Jesse Rodriguez moves down to 112 pounds, will fight Cristian Gonzalez for vacant WBO belt
Jesse Rodriguez is now on a quest to win a world title belt in a second weight class.
Rodriguez vacated his WBC junior bantamweight title on Wednesday and is moving down in weight to campaign at 112 pounds.
The unbeaten Rodriguez traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico earlier this week, where the World Boxing Organization (WBO) is holding its annual convention. Rodriguez presented his petition to immediately fight for the vacant WBO flyweight title, which was recently vacated by Junto Nakatani of Japan.
Nakatani is currently ranked No. 1 by The Ring at 112 pounds and has stated he will move up in weight to fight as a junior bantamweight.
On Thursday, the WBO Rating Committee granted Rodriguez’s request, installing him as the No. 1 contender and mandating that he face Cristian Gonzalez of Mexico for its vacant title.
Robert Garcia, who trains Rodriguez, told The Ring Thursday the move will allow Rodriguez to campaign and unify title belts at 112 pounds and allow his older brother, WBA junior bantamweight titleholder Joshua Franco, to conquer the 115-pound division.
“Last year, Jesse was scheduled to fight for the 108-pound title when we got the opportunity to move up two divisions to fight for the 115-pound title,” Garcia told The Ring. “We did and we won, but I really believe Jesse can have some big fights at 112 [pounds], then move up to 115 [pounds] again.
“In the meantime, his brother Joshua is the WBA [junior bantamweight] champion. We want both to dominate their own weight class.”
Rodriguez (17-0, 11 knockouts) won the vacant WBC 115-pound title by defeating Carlos Cuadras by unanimous decision on February 5. The 22-year-old defended his title in his hometown of San Antonio on June 25, stopping mandatory challenger Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in the eighth round.
In his last bout on September 17, on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin trilogy fight, Rodriguez defeated Israel Gonzalez by unanimous decision in a tougher-than-expected fight. There was talk of Rodriguez appearing in the co-main event of the third fight between Ring Magazine junior bantamweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez on December 3 in Phoenix, but those plans dissolved.
Rodriguez is co-promoted by Teiken Promotions and Matchroom Boxing. He is currently ranked No. 3 by The Ring at 115 pounds.
Boxingscene’s Jake Donovan reported that representatives of Rodriguez and Cristian Gonzalez, who is promoted by Felix ‘Tuto” Zabala Jr., were also at the WBO convention in San Juan. Both sides promised to commence negotiations to finalize the fight, which could take place during the first couple months of 2023.
Gonzalez (15-1, 5 KOs), who resides in the Mexico City area, last fought on March 25, knocking out former world title challenger Juan Alejo in the opening round. The 23-year-old also has wins over Saul Juarez, another world title challenger, and fringe contender Adrian Curiel.
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 at [email protected]