Thursday, June 08, 2023  |


Jesse Rodriguez seeks second world title, and more respect against Cristian Gonzalez

Jesse Rodriguez beat Israel Gonzalez by unanimous decision in his second WBC junior bantamweight title defense (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom).
Fighters Network

Jesse Rodriguez had a stellar 2022. Not only did he become a world titleholder in a talent-rich division, but he also defeated two of the best fighters in the division and fought three times, further continuing his development. 

Now Rodriguez hopes to again become a world titleholder in a new weight class and maintain his status as one of boxing’s best fighters.

Rodriguez will square off against Cristian Gonzalez for the vacant WBO world flyweight title Saturday night at the Boeing Center at Tech Port in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. The 12-round bout will headline a four-bout card that will stream live on DAZN (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).

It was on February 5 of last year that Rodriguez (17-0, 11 knockouts), then a junior flyweight, became a world titleholder, defeating Carlos Cuadras to win the vacant WBC world junior bantamweight title. He would defend the title in his hometown on June 25, knocking out Sriskaet Sor Rungvisai. In his last bout on September 17, Rodriguez defeated Israel Gonzalez by unanimous decision.

The 23-year-old’s accomplishments were not unnoticed as he was a candidate for ‘Fighter of the Year.’ He is currently ranked No. 4 by The Ring, and will certainly have a similar ranking at 112 pounds, should he be victorious Saturday night.

Rodriguez and his team decided to move down in weight to 112 pounds in an attempt to dominate another division while older brother and WBA world junior bantamweight titleholder Joshua Franco attempts to become undisputed at 115 pounds.

“I’m happy to be back in the ring and do what I love to do,” said Rodriguez at Thursday’s press conference. “I have the opportunity on Saturday night to become San Antonio’s first two-weight world champion and that would make the night just that little more special.”

Rodriguez, who first signed with Teiken Promotions when he turned pro in March 2017, fought under several different promotional companies, including Top Rank, Tom Loeffler, Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), before settling with Matchroom Boxing Promotions. Including Saturday, six of Rodriguez’s last eight fights have taken place on Matchroom Boxing cards.

During and after the Gonzalez fight, Rodriguez received criticism for getting hit more than he should and not being able to finish his opponent. Gonzalez did rally late during the fight, putting into question whether stamina was an issue for Rodriguez or returning to the ring less than three months after the Rungvisai fight may have been a factor.

Rodriguez took it all in stride, stating he has moved on from the Gonzalez fight, making necessary adjustments to improve his skill-set.

“I want to go out and show everyone I’m still ‘Bam’ Rodriguez,” said Rodriguez, who is trained by Robert Garcia. “After my last performance, people wrote me off, so I am ready to do what I do and I’m a different person in that ring.

“I would have been ready to fight at 115 pounds as I entered camp on weight. I just came into camp more disciplined and a little more in shape coming into this camp. I’ve had a 10-week camp away from my family, so I’ve sacrificed a lot and, come Saturday night, it’s going to show.”

Rodriguez hopes to begin unifying the division, should he be victorious Saturday night. There is IBF titleholder Sunny Edwards and WBC titleholder Julio Cesar Martinez, who are ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, by The Ring. Artem Dalakian is the WBA titleholder and sits at No. 3 in the Ring Magazine rankings.

Per its rules, the WBO stated the winner of Saturday’s fight must make a mandatory defense of the title within the next 120 days. That will depend on who the WBO Ratings Committee names in the coming days.

For Rodriguez, a win Saturday over Gonzalez (15-1, 5 KOs) of Mexico City will begin a foray in a new division where enticing clashes with the other titleholders await. Rodriguez is confident and eager to make these fights happen.

“All the belts, all the champions at 112 pounds – that’s what I want,” said Rodriguez. “Let’s make these fights, give the fans what they want, so step up to the plate and make it happen.”

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]