SAN ANTONIO – Cristian Gonzalez will be the first to acknowledge that, on paper, his upcoming bout with Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez represents an uphill climb.
He just refuses to believe it’s an insurmountable one.
“I’m not intimidated by Bam’s big name or fighting in his hometown,” Gonzalez told BoxingScene.com. “I only came here to win the world title.”
The rangy Mexican boxer from Tultitlan is a longshot to upend Rodriguez, the unbeaten local favorite against whom he squares off for the vacant WBO flyweight title. Gonzalez is viewed by bet365 sportsbook as a +1100 underdog to prevail in his first career title fight and U.S. debut, which takes place this Saturday on DAZN from Boeing Center at Tech Port in San Antonio, Texas.
“It’s motivating when you have the opportunity to prove everyone wrong,” Gonzalez said. “This fight reminds me of a phrase I live my life by, Respect everyone, fear no one.”
The two will challenge for a title left behind by Japan’s Junto Nakatani (24-0, 16KOs), who is now campaigning at junior bantamweight. Rodriguez (17-0, 11KOs) heads in the opposite direction, dropping down to flyweight from the 115-pound division where he previously held the WBC title.
While Rodriguez brings deep amateur and pro credentials into his latest hometown headliner, Gonzalez (15-1, 6KOs) brings a nine-fight win streak and a healthy mix of confidence and humility into the ring. There’s also the part where he has nothing to lose, given that Rodriguez is widely expected to emerge victorious to become San Antonio’s first-ever multi-division titleholder.
That said, the 32-year-old Gonzalez—who, at 5’7”, physically boasts a significant height and reach advantage over the 5’4” Rodriguez—is banking on a lot more than a wish and a prayer to pull off what would be, by far, the biggest win of his career.
“I envisioned this moment for a long time, even before Bam Rodriguez entered the picture,” insisted Gonzalez. “I was the mandatory challenger for Junto and was preparing to face and beat him. Now I’m ready to do the same to Bam.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox