Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
SAN ANTONIO – Jesse Rodriguez’s homecoming was everything he wanted.
The icing on the cake was a convincing eighth round technical knockout win over Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Saturday night before a raucous and sold-out crowd at the Tech Port Arena.
Rodriguez improves to 16-0 (11 knockouts) and successfully defended the WBC junior bantamweight title.
From the opening bell, Rodriguez fought a disciplined fight, working behind a consistent jab. He effectively utilized angles to connect from distance, and he varied his attack, whether it was attacking the head or body of Rungvisai.
Rungvisai was at his best when he was able to close the distance between the two, throwing and landing hooks and crosses to the head and body of Rodriguez. While he did have moments, Rodriguez swung momentum his way by connecting with two or three-punch combinations.
As the fight entered the middle rounds, Rodriguez landed with more frequency, at times, snapping back the head of Rungvisai. With each passing minute, Rungvisai’s punch output dropped considerably, where he was relegated to mostly throwing one punch at a time.
About a minute into round seven, Rodriguez dropped Rungvisai with a left hand to the head. Rungvisai beat the count, but took a lot of punishment to end the round.
Sensing he was weakened by the abundant of punches, Rodriguez went in for the finish. A combination stunned Rungvisai, backing him up against the ropes. Rodriguez battered Rungvisai until referee Rafael Ramos stepped in and stopped the bout at the 1:50 mark.
Afterwards, Rodriguez dropped to the canvas in elation, where he was joined by trainer Robert Garcia and the rest of the corner.
Rungvisai was said to be a strong challenge for Rodriguez, but the 22-year-old, who is boxing’s youngest world titleholder, was confident he would win decisively.
“My skills proved a point tonight,” said Rodriguez in a post-fight interview. “My whole team knew what we’re capable of. Coming into the fight, I knew I could not fight the way I did against Cuadras. I’m thankful for that fight because of the experience I gained.
“(As far as the knockout) I started using my angles more. I realized from the third round on that his power was not the same. I started using my angles more and it worked.”
Rungvisai was originally scheduled to face Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC title on February 5, but had to withdraw from the fight due to a non-COVID 19 illness. Rodriguez was scheduled to fight Fernando Diaz in a junior flyweight bout on the same card, but agreed to the fight after being presented with the offer to face Cuadras.
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The compelling clash between Rodriguez and Rungvisai matched two of the best junior bantamweights in boxing. Rungvisai and Rodriguez are ranked No. 1 and 5, respectively, by The Ring.
There are future fights on the horizon for Rodriguez. He could stay and fight the likes of Ring Magazine junior bantamweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada or Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez. He could move down in weight to face WBC flyweight titleholder Julio Cesar Martinez or WBO flyweight titleholder Junto Nakatani, who was sitting ringside for the fight.
“I grew up watching these guys, being in the ring with them is a privilege in itself,” said Rodriguez. “We’re here to stay.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing