At just 23 years old, Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez has already amassed quite the boxing resume.
Stoppage victories over Carlos Cuadras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Titles in two weight classes. The No. 1 spot on ESPN’s best 25 fighter sunder the age of 25. And on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona, “Bam” delivered his best performance yet with a ninth-round TKO victory over Sunny Edwards.
Edwards is a crafty boxer who is in his prime. He entered the bout ranked No. 2 by ESPN at 112 pounds behind Rodriguez. All the same, Edwards proved to be no match.
Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) proved with each stiff jab, powerful combination and punishing body shot that he’s the next great fighter — and most entertaining — to emerge from the lower weight divisions, following in the footsteps of Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada.
“Up close, that was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “This kid is super special. … You talk about pound-for-pound great fighters. Sometimes the lower division don’t get the credit they deserve.”
And matchups with those two legends could be on the horizon for Rodriguez.
Estrada, the 115-pound champion from Mexico, was ringside to watch Rodriguez’s performance. The future Hall of Famer hasn’t competed since last December, when he closed his trilogy with “Chocolatito” Gonzalez with another close decision victory.
Both Rodriguez and Hearn indicated Estrada could be next for Rodriguez. And it’s exactly the type of matchup Rodriguez needs to reach the next level.
Gonzalez and Estrada paved the way for Rodriguez with exhilarating action fights that raised the pay of the fighters who weigh 115 pounds and below. And Rodriguez is picking up where they left off with his own series of stirring performances that guarantee entertainment.
As Rodriguez continues to develop, he could prove to be just as good as that part of all-time greats. And just maybe, he’ll move up far enough in weight to one day meet unified junior featherweight champion Naoya Inoue.
“The Monster” is now at 122 pounds after winning his first title at 108 pounds. More realistic for Rodriguez in the immediate future is a matchup with another elite fighter from Japan, Junto Nakatani.
Nakatani delivered a brutal KO of Andrew Moloney in May to win a 115-pound title and moves up to 118 in February for a title shot vs. Alexandro Santiago.
Whomever Rodriguez goes on to face, he’s proven to be a special talent and must-see TV in a sport that prioritizes entertainment value above all else.