A dare to be great has positioned Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez to potentially run the tables in a division that wasn’t in his sights at the start of the year.

Boxing’s youngest reigning champion drew industry wide accolades yet again, the latest heap of praise courtesy of his eighth-round stoppage of former two-time 115-pound champ Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. The 22-year-old Rodriguez floored the Thai southpaw in round seven, closing the show one round later to successfully defend his WBC junior bantamweight title at home Saturday evening on DAZN from Tech Port Arena in San Antonio.

The win came less than five months after outpointing former titlist Carlos Cuadras, moving up from a planned flyweight fight to replace an ill Sor Rungvisai on just six days’ notice. The move afforded Rodriguez (16-0, 11KOs) the opportunity to fight for and win the WBC junior bantamweight title, in turn properly growing into the division for his elite level performance against Sor Rungvisai (50-6-1, 43KOs) on Saturday.

“I’m thankful for that Cuadras fight,” Rodriguez acknowledged during his post-fight interview. “It not only gave me experience but it put my name out there.

“Now I’m here as the main event in San Antonio. Without that fight, I wouldn’t be here.”

The title defense marked Rodriguez’s first fight in his hometown since June 2017, when he fought on a show at a local flea market in just his third pro bout. Rodriguez was being groomed as a developing junior flyweight at the time, also where he was supposed to win his first major title before moving up in weight.

Such an opportunity was offered for last October, when Rodriguez was slated to challenge secondary WBA ‘World’ 108-pound titlist Esteban Bermudez on a Matchroom Boxing show in Fresno. The fight was made in haste and without the blessing of the WBA, who previously ordered Bermudez to face WBA “Super” champ Hiroto Kyoguchi.

Rodriguez settled for battle-tested Jose Alejandro Burgos, whom he stopped in four rounds. Rodriguez’s older brother, Joshua Franco (18-1-2, 8KOs) accomplished the feat inside of nine rounds in a January 2020 junior bantamweight fight. Rodriguez joined his brother in weight one fight later in facing Cuadras, with both now owning titles in the 115-pound division (Franco holds the secondary WBA ‘World’ junior bantamweight title).

The decision to remain at 115 locked Rodriguez into what was perceived as a dangerous mandatory match with Sor Rungvisai, a fight ultimately blessed by head trainer and manager Robert Garcia. However, the fight—or the chosen weight—wasn’t Garcia’s first choice, though a discussion where he put his trust in perhaps the most talented fighter in his stable who remains keen on ruling the junior bantamweight division.

“What more can I say? My skills proved the point,” noted Rodriguez. “We know what I’m capable of and that’s why we took the fight in the first place. We know what I brought to the table and [Saturday night] showed that.

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