His performance this weekend should ultimately set the table for the 2023 campaign in store for Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez.

The opportunity to become a two-division titlist will mark the first piece of business of the year for San Antonio’s Rodriguez. His upcoming vacant WBO flyweight title fight versus Mexico’s Cristian Gonzalez—which headlines a four-fight DAZN telecast this Saturday from Boeing Center at Tech Port in San Antonio, Texas—comes on the heels of a breakout 2022 run which saw the young southpaw fight three times on the year.

Wins over former champs Carlos Cuadras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai saw Rodriguez’s star potential soar. A twelve-round win over Israel Gonzalez on the Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin III undercard in Las Vegas last September provided Rodriguez with three title fight wins all in a seven-month span—though at a cost.  

“The activity was great, don’t get me wrong. But it did tire my body out a bit,” Rodriguez admitted to BoxingScene.com. “So, after that last fight on the Canelo-Triple G undercard, I did take some time off. I was out of the gym for a while.”

Saturday’s bout versus Gonzalez (15-1, 6KOs) is his first since the win over Gonzalez. The 203-day span between fights nearly matches a career-long inactive stretch for the first Gen-Z boxer to win a major title, and the only one born in 2000 or later.

Rodriguez (17-0, 11KOs) saw his star power rise in his win over Cuadras last February 5 in Phoenix, Arizona, accepting the fight on six days’ notice on a show where he was originally slated to fight on the undercard and nearly two division’s lighter. His knockout win over Sor Rungvisai last June 25 at the very location hosting Saturday’s quadrupleheader put Rodriguez high on the list of the sport’s can’t-miss future stars.

The praise was not as lofty but still well-earned in his over Gonzalez, who’d previously gone the distance in title challenges versus Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez and Khalil Yafai. Rodriguez did enough to win the fight in decisive fashion but knew once the fight was over that it would be his last of the year.

The 23-year-old southpaw now aims to become the youngest two-division titlist among active fighters. From there, the plan is to either further unify at flyweight or return to junior bantamweight if it means a clear shot at lineal/WBC champ Juan Francisco Estrada (44-3, 28KOs). Either option is the primary goal for his next fight—whether as his only other bout on the year or as part of another active, but better distributed, ring campaign.

“I’ve definitely had enough rest. I want a minimum of two fights in 2023, and for that other one to be against another world champion if I only get two this year,” insisted Rodriguez. “Ideally, I’d like three overall again but we’ll see what happens. Two for sure. We’ll see how I feel after April.8 and we’ll go from there.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox