Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez’s quest to step up in class will include a considerable leap in weight.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that San Antonio’s Rodriguez will step in as a late replacement to face Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC junior bantamweight titlist this Saturday on DAZN from Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The 22-year-old southpaw accepted the fight on short notice after former lineal and two-time WBC titlist Srisaket Sor Rungvisai was forced to withdraw due to non-Covid related illness.
ESPN Deportes was the first to report the opponent switch.
Rodriguez (14-0, 10KOs) was already scheduled to face Riverside’s Fernando Diaz (10-1-1, 3KOs) on Saturday’s show in supporting capacity, though in a regional title fight at junior flyweight where he normally campaigns. The rising contender agreed to move up for a shot at his first major title once the need arose to salvage the main event.
Sor Rungvisai (50-5-1, 43KOs) and his team had already arrived in Phoenix midway last week, only to have to suddenly withdraw from the DAZN main event after falling ill. It works to the benefit of Rodriguez, who hoped to challenge for a secondary WBA title at junior flyweight in his last fight only for a proposed challenge of Esteban Bermudez nixed by the sanctioning body.
A more lucrative opportunity now surfaces, one where Rodriguez—with a win—will join older brother Joshua Franco who holds a secondary version of the WBA junior bantamweight title.
Cuadras (39-4-1, 27KOs) seeks a second title reign, having previously won the WBC belt in a May 2014 technical decision over Sor Rungvisai. Their first meeting ended early in round eight, when Cuadras was unable to continue after an unintentional headbutt left him with a cut over his eye. Sor Rungvisai was rallying by that point, though
Thailand’s Sor Rungvisai (50-5-1, 43KOs) was aiming to avenge a prior defeat to Mexico City’s Cuadras while also aiming to become a three-time WBC junior bantamweight titlist. The 35-year-old Thai southpaw saw his first reign end in a technical decision loss to Cuadras in May 2014.
Sor Rungvisai regained his old crown in a big way, becoming the first to defeat Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez—though in a disputed twelve-round points win in March 2017. Their rematch produced a far more emphatic result, with Sor Rungvisai knocking out the four-division champ and former pound-for-pound king in the fourth round of their September 2017 HBO-televised championship clash. The win was followed by a twelve-round majority decision victory over Juan Francisco Estrada in February 2018, making one more title defense before losing the crown to Esrtada in their thrilling April 2019 rematch.
Three wins have followed for Sor Rungvisai, who arrived in Phoenix with his team last Wednesday for his shot at revenge versus Cuadras. Their rematch was already a makeshift main event, elevated from the co-feature slot after Jessie Vargas tested positive for Covid in withdrawing from a scheduled twelve-round junior middleweight clash versus England’s Liam Smith.
Cuadras will enjoy a significant size advantage, though perhaps his only edge against the fast-rising Rodriguez. The former titlist enters on the heels of an eleventh-round knockout loss to Estrada in their October 2020 thriller which was contested for the lineal/WBC junior bantamweight championship. The title fight was the first for the 33-year-old Cuadras since losing his belt to Gonzalez in September 2016 and is just 4-4 dating back to that showdown.
Rodriguez—who has only fought once above the flyweight limit—has knocked out his last six opponents.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox