The void left behind by Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez will be filled by the very best fight that the junior bantamweight division—and arguably the entire sport—has to offer.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed the WBC 115-pound title vacated by San Antonio’s Rodriguez will be at stake for the highly anticipated Juan Francisco ‘El Gallo’ Estrada-Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez rubber match. The pair of future Hall of Famers were already signed and sealed to meet on December 3, now with the stakes raised for their DAZN headliner from Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
“It will be contested for the WBC title,” WBC president Mauricio Sulaliman informed BoxingScene.com.
Mexico’s Estrada (43-3, 28KOs) is already the division’s lineal champion and also holds the WBC ‘Franchise’ title. The physical belt at stake will allow the final step in eliminating its short-lived Franchise title project, with Estrada as its last claimant.
As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, the WBC junior bantamweight title became available once Rodriguez (17-0, 11KOs) informed both the WBC and the WBO of his decision to campaign in the 112-pound flyweight division. The latter sanctioning body approved a request for the 22-year-old rising star to immediately contend for the WBO flyweight title recently vacated by unbeaten Junto Nakatani.
The development provides Nicaragua’s Gonzalez (51-3, 41KOs) with the chance to become a three-time junior bantamweight titlist. The four-division champ previously held the WBC 115-pound title following a twelve-round win over Carlos Cuadras in September 2016, the starting point for the long-standing rivalry between the division’s four kings of this era. His reign was short-lived, after suffering back-to-back defeats to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017.
Sor Rungvisai established championship lineage in the division with a February 2018 points win over Estrada, who avenged the defeat with a twelve-round win over the Thai slugger in their April 2019 rematch. Estrada has since made four defenses of the lineal crown, including a disputed split decision victory over Gonzalez in their March 2021 rematch to unify the WBC and WBA titles.
Estrada wound up relinquishing both belts.
He dropped the WBC title in exchange for ‘Franchise’ designation which would allow the 32-year-old from Hermosillo, Mexico to proceed with a targeted rubber match with Gonzalez—who won their first meeting at junior flyweight in November 2012–in lieu of a mandatory title defense and trilogy clash with Sor Rungvisai.
The WBC belt was to have been contested between Sor Rungvisai and Cuadras in a rematch scheduled for February 5 in Phoenix. Sor Rungvisai arrived in town just prior to fight week, only to have to withdraw due to illness. Rodriguez replaced him on just eight days’ notice, as he was due to appear on the undercard in a flyweight bout.
Rodriguez outpointed Cuadras over twelve rounds to win the belt, which he defended in an eighth-round knockout of Sor Rungvisai on June 25 in his San Antonio hometown. A third fight on the year saw Rodriguez outpoint two-time title challenger Israel Gonzalez over twelve rounds, which now marks his final title defense.
Estrada was previously due to defend his WBA ‘Super’ title against then-secondary titlist Joshua Franco, Rodriguez’s older brother, in a title consolidation bout. Golden Boy Promotions—Franco’s promoter at the time—won the rights to the fight through a purse bid hearing, only for several delays to result in Estrada walking away from the fight, as well as his title reign. Franco (18-1-2, 8KOs) is now the sole recognized WBA titlist, due to face four-division and reigning WBO 115-pound champ Kazuto Ioka (29-2, 15KOs) in a terrific unification bout on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo.
Estrada has since returned to the ring, outpointing countryman Argi Cortes over twelve rounds on September 3 in his Hermosillo hometown. The bruising nature of the fight made it surprising that he was firmly committed to a quick turnaround, with his December 3 trilogy meeting with Gonzalez announced immediately after his latest win.
The upcoming clash marks the third assigned date for the bout. Their third meeting was previously due to take place last October 16 in Fresno, only for Gonzalez to test positive for Covid. A rescheduled date of March 5 was assigned, only for Estrada to test positive for Covid in shutting down training camp in mid-January.
Gonzalez went through with the date, soundly outpointing WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (18-2, 14KOs; 2ND) who moved up in weight for the non-title fight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox