’s father, has been lending time in the gym as well. Robert Garcia showed up Wednesday night in San Antonio.
Rodriguez admitted while it may have been difficult to adjust not having Garcia in camp, it will not be an effect during the fight. Rodriguez also credits the sparring in the gym in how it has molded him to be a sharper fighter.
“Before Robert left, he outlined a game plan of what to work on in the gym,” said Rodriguez. “‘Pita’ [Robert Jr.] has executed it to perfection in the gym. Having Eduardo in the gym has been a big plus as well.
“Sparring is always tough at Robert’s gym. There’s no easy days. Sparring brings out the best in me. I think it’s a huge advantage getting the experience at Robert’s gym. Same thing goes for my brother [junior bantamweight contender Joshua Franco]. We’ve created this bond in Robert’s gym. We’ve pushed each other. Working with Robert has made us better fighters.”
The influence Garcia has had on Rodriguez is tenfold. Rodriguez has been trained by Garcia since the age of 15. Garcia has told The Ring in previous interviews that he can envision seeing Rodriguez win world titles in at least four weight classes.
For now, Rodriguez has to face Rungvisai, which is no easy task. While he admits it may not be simple, Rodriguez is confident he can be victorious Saturday night. A win would mean a lot for him and the influence Garcia has over him.
“Robert is a huge role model for me. He’s like a second father to me. I’m really grateful for what he has done for me, inside and outside the ring. Even in my last fight, when I wasn’t doing well, he got into me on what I had to do.
“I want to get that win Saturday. I think if I listen to Robert, I know I can beat Rungvisai easily.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @FSalazarBoxing.
GET THE LATEST ISSUE AT THE RING SHOP (CLICK HERE)