LAS VEGAS, NV. – Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez put the boxing world on notice in 2022.
Boxing’s youngest current world champion proved Saturday night why he’s the favorite to win the Fighter of the Year award.
However, Saturday’s bout was anything but easy for San Antonio’s world champ.
Rodriguez (17-0, 11 KOs) defended his WBC Super Flyweight World Championship belt against Mexico’s Israel Gonzalez (28-5-1, 11 KOs) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. His second straight title defense was the co-main event on the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennadiy Golovkin trilogy fight.
In many ways, the Rodriguez fight outshined the main event which Canelo won by unanimous decision.
“Seeing my face on the same fight card as Canelo is motivation in the gym,” Rodriguez told KSAT 12 Sports on Wednesday. “I know the opportunity I’ve been given to go out there and perform. Come Saturday night, you’ll see something special.”
But it would be a slow start for “Bam” against a tough opponent who had previously fought in the United States only once.
Gonzalez and Rodriguez went back and fourth throughout the first four rounds, keeping the fight even. In the fifth round, Rodriguez shortened the distance between the two fighters, slowing down his jab and coming in with the harder power punches.
The sixth round looked the same as the fifth and it became clear that Rodriguez’s punches were beginning to take a toll on Gonzalez. The Mexican super flyweight from Cabo San Lucas started to slow considerably through the next round.
The eighth round changed everything up for both fighters. Less than a minute into the round, there was an accidental headbutt between the boxers, causing a cut on the left eyebrow of Gonzalez. If that wasn’t enough, Gonzalez suffered a shot just below the belt, causing him to collapse to the canvas. Referee Kenny Bayless deducted a point from Rodriguez, after both fighters were warned multiple times to watch the low blows early on in the fight.
Gonzalez came back with a sense of urgency but “Bam” remained active and outpunched and outlanded his opponent in the next two rounds, even putting Gonzalez against the ropes at the end of the tenth round.
The eleventh round saw Gonzalez collapse once again after a clear low punch below the belt by Rodriguez. Referee Bayless did not deduct a point from Rodriguez in this instance and gave Gonzalez plenty of time to gather himself to continue the round, leaving boxing fans scratching their heads at what was going on. Fans voiced their frustration on social media, questioning why another point wasn’t deducted from Rodriguez.
The rest of the fight displayed the toughness of Gonzalez but Rodriguez edged out his opponent in every way. In the end, Rodriguez held onto his title belt winning by unanimous decision 118-109, 117-110 and 114-113.
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
This is not a question, it’s a fact if you’ve payed any attention to Rodriguez in the ring this year. Rodriguez moved up two weight classes with a week notice to win his current title belt. Then, ESPN’s midyear awards back in July had Rodriguez as the favorite for fighter of the year.
While professional boxers try to not pay attention to the hype online, it’s hard not to notice the praise Rodriguez has earned in 2022.
“I’ve seen that talk on social media a lot. It’s more motivation to go out there and perform and live up to the expectations that people have of me,” said Rodriguez on Wednesday. “On Saturday night I’m going to perform so good that people are going to agree that I am fighter of the year.”
Saturday’s hard fought victory may have sealed that future award.
And of course, more global attention.
“Just last year I wasn’t really getting interviews from anybody. It came so quick and I feel like I’m born for this stage because I feel so comfortable around the cameras and I have no problem with it.”
THE WINNING NUMBERS
Earlier on Saturday, CompuBox tweeted an impressive stat for Rodriguez, stating in his previous two bouts his power connect percentage was 52.1%. When compared to other fighters at 115 pounds, their power connect percentage is 34.2%. Below you’ll see how “Bam” performed in his second successful title defense this year.
Gonzalez made Bam work, as Jesse landed 24 of 68 punches per round, while Gonzalez went 17 of 64. More than half of Gonzalez's landed punches were body shots. They combined to land 488 of 1578 punches. Gonzalez 200 landed were most by a Bam oppnent. #RodriguezGonzalez pic.twitter.com/faukzLaGND— CompuBox (@CompuBox) September 18, 2022
Daniel P. Villanueva has worked with KSAT 12 for over 19 years and is an award-winning producer. To submit story ideas, email firstname.lastname@example.org